Heroin withdrawal is the phenomenon that occurs upon quitting heroin. Heroin withdrawal affects many different body systems, resulting in symptoms as diverse as nausea, diarrhea, widespread pain and depression. While there is no way to completely avoid withdrawal when quitting heroin, it is possible to treat the individual symptoms using a variety of cheap and effective home remedies.
Loperamide is an over-the-counter medication used to treat diarrhea. Its molecular structure is similar to that of meperidine (Demerol), an opiate with effects comparable to heroin. It works by stopping spasms in the intestinal tract, resulting in a reduced urge to defecate.
Because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, loperamide does not cause intoxication or dependence. Other symptoms that may be alleviated by loperamide include nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping, all of which are common during heroin withdrawal.
A common commodity in most spice cabinets, ginger is a helpful herb to have on hand during heroin withdrawal. It serves the dual purpose of alleviating both the nausea and physical pain of heroin withdrawal and can be brewed into a tea or taken in pill form for its medicinal effects.
According to the National Institutes of Health, ginger is as effective as the over-the-counter antihistamine dimenhydrinate for relieving some kinds of nausea. Ginger effectively inhibits COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which produce inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins that cause pain throughout the body. It is generally easier on the stomach than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and is well tolerated by most patients.
Over-the-counter painkillers can be helpful in easing the physical pain of heroin withdrawal. NSAIDs include medications like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen. They work by reducing inflammation and can be helpful for treating the widespread pain of heroin withdrawal. While effective, NSAIDs are known for causing side effects such as bleeding, especially along the gastrointestinal tract. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, over-the-counter NSAIDs increase the risk for heart attack and stroke as much as prescription COX-2 inhibitors like celecoxib.
Acetaminophen is a painkiller with antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties. Though the exact mechanism is not known, acetaminophen is thought to work by raising the body's ability to tolerate pain. It is not an NSAID and therefore may be taken with NSAIDs to help alleviate tough pain. People with liver damage or those who drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day may be at risk for developing liver problems while taking acetaminophen.
Known more for its tasty fruit than its healing abilities, passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a perennial plant that grows wild in many parts of the world. Common uses include treating anxiety, insomnia and muscle spasms.
Passionflower may help relieve both the physical and emotional pain caused by heroin withdrawal. According to the National Institutes of Health, passionflower is as effective as clonidine, a drug frequently prescribed to treat opiate withdrawal, for alleviating symptoms like anxiety and muscle pain. In addition, passionflower greatly enhances the efficacy of clonidine when the two are taken together, making it an excellent adjunctive therapy for heroin withdrawal.
- National Institutes of Health: A randomized comparison of ginger and dimenhydrinate in the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Heart Attack Risks, Pain Relief Similar for Most Osteoarthritis Drugs
- National Institutes of Health: Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: A double-blind randomized controlled trial