Natural Herbal Remedies for Opioid Dependency

Opioid dependency occurs when drugs like heroin, morphine or codeine are administered over a long period of time. While there are no fast-and-easy cures for opioid addiction, certain herbal remedies can help treat the symptoms of withdrawal and possibly even alter brain chemistry in a way that favors recovery. As with all treatments, the decision to use herbal remedies should be weighed carefully to avoid unwanted outcomes.

  1. Passionflower

    • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is flowering shrub-like plant native to North America. It is widely used for treating anxiety and insomnia due to its sedating effects. The active alkaloids in passionflower--harmine and harman--affect levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter targeted by benzodiazepine medications like Valium and Xanax.

      Recently, the value of passionflower in treating opiate withdrawal has become apparent. According to National Institutes of Health, the use of passionflower along with Clonidine during opiate withdrawal results in better symptom relief than by the use of Clonidine alone. Further studies are needed, but it appears that the relaxing properties of passionflower can be useful in easing the symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

    Kratom

    • Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tree native to Thailand, whose leaves have been used traditionally by natives to decrease pain and for its stimulating effect. Despite an absence of opiate alkaloids, kratom is sometimes used as a recreation drug, for its opiate-like effects. According to Lycaeum, the alkaloid mitragynine is likely responsible for the psychoactive effects. Kratom is thought to enable addicts to stop using opiates with fewer withdrawal symptoms and cravings, according to Healthy Holistic Living.

      The use of kratom as a treatment for opiate addiction is still being investigated, as the plant's potential side effects and method of action are not well understood. Because kratom is not regulated by the FDA, users face an increased risk of contamination, unknown potency and other health dangers.

    Ibogaine

    • Ibogaine is the psychoactive substance found in iboga, a plant native to central Africa. It has been used traditionally by local shamans for its ability to induce a hallucinogenic state. More recently, ibogaine has been studied as a possible treatment for addiction to drugs like opiates, cocaine and nicotine. According to The Ibogaine Dossier, ibogaine has a complex method of action, affecting serotonergic, opioid, GABA and cholinergic systems in the brain. It is thought to "interrupt" the addictive process by attenuating opiate withdrawal symptoms, while its hallucinogenic effects often cause users to reflect on the behaviors that led to their addiction.

      Ibogaine is a "Schedule I" substance in the United States, which makes it illegal to possess, cultivate or sell. According to National Institutes of Health, ibogaine can be neurotoxic, causing degeneration of Purkinje brain cells at higher doses. It has been linked to several deaths as well, making further research into ibogaine's effects necessary before it can be safely recommended as a treatment for opioid addiction.

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