Around 3 million Americans and 16 million individuals globally are suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD). At the same time, over 500,000 adults in the U.S. have developed a heroin dependency. For 80% of heroin abusers, opioid use is what made them start taking heroin in the first place. It was their initiation after developing OUD.
But not everyone fully understands the psychological and medical consequences of their addiction. That’s until they experience a withdrawal first-hand. They develop psychological and physical problems, which put a lot of strain on their system, making it difficult to quit.
That’s why it’s important to manage opioid abuse as soon as possible. The sooner patients start controlling their problem, the easier it is to help with the withdrawal. If you are struggling with opiate use and want to quit, you might be interested in relying on alternative remedies to curb the withdrawal symptoms. Here is how vitamins and supplements could prove useful.
How Can Vitamins and Supplements Help with Opiate Withdrawal?
Oftentimes, medications and medical interventions are critical to ensure comfort and safety during detox. Regardless of how severe the addiction is, medical detox is the safest and quickest option for managing the addiction. Not only will it help ease the discomfort, but it will also make the opiate withdrawal less dangerous for the person undertaking it.
But, for a healthier detox experience, adding vitamins to the patient’s diet is a necessity. Malnutrition is a common problem for people experiencing addiction. When the body goes through opiate withdrawal and addiction, the system experiences many nutritional deficiencies.
Research shows that individuals with opiate addiction often have magnesium and calcium deficiencies. Without these vitamins, their body experiences more spasms and muscle pain. Also, it’s not uncommon for addicted individuals to develop potassium deficiency, which can also cause restless leg syndrome.
Experts from Yale University Medical School studied 149 volunteers with heroin addiction between the ages of 17 and 60. They compared their results with 204 healthy individuals who didn’t use any drugs or vitamin supplements. Based on the results, 45% of addicts had vitamin B6 deficiency and 37% folate deficit. Whereas vitamin B12, thiamine, riboflavin, and nicotinate were recorded from 13% to 19%.
Those who struggled with addiction also had impaired liver function. This kind of vitamin deficiency was less likely to happen in healthy patients. The data suggests that a massive percentage of drug-dependent individuals are showing multiple deficiencies.
Therefore, improving the nutritional balance and vitamin intake should be your top priority. Taking the right supplements and vitamins can help with the recovery and ease the symptoms.
What About Natural Sources?
The best vitamins for opiate withdrawal come from the food you take. Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is critical for patients struggling with opiate abuse. The reason for that is relatively simple. People who use opiates don’t consume as many veggies and fruits as they need.
In an effort to get more energy and satisfy their hunger, they often choose meals with poor nutritional value, causing a number of nutrient deficits. The bigger the addiction, the higher the chances for these poor nutritional habits to persist.
One of the main reasons is the cravings. When a recovering patient from opioid use is hungry, they can mistake their hunger for opiate craving. As a result, they choose to eat junk food that will temporarily make them feel good.
These kinds of meals stimulate the reward system in the central nervous system, similar to opiates. For susceptible individuals, it can be the exact same biological impact as opiate addiction. To change this cycle, people should:
- Consume diets high in fiber, like greens, fruit, and whole grains
- Eat protein-rich meals like fish and chicken
- Drink plenty of fluids between and with every meal
- Reduce the intake of sugar and starchy food
- Add more whole grains, veggies, and vitamins to their diets
With options such as these, they can manage their vitamin deficiency and their addiction. This is the first and most important step towards a healthy recovery. But, if you want to know how each vitamin and supplement can help with opiate withdrawal, the information listed below can help. Here is a list of options that can help you get on the right track toward recovery.
Top 10 Vitamins and Supplements for Opiate Withdrawal
If you want to lead a healthier life, implementing vitamins in your diet can also help with opiate withdrawal. Making this small nutritional change can be a worthwhile tactic.
Before you start using any of these vitamins or supplements, first consult with a doctor. Some of the options listed here could interact with certain medications you might be taking. Therefore, based on your current health state and prescription regimen, you may not be able to take some of them.
Here are the best supplements for opiate detox supported by science.
Disclaimer: The FDA does not approve the use of vitamins, supplements, and herbs in opiate withdrawal or detox. However, some clinically supported alternatives can make the withdrawal process much easier to cope with. They can fuel the body to create enzymes, hormones, or neurotransmitters, which might prove useful for handling stressful situations, particularly when those stressful situations are the result of a psychological, emotional, or physiological demand after opioid detox.
- Vitamin C
NIH data shows that around 35% of adults are taking multivitamin supplements, particularly those packed with Vitamin C. At the same time, approximately 12% use only vitamin C supplements. Further reports indicate that about 29% of children are taking some form of supplements that include vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a key chemical and a valuable component in the human body. It was also studied in addicted patients struggling with heroin withdrawal. Vitamin C supplements might be the best over the counter medicines for heroin withdrawal. When administered orally in higher doses, vitamin C can help reduce opioid use and relieve pain in cancer patients.
Clinical trials indicate that antioxidants, particularly high concentrations of vitamin C, can boost endorphin levels and inhibit the endogenous opioids (e.g., endorphin, dynorphin, and enkephalin). These are all important effects when curbing the withdrawal syndrome.
Based on the results, 46.6% to 50% of patients who took vitamin C also experienced a milder form of various withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, 56.6% of cases in the controlled group that didn’t take any vitamin C expressed major withdrawal syndrome. Although more research is necessary, it seems this vitamin does have great potential for influencing the mechanism of the withdrawal syndrome.
Over 15% of the global population has a zinc deficiency. This problem is widely prevalent among opioid consumers. The interesting thing about this vitamin is that very few people understand how it can interfere with opioid addiction or dependence.
According to animal research, zinc has been found to manage some opioid-withdrawal symptoms. As a result, scientists decided to evaluate whether zinc can decrease the risk of opioid addiction. Based on the results, zinc can be a highly beneficial dietary supplementation in patients with chronic pain who rely on opioids.
Since opioid use has a high risk of causing zinc deficiency, the low toxicity of the vitamin can help the body cope with the pain. This makes zinc products probably one of the best supplements for opiate detox.
Magnesium is a key vitamin for drug abuse and addiction. It decreases the intensity of addiction to psychostimulants (e.g., nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamine) and opiates. But, most importantly, it reduces cocaine auto-administration and risk for relapse.
In alcohol consumers, heroin-addicted, and drug-abusing patients, their magnesium concentration and plasma levels are much lower than those in healthy individuals. That means they are vulnerable to personality changes, cramps, irregular heart rhythm, muscle contractions, seizures, and more.
The way magnesium can reduce addictive substance consumption is by stimulating the reward system. Magnesium controls glutamate and dopamine production and stimulates the GABA receptors to decrease neuromediator release.
When there isn’t enough magnesium in the system, it hastens the risk of relapse. Meanwhile, adding magnesium to your diet seems to reduce the reinforcing properties of various addictive compounds. That’s why magnesium supplements may be considered the best over the counter medicines for heroin withdrawal.
- Vitamin D
Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is a favored option for treating opioid dependence. But subjects who undergo MMT treatment are often dealing with numerous metabolic vulnerabilities, including metabolic disorders linked to insulin resistance and inflammatory cytokines.
Researchers decided to study the effect of vitamin D intake on withdrawal signs and its genetic response in patients treated with MMT. They studied 40 different volunteers under MMT treatment who took a placebo or 50,000 IU vitamin D supplements for 12 weeks.
The goal of the study was to assess the gene expression and withdrawal scale in volunteers. Based on the results, vitamin D proved more effective than placebo when downregulating gene expression and the peripheral blood mononuclear cells under MMT treatment. As a result, vitamin D supplements can be recommended for patients undergoing MMT treatment. It could boost their quality of life and reduce the adverse effects of methadone intervention.
Instead of focusing on a single vitamin, taking a multivitamin can prove an effective management tactic. Since vitamin deficiencies are fairly common in opiate-addicted patients, the doctor might suggest some patients opt for a multivitamin.
Particularly in cases where patients are dealing with multiple nutrient problems, because every vitamin deficit is different, it can cause a range of symptoms. Therefore, treating these deficits will make the body stronger and healthier during recovery.
Besides, multivitamin formulas contain a range of different components. They have vitamin C, B1, B5, B2, A, K, E, D2, manganese, iron, calcium, zinc, and more. Although a multivitamin is not a ticket to ultimate health, it does have its benefits.
Take B-complex vitamins, for example. These vitamins can help the body cope with agitation and stress, which could prove useful when managing an opiate withdrawal. The main role of multivitamins is to fill the nutritional gaps.
They are meant to help people maintain their daily vitamin allowance by focusing on the necessary vitamins like calcium, K, A, D, E, C, and others. A multivitamin is there to provide a boost in the right direction, allowing the body to get the nutrients it lacks. It may not be one of the best vitamins for opiate withdrawal, but it can still give the body the nutrients it needs.
Countless people who rely on painkillers often develop a dependency for them. Some go as far as to abuse these products to amplify their effects. When they stop taking the opiate, it becomes incredibly difficult to cope with the withdrawal. So, they tend to continue their drug abuse and fail the detoxification.
To manage the chemical dependency, patients are opting for natural alternatives. Vitamins are not the only option – supplements can help as well. Passionflower is one such alternative. According to research, this herb has the ability to manage the mental symptoms of withdrawal.
Scientists evaluated 65 opiate addicts and offered them passiflora extract treatment accompanied by clonidine tablet or clonidine paired with placebo drop. Clonidine is often the go-to choice for treating opiate addiction. This clinical, double-blind trial lasted for 14 days, and all the volunteers were struggling with opioid dependence.
Volunteers received 60 drops of passiflora extract and 0.8 mg clonidine a day. Researchers measured the opiate withdrawal symptoms by relying on SOWS (short opiate withdrawal scale). Data indicate that both treatment options proved effective in managing the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal. But, the clonidine and passiflora group showed a larger superiority in managing the mental symptoms.
This shows that the extract could be an effective agent for managing opiate withdrawal. However, a more robust study is necessary to evaluate its impact.
Ginseng is one of the most popular ingredients in supplements. The use of herbal medicine for opioid addiction is not something new. Chinese medicine has relied on ginseng for thousands of years. This herb offers multiple health benefits. With the use of such a potent herb with outstanding medicinal properties, people can enjoy excellent results.
However, there is more to ginseng than meets the eye. Based on 18 different studies, these ancient practices have a profound positive impact on opioid dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. They have an anti-addiction effect that doesn’t cause significant side effects.
Ginseng can help with anxiety and mood swings during opiate withdrawal. Researchers studied whether wild ginseng could help with depression and anxiety in morphine withdrawal. They administered 50 mg, 100 mg, or 200 mg of wild ginseng doses for five days.
Their results indicate that wild ginseng could inhibit depression and anxiety responses in patients going through a morphine withdrawal. Since it interacts with the NPY system (the one that regulates energy and appetite balance), it could alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse.
Since there are different types of ginseng on the market, it’s important to know which one would make for a solid choice. Most clinical reports have studied wild ginseng and red ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng. Therefore, it’s a good idea to focus on the option that has undergone a series of testing.
Note: Ginseng supplements are not recommended for cancer patients. It might interact with certain cancers and cause diarrhea, a quickened heartbeat, and a dry mouth. Consult with a doctor before you start taking it.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an herb that grows in many regions around the world. It can be dried, fresh, used in essential oils or supplements. One of its key benefits lies in its chemical content. The plant is packed with phenols, flavonoids, terpenoids, and volatile oils. It can also act as:
- An anti-microbial agent
- An antioxidant
- An antispasmodic
- An agent for inducing neural growth factor
- A memory booster
- A smooth muscle relaxant
Plenty of scientific studies prove its effectiveness in treating musculoskeletal pains, headaches, and seizures. Beyond that, it can also be used for opioid withdrawal. Some reports claim rosemary could interact with the opioid receptors, making it a possible supplemental therapy for morphine dependence.
The effects of this plant were studied during trials in morphine-dependent mice. Based on the reports, when used as an oral supplement, rosemary helped improve morphine withdrawal symptoms. It might decrease the symptoms of withdrawal syndrome by interfering with the GABA system.
Another study also showed similar results. Intraperitoneal injections of 1.68 and 2.4 g per kg of rosmarinus officinalis extract, when paired with 0.96 g per kg of the alcoholic extract, helped reduce the jumps in rats with morphine dependency.
Explosive jumping behavior during morphine withdrawal can decrease the patient’s quality of life. With acute motivational and behavioral effects of polydrug use, it can be difficult to manage the physical symptoms. Relying on escape jumps is a classic withdrawal sign. So, it’s important to learn to manage it as soon as possible.
These reports indicate that rosemary could be used as a potent herbal drug for managing withdrawal symptoms in opium-addicted patients. It may also prove useful for different types of opiate addiction.
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is a dietary supplement derived from L-carnitine and carnitine. Carnitine is a crucial component in the chemical building block in the human system. Scientists evaluated this dietary supplement and its effects on improving the sleeping problems and muscle symptoms from opiate withdrawal.
The study was meant to analyze the short-term implications of the dietary supplement and its effect on opiate withdrawal. Especially on pain, given the fact that countless opiate-dependent patients will experience uncomfortable pain when dealing with withdrawals.
During the study, 30 subjects who met the criteria for methadone dependence received ALC or placebo treatment. The detoxification period lasted for three weeks, while the researchers evaluated the pain levels and withdrawal symptoms.
The final results indicate that ALC produced efficient antihyperalgesic effects and helped relieve opiate withdrawal hyperalgesia. It also showed a significant impact on other withdrawal symptoms, particularly insomnia, muscle cramps, and tension.
Because of its high tolerability, low risk of side effects, and drug interactions, ALC could be a practical pharmacological product for treating opiate withdrawal. Plus, it doesn’t have any potential for abuse. This makes it a valuable addition to opiate withdrawal treatment.
The only real setback is that patients undergoing chemotherapy will be advised to avoid this product. Because the supplement could increase the possibility of nerve damage, it’s critical that cancer patients consult with a doctor before adding this supplement to their diet.
- Black Seeds
A small black seed known as Nigella sativa has been a popular addition in herbal medicines for centuries. It is used for managing inflammation, bronchitis, and asthma. Due to its potent medicinal properties, it is a popular choice in supplements and spices.
According to the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, the seeds of the plant are viewed as the strongest forms of therapeutics. That’s why it has been used to treat neurotoxicity, memory impairments, pain, epilepsy, and other nervous system diseases.
Due to its thymoquinone content, which is a powerful bioactive compound, pharmacological trials show that the seeds could be a promising agent for treating the central nervous system.
The research concluded that by inhibiting the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, the plant could improve nervous system diseases. Because of its antioxidant properties and its impact on the nervous system, it might also prove beneficial for reducing opiate withdrawal syndrome in patients with opioid dependence. However, more studies are necessary to evaluate its full impact.
Even though supplements and vitamins can make opiate withdrawal more bearable, they won’t cure the addiction. Instead, these natural alternatives are meant to provide patients with a comfortable detox process that can reduce the risk of relapse. Patients going through opiate withdrawal will still need supervised care to beat their addiction. With natural treatments, nutrients, and vitamins, they can boost their chances for a successful recovery.