For those attempting to quit opioid using naturally with acupuncture and herbs, there are two common approaches: tapering and cold turkey. We will review going cold turkey off of opioids in this, Part 1, of this blog entry, and weaning off of opioids in Part 2.
Many patients come to my clinic wanting to immediately abstain from the use of opioids. Some decide on this strategy because they are traveling in and only have a number of days for treatments. Others want to participate in NA or another type of “step program” that requires complete and immediate abstinence from opiate use. Others have simply had enough, and want their misery to end quickly.
Their course of treatment is dictated by the severity of their opioid use. The opioid spectrum includes patients who were prescribed opioids for a few months following a trauma or surgery, to full-on addicts. Research has shown that patients can become dependent on opioids in as few as five days and may experience symptoms of withdrawal when quiting.
I use acupuncture and herbs to avoid the extremely torturous symptoms of withdrawal including:
- Severe anxiety
- Body aches
- Overwhelming cravings
- Panic attacks
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty sleeping
- Profuse sweating
- Severe nausea
- Chills and shivers
Patients are advised to take their last dose of opioids at least 10 hours before their first treatment on Monday morning. During this treatment they are given herbs to ease all symptoms for the 4 days of treatment. Most patients report only slight symptoms of withdrawal when receiving this treatment protocol, most notably, fatigue. Patients come for acupuncture twice per day for four days this first week of withdrawal.
Travelers are given an herbal prescription for long-term wellness and balancing. If they are local, we develop a personalized treatment strategy for a full recovery as detailed in Part 2 of Opioid Withdrawal where we will cover the process of weaning off of opioids using acupuncture and herbs.