5 Foods and Supplements That Could Ease the Symptoms of Withdrawal
Written by Jessica James
The US is in the grip of an opioid epidemic right now, with millions of users, hundreds of thousands of addicts, and nearly 50,000 annual deaths. The US needs to kick this obsession to touch, and for the countless addicts and heavy users, that means facing the cold, hard truth of withdrawal.
Opioid withdrawal is incredibly unpleasant and can feel like a slow and painful death, but it’s not actually life-threatening and very rarely does it result in anything beyond a few unpleasant weeks. There is nothing out there that can take all of this pain away, nothing that can hasten the process and make it comfortable (although visiting a halfway house and getting help from family and friends can help) but there are a few things that can take the edge off and make some of the symptoms more bearable.
The following recommendations are based on a “cold-turkey” withdrawal, which is only advised if there is no other option. They can be used during a taper as well, providing they are used in moderation.
The idea that your body needs to “purge” during withdrawal is somewhat overstated and misunderstood. Your body simply needs to reset, to get back to normality not overruled by chemicals, and the symptoms of withdrawal, while they may seem like a purge, are its way of doing this.
So, contrary to what you may have heard, diarrhea is not an essential part of the process and can be controlled. In fact, it should be controlled, as it’s incredibly unpleasant and can make the process infinitely more uncomfortable.
It’s important to use this drug sparingly though, preferably for just a few days during the acute withdrawal stage. If you have been using for a long time and were heavily constipated prior to withdrawals, you should also avoid using it until the first day after diarrhea begins, as you need to give your body a chance to expel some of that built-up waste.
It’s also worth noting that while Imodium does contain an opioid, it does not cross the blood-brain barrier and will therefore not “reset” the withdrawal process as is mistakenly believed.
- Valerian Root
Valerian root is a relaxing herb that has a wealth of evidence to support its many purported benefits. It’s even prescribed for anxiety and insomnia in some European countries and there are millions of users who swear by it.
Valerian root is foul smelling and tasting, and yet despite these unavoidable facts, it’s often sold as a tea! To get around the taste, manufacturers tend to use very small quantities of the root and add a lot of flavorings or other herbs to improve the taste. The end result is something that barely contains any beneficial valerian compounds at all and therefore produces few benefits.
These teas are one of the reasons why valerian is underappreciated, but it also has a lot to do with the low-quality tablets being sold, some of which don’t contain any valerian at all. If you want to feel the benefits of this herb, look for a reputable manufacturer with good reviews and purchase tinctures or tablets from them.
Tea is great for herbs like chamomile, and for pretty much everything else, but it’s not a good fit for valerian.
- Lavender and Chamomile
These herbs produce a mild relaxing effect and on their own, they might not be enough to override the potent withdrawal symptoms. However, when used in combination they can be very effective, aiding with relaxation, reducing anxiety, and potentially helping with insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
Lavender doesn’t work when it is consumed and research suggests that its benefits are derived from inhalation, preferably by dropping some lavender essential oil into a bath and/or on your pillow. A hot bath will also help to relax your muscles and if you combine this with the lavender and a cup of chamomile tea, you could create a very helpful and all-natural treatment to help you wind down on an evening.
5-HTP is a by-product of amino acid and is believed to help with insomnia, anxiety, stress, and depression. It’s also becoming popular as a supplement to help with withdrawals and users swear by it for assisting with restless legs, anxiety, and even cravings.
5-HTP is thought to stimulate the release of serotonin, which is responsible for regulating everything from mood to appetite. It seems to be at is most effective when combined with other supplements, such as those mentioned on this list, but in such cases, it’s best to consume smaller quantities than the bottle recommends just to be on the safe side.
The only thing that can effectively help you through withdrawal is time. The first few days are the worst, followed by a tapering off of symptoms, leaving little more than cravings and mild malaise after 10 days to 2 weeks. Addicts just need to wait it out, but that’s easier said than done and it’s made infinitely worse when you factor insomnia into the equation.
Luckily, melatonin may be able to help with that. It’s a natural hormone released by the body to help with a night of restful sleep. In withdrawal, that process can be interrupted, but with supplementation, it can be remedied. There are very few, if any side effects and while there are concerns regarding long-term use, namely that it may interfere with the natural production of melatonin, these are not relevant over the course of a few days or weeks.
This post was sponsored by
Carla Vista Sober Living
Jessica James has written several blogs all across the spectrum but specializes mainly in sobriety, recovery, and rehabilitation. With several years in the field, Jessica has been helping people get healthy and sober while recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Find out more about Jessica at Carla Vista Sober Living.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).