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Which Medications Are Used to Treat Opioid Withdrawal?

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There are three different medications used to treat opioid withdrawal: clonidine, methadone, and buprenorphine. One of these is likely to be more beneficial for your particular situation, based on the severity of your symptoms and other aspects of your opioid addiction. Call 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) now to find a detox program where you can begin your recovery from opioid dependence.


According to the National Library of Medicine, “Clonidine is in a class of medications called central acting alpha-agonist hypotensive agents.” This drug may be used more than any other to treat opioid withdrawal, but it often best for those who do not have severe dependencies on and are not heavily addicted to opioids. Normally, a person can go through the withdrawal process with the help of clonidine in about a week or two.

Since clonidine is not an opioid itself and does not occupy the same receptors in the brain that opioids do, it cannot treat cravings for these drugs as a symptom of withdrawal. In addition, it cannot treat nausea and vomiting, as it can cause these issues itself. However, clonidine is very effective at minimizing certain withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal, including:

Treat Opioid Withdrawal

Medications can reduce withdrawal symptoms so you can focus on your recovery.

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Cramps


Methadone is an opioid agonist that can be used to treat opioid withdrawal in all its forms, whether caused by abuse of the drug or not. According to the NLM, it can relieve withdrawal symptoms and make detox smoother, but it can also be used “as a long-term maintenance medicine for opioid dependence.” Individuals can eventually be weaned off the drug or stay on it indefinitely.

Methadone is often used for those who require intensive treatment for opioid withdrawal. Individuals with severe pain and other intense symptoms will often be better treated with methadone than any other medication. However, the drug can cause addiction itself if abused, so it is important for those who take it to do so exactly as prescribed. In order to help protect patients from abusing the drug, methadone can only be received in specific clinics authorized to dispense it by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration (National Institute of Justice).


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means it has many of the same properties as other opioids like methadone but does not cause the same level of effects that these drugs do. In addition, buprenorphine has a ceiling effect that, if the drug is taken in high doses, causes the effects it creates to eventually stop. For these reasons, it can be safer against the potential for abuse than methadone.

Other than this, the drug works similarly to methadone in that it minimizes withdrawal symptoms caused by opioid dependence and can either be used in detox or in a longer maintenance program. Buprenorphine is normally paired with naloxone when prescribed in order to further protect patients from abusing the drug; the naloxone in it will precipitate withdrawal in anyone who attempts to crush and snort or inject the drug. As a result, buprenorphine can be prescribed by certain doctors who have received certification to dispense this particular medication, and patients do not need to go to special clinics to receive the drug.

How Opioid Detox Helps with Withdrawal

Which Medication is Best for Me?

No one treatment program is right for every individual, and it is likely that one of these medications will be more effective for you than the others. If you have not been abusing opioids for long, have a mild dependence on these drugs, or have not abused them at all, a faster detox with clonidine may be possible. If you have been abusing these drugs, buprenorphine or methadone is usually a better choice, but those with severe dependencies often require methadone, as buprenorphine cannot create the same level of effects that optimal-dose methadone can (SAMHSA). In addition, it is also necessary to find a detox program that will help you transition into addiction rehab, if necessary, and that utilizes therapy as well as at least one of these medications.

Finding the Right Detox Program for Your Needs

Opioid detox can be difficult, and it is often safer to go through the process with healthcare providers and the appropriate treatment on your side. We can help you find the right detox program for your particular situation. Call 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) now.

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