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Opiate Withdrawal Success Is More Common Than You Think

This entry was posted in Opiates & Opioids and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Over 100 Americans die every day from opiates, many of whom have been prescribed the medication by a doctor.1

Opiates are highly addictive and can take control over a person’s life pretty quickly. But recovery is possible. Though the process may be initially uncomfortable, any discomfort you may experience during the withdrawal process can be mitigated with safe and effective tools. That’s what we’re all about at Alternative to Meds. We get to the root of the matter.

Were you told opiate addiction is incurable?
opiate withdrawal
If you or someone you love is struggling with opiate addiction, prescribed or not, you may have heard that recovery is nearly impossible. Doctors are being encouraged to write prescriptions rather than encourage recovery. However, we firmly believe that recovery is not only possible, it is exponentially the better solution. Many individuals with opiate addictions overcome their struggle and go on to live fulfilling, happy, drug-free lives. Alternative to Meds has been the expert on opioid withdrawal & recovery for more than 17 years. We have published evidence regarding the success of our clients. Pain can become chronic but there are drug-free strategies that can significantly provide relief. And, an imperfect solution like drugs can decimate a life. We recommend one seek alternatives to opioids that do not carry such risks.
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What Are Opiates?

Opiates are pain killers. Although opioids are unquestionably effective at pain reduction, we recommend learning more about the addictive power of them. The use of opiates in pain management has never been more controversial as it is today, because of the liability of developing tolerance, addiction, and death by overdose as well-documented outcomes after even short term use.2

The recent Perdue pharmaceutical scandal shone a harsh spotlight on these dangers characteristic of their blockbuster brand-name opiate product, OxyContin®. Perdue made billions while they lied to prescribers about its addictiveness, and doctors believed them. Half a million died. The court case is still evolving, but the main point is please do your own research before believing something from a drugmaker is “safe” or “non-addictive.”

Another example of note is fentanyl, largely prescribed for pain in cancer patients. An even newer opioid crisis has occurred in the illegal trade of street fentanyl. Fentanyl has 300X the equivalency to other opiates such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Hence, the avalanche of fentanyl overdose deaths in recent times.3

Common types of prescribed opiates include:

  • hydromorphone-based products, i.e., Dilaudid®, Palladone®, also generic form
  • hydrocodone-based products, i.e., Lortab®, Vicodin®, some cough syrups, also generic form
  • oxycodone-based products, i.e., Percocet®, OxyContin®, also generic form
  • codeine sulfate — Phenflu®, Colrex®, etc. NOTE: codeine metabolizes to morphine in the body
  • morphine sulfate — MS Contin®, Oramorph SR®, Roxanol®, Morphabond®, etc., generic form
  • fentanyl citrate — Actiq®, Sublimaze®, Duragesic®, Lazanda®, etc., also generic form
  • methadone hydrochloride — Methadose®, Dolphine®, etc., also generic form

Heroin has been an illegal opiate for decades, and is a derivative of morphine. However, in Canada, Germany, and Switzerland steps have been taken to legalize prescribing heroin (and other illegal drugs) for long-term users, as part of what are being called “safer supply” programs.4

Side Effects of Opiate Withdrawal

Withdrawal effects are extremely harsh and nearly impossible to withstand without some outside help. These reactions are the major driver for a person to continue to use. After becoming addicted, one will go to extreme lengths to procure the drug, no matter the costs to personal health, family relations, finances, or any other risk.5-7

Opiate withdrawal side effects include:
  • return of pain, often more severe than before the drug was taken
  • newly emergent pain, abdominal cramps, muscle & joint aches, muscle twitching
  • extreme cravings
  • tremors
  • excessive tearing of eyes
  • excessive perspiration
  • insomnia
  • restlessness, restless legs
  • gooseflesh, shivering, fever, chills
  • diarrhea
  • extreme sensitivity to light
  • skin sensitivity, pain on touching
  • heart pounding
  • hypertension
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • excessive yawning
  • vomiting, nausea
  • runny nose, sneezing, coughing

Opiate withdrawal is typically not life-threatening, but in extreme cases especially complicated by dehydration and secondary factors like infection, malnutrition, or disabled internal organs, death can occur.

Strategies for Opiate Withdrawal Success

At Alternative to Meds Center we have helped thousands of clients to achieve their goals for successful opiate withdrawal and recovery. Unlike the “safer supply” schemes that actually enable addiction, we have seen the reality of successfully freeing oneself from the trap of opiate addiction.

We employ a biophysical approach to opiate withdrawal, blended with gentle tapering, which in some cases will involve a substitution (legal) drug such as Suboxone. This will immediately reduce or eliminate the drastic physical opiate withdrawal reactions, and allow for a relaxed gentle taper to follow.

At the same time, rebuilding the natural endorphin (pain killer hormones) production by the body is accomplished by flooding the body with the raw materials that will generate new natural endorphin production. Once endorphins (including dopamine) are restored adequately, the pain and misery of withdrawals will no longer resurface even when the replacement drug has been zeroed out. References and links are provided below for your further understanding of the importance of each listed item.

Strategies for opiate withdrawal success include:
  • substitution tapering protocols (medically supervised)
  • temporary use of bridge medications to make withdrawal less harsh, more tolerable
  • correction of diet to provide the raw materials for healing and restoration
  • supplementation of raw materials the body needs for neurotransmitter rehabilitation 8-11
  • physical exercise blended with comfort and holistic pain management therapies such as massage, Reiki, acupuncture, Qigong, etc. 12,15,16
  • natural remedies for insomnia, mood, exhaustion, gastro inflammation, etc.13
  • replenishing a dysregulated gut microbiome back to healthy state 14
  • biophysical treatments such as mineral baths to replenish lost minerals, nebulized glutathione
  • neurotoxin removal (drug residues, pesticides, chemicals from past exposures, etc.)
  • CBT, life coaching, or other addiction counseling at an appropriate point in the recovery process
  • peer support programs for ongoing support and encouragement

For a boost in hope and encouragement, please see samples of our clients’ opiate withdrawal success stories.

Traditional Methods May Miss the Mark for Opiate Withdrawal Success

Many traditional rehab centers have group-based treatment plans, and many are based on the 12-step principles. The success rate of 12-step programs has shown it does help some, and remarkably so, but perhaps not the majority for long term success.

Because the biophysical factors involved in healing after chronic drug use are not addressed and repaired, the person may be subject to fall back into needing a drug to try and remedy the physical pain, recurring cravings, or other drivers of their continuing addiction.  Counseling plays another significant role as an unsatisfactory lifestyle resulting in boredom or unresolved stresses or mental anguish can also promote or drive drug use as a perceived solution. This is most commonly referred to as “relapse”, but it may be more exactly described as an attempt to extinguish the very symptoms for taking pain medication in the first place. These have not been addressed and resolved. Thus, programs that offer healing based on the strength of the group rather than as an individual may not be able to fully reach and disengage these drivers of addiction. Though the community of support can be highly beneficial, the transition from rehab to normal life may be subject to failure after leaving rehab, when it is no longer in place.

Alternative to Meds Center aims to provide uniquely tailored holistic treatments, which are the key to overcoming addiction successfully. A comfortable opiate withdrawal experience is the first step, but it is an important one to build a strong platform for sustaining a satisfying, drug-free life.

A Better Quality of Life

Alternative to Meds Center has been operating for nearly 2 decades, providing the best in evidence-based therapies and protocols for our clients successful opiate withdrawal and recovery. Each person in unique, and requires a distinctly personalized program, designed to attain freedom from the trap of addictive pain killers, but also freedom from the pain and other symptoms that required taking drugs in the first place. In many cases, the pain can be reduced significantly or eliminated altogether using the correct blend of therapies. Thus, the need for ongoing medications is reduced drastically or eliminated entirely. But it takes work, focus, and determination to succeed.

There is much to learn and know about successful recovery after opiate withdrawal and about the mechanics of opiate addiction and we encourage you to actually read the references below for greater understanding. With understanding, comes the empowerment of knowledge. Addiction is no mystery. You can also learn more in the education modules that are offered during the program.

That is why our staff are so dedicated to our clients. Many of us have been in similar straits and have recovered ourselves using holistic, health-restorative methods for long-lasting success. We are proud of the success in opiate withdrawal and recovery that we offer our clients. Please call us anytime for more information, including costs & insurance coverage, estimated length of stay, more about the beautiful surrounds of Sedona where we are located, or any other questions you or your loved one may have about recovery with us.


1. NID report Drug Overdose Death Rates Involving Prescription Opioids 1999-2021 published June 30 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 20]

2. Cohen B, Ruth LJ, Preuss CV. Opioid Analgesics. [Updated 2023 Apr 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2024 Feb 20]

3. Bhatnagar M, Pruskowski J. Opioid Equivalency. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2024 Feb 20]

4. Govt of Canada Safer Supply published online April 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 20]

5. Nuamah, J.K., Sasangohar, F., Erraguntla, M. et al. The past, present and future of opioid withdrawal assessment: a scoping review of scales and technologiesBMC Med Inform Decis Mak 19, 113 (2019). [cited 2024 Feb 20]

6. Shah M, Huecker MR. Opioid Withdrawal. [Updated 2021 May 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2024 Feb 20]

7. Tompkins DA, Bigelow GE, Harrison JA, Johnson RE, Fudala PJ, Strain EC. Concurrent validation of the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) and single-item indices against the Clinical Institute Narcotic Assessment (CINA) opioid withdrawal instrument. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Nov 1;105(1-2):154-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.07.001. Epub 2009 Aug 3. PMID: 19647958; PMCID: PMC2774236. [cited 2024 Feb 20]

8. Puderbaugh M, Emmady PD. Neuroplasticity. 2021 Jul 22. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 32491743. [cited 2024 Feb 20]

9. Solinas M, Belujon P, Fernagut PO, Jaber M, Thiriet N. Dopamine and addiction: what have we learned from 40 years of research. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2019 Apr;126(4):481-516. doi: 10.1007/s00702-018-1957-2. Epub 2018 Dec 19. PMID: 30569209. [cited 2024 Feb 20]

10. Sprouse-Blum AS, Smith G, Sugai D, Parsa FD. Understanding endorphins and their importance in pain management. Hawaii Med J. 2010;69(3):70-71. [cited 2024 Feb 20]

11. Chaudhry SR, Gossman W. Biochemistry, Endorphin. [Updated 2021 Apr 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:  [cited 2024 Feb 21]

12. Wang D, Wang Y, Wang Y, Li R, Zhou C. Impact of physical exercise on substance use disorders: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 16;9(10):e110728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110728. PMID: 25330437; PMCID: PMC4199732. [cited 2024 Feb 21]

13. Mischoulon D. Popular Herbal and Natural Remedies Used in Psychiatry. Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2018 Jan;16(1):2-11. doi: 10.1176/appi.focus.20170041. Epub 2018 Jan 24. PMID: 31975894; PMCID: PMC6519573. [cited 2024 Feb 21]

14. Russell JT, Zhou Y, Weinstock GM, Bubier JA. The Gut Microbiome and Substance Use Disorder. Front Neurosci. 2021 Aug 31;15:725500. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.725500. PMID: 34531718; PMCID: PMC8439419. [cited 2024 Feb 21]

15. So WWY, Cai S, Yau SY, Tsang HWH. The Neurophysiological and Psychological Mechanisms of Qigong as a Treatment for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 18;10:820. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00820. PMID: 31824346; PMCID: PMC6880657. [cited 2024 Feb 21]

16. Wiest KL, Asphaug VJ, Carr KE, Gowen EA, Hartnett TT. Massage Impact on Pain in Opioid-dependent Patients in Substance Use Treatment. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2015 Mar 1;8(1):12-24. doi: 10.3822/ijtmb.v8i1.257. PMID: 25780471; PMCID: PMC4353208. [cited 2024 Feb 21]

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published July, 2021.

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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