Tips to Cope With Diarrhea During Drug Withdrawal

Withdrawal Symptoms and Other Treatments

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Diarrhea and stomach pain from diarrhea can be withdrawal symptoms among people who have been addicted to some drugs, particularly opiates, or even after a period of intense substance use. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Tips for Diarrhea and Stomach Pain

The following strategies can help control diarrhea and the spasms that cause diarrhea stomach pain:

  • One of the main risks with diarrhea is dehydration, so sip plenty of water.
  • Fluid loss is not the only problem with dehydration. You also risk the loss of electrolytes, particularly if you are also vomiting a lot. Drinking rehydration fluid, available from drug stores, can help avoid this. You can also add one teaspoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt to two liters of water to make up your own inexpensive rehydration fluid.
  • Yogurt with live/active cultures contains bacteria that can help reduce the severity and length of time diarrhea lasts.
  • Avoid hot drinks, acidic fruits and spicy foods, which can induce spasms leading to diarrhea and related stomach pain.
  • Bland foods, such as white toast, white rice, and bananas may help. If you are also suffering from withdrawal nausea and vomiting, you may prefer to avoid food intake until the initial acute withdrawal phase has passed.
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol (bismuth) or Imodium (loperamide) may help control diarrhea and slow down the bowel process.

    Symptoms of Withdrawal

    One reason people may have a difficult time kicking an addiction is because of the withdrawal symptoms they go through when they quit using  a substance. Depending on the type of drug, withdrawal symptoms may include:

    • Jitteriness
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Diarrhea and/or upset stomach
    • Restlessness
    • Fatigue
    • Sleep difficulties
    • Muscle aches
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Mood swings
    • Headache
    • Delusions
    • Tremors
    • Sweating
    • Paranoia
    • Irritability
    • Cramps
    • Vomiting

    Why Do Withdrawal Symptoms Happen?

    When drugs or alcohol are used constantly, the brain has to adjust by changing the way it produces neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the brain that affect the nervous system. When these substances are stopped, it forces the brain and body to have to change again, creating unpleasant physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

    Other Treatments for Withdrawal Symptoms

    Withdrawal from substances can be done at home or in a healthcare setting. Quitting substance use is often easier under medical supervision because medications can be used to make the transition easier and less uncomfortable. Different treatments are available for different substances.

    • Opiates: Treatment may include the use of clonidine, which helps anxiety, sweating, irritability, muscle cramping and aching and runny nose, and/or buprenorphine or methadone, both of which can decrease the amount of time it takes to detoxify and also help withdrawal symptoms.
    • Alcohol: If alcohol withdrawal symptoms are moderate to severe, you may need to be in a supervised clinical setting. You may be given sedatives to help make the transition to complete withdrawal whether you seek treatment as an inpatient or an outpatient.  
    • Barbiturates: Because of the potential complications from stopping barbiturate use, withdrawal should always take place under medical supervision. You may be given phenobarbital to help make the transition.
    • StimulantsTreatment for stimulant withdrawal will likely involve psychotherapy, but may also include antidepressants or other mood-affecting medications.


    "Withdrawal." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd edition (2006).

    "Opiate Withdrawal." MedLine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine (2013).

    "Alcohol Withdrawal." MedLine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine (2015).

    "Buprenorphine." Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2015).

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