On October 8th, 2002, the FDA announced the approval of Subutex and Suboxone tablets for the treatment of opioid dependence. Subutex and Suboxone also became the first narcotic drugs available for the treatment of opioid dependence that could be prescribed in an office setting under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000.
As a result of these changes in policy, many opiate-dependent individuals were now able to be treated with Subutex and Suboxone.
Some people chose to enroll in Opiate Treatment Programs (OTP’s) and received Suboxone in an outpatient treatment setting (which includes counseling), while others opted for treatment under the care of a private physician.
All over the nation, people were getting the help they really needed, and for over 13 years now, Subutex and Suboxone have continued to save lives, careers, homes, marriages, families, and much more.
However, the treatment of opioid dependence with these medications is far from perfect.
Let me explain:
It’s true that a very small minority of individuals are happy with the prospect of staying on these medications for the rest of their lives. However, the vast majority of patients taking Subutex or Suboxone are determined to get off these medications at some point.
For some, their goal is to be off in a few months. Others decide that a few years or more of maintenance therapy is the most effective plan for them.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Solgar DLPA
- 2 2. Solgar L-Tyrosine
- 3 3. Herb Pharm Passion Flower
- 4 4. Shen Nong’s Ginseng
- 5 5. Himalaya Mucuna
- 6 6. MacaForce
- 7 7. Raw Reishi
- 8 8. Top Extracts Kava Kava Root
- 9 9. NatureWise 5-HTP
- 10 10. Opiate Withdrawal Formula
- 11 11. General Wellness Supplements
The Missing Puzzle Pieces
Overall, most doctors have done a good job at treating opioid dependence with these medications. The patient comes in addicted to opiates, the doctor does an examination on them, administers the medication, and within a few hours or less, the patient leaves with minimal to zero opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Everyone feels great about the situation.
Unfortunately, in many cases, important pieces of the “recovery puzzle” are left out.
As the Subutex or Suboxone “newbie” leaves the office, they are filled with high hopes. Now they just need to take this medication for awhile, then down the road, they can stop and everything will be fine.
Unfortunately, if I had a nickel every time someone told me their doctor didn’t educate them on just how powerful Subutex or Suboxone really were…well, let’s just say I’d have a very large jar of nickels. And often times, the oversight doesn’t stop there.
Once a patient tells their doctor they are ready to start coming off Subutex or Suboxone, a large percentage of doctors provide the patient with instructions on how to taper their medication, but the education doesn’t go much further.
What usually happens is this:
The patient reaches a point in their taper where they start to feel bad.
They complain of symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, sweating, restlessness, and on and on. The patient becomes confused because they did everything the doctor said, but somehow they still feel horrible, and nobody told them this could happen the first day they signed up for treatment.
In typical cases, the patient is left to fend for themselves, because let’s be honest, most doctors simply aren’t aware of the many natural strategies for reducing Subutex and Suboxone taper symptoms.
Of course, some of the Subutex and Suboxone prescribers are familiar with proper nutrition, exercise, and supplementation for Sub-tapering, but they are the exception, not the rule.
In most cases, the doctor will either tell you it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be or if you’re lucky, you might get a sympathetic doctor who will prescribe you clonidine and/or other medications.
Suboxone/Subutex Taper Supplements
Now you see what am referring to when I say there are often missing pieces to the “recovery puzzle.”
The two missing elements are typically:
Not enough education upfront, and not a sufficient bio/psycho/social treatment plan when it comes time to taper (the biological or physical aspect of Sub-tapering is often left untreated, or it’s treated in an ineffective way).
The truth is, some people can taper off these medications just fine with the right taper schedule.
However, for the majority of individuals (especially people that have been on Subs for years), a strategic taper protocol alone is insufficient. They need more help, and that is where supplements come along.
After years of research and fine-tuning, I’ve come up with an epic list of supplements that can promote mental and physical health during a Sub-taper. Many people have used these supplements and emailed me to say how well they worked for them.
Here are my Top 11…
1. Solgar DLPA
DL-Phenylalanine, commonly known as DLPA, is a combination amino acid supplement consisting of 50% D-Phenylalanine, and 50% L-Phenylalanine.
This synergistic duo has mega-benefits for people tapering off Subs because supplementing with DLPA can correct biochemical imbalances caused by decreasing opioid blood-concentration levels.
DLPA increases the following neurotransmitters in the brain:
- Endorphins – The body’s natural opium-like painkillers, which become severely deficient in persons tapering off Subs.
- Dopamine – When a person is tapering off Subs, their dopamine levels plummet, which can lead to anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure). Dopamine is responsible for feelings of motivation, pleasure, euphoria, and it plays a large role in the “reward system” in the brain.
- Epinephrine/Norepinephrine – Also known as adrenaline and noradrenaline, these “focus neurotransmitters” can reverse depression, fight fatigue, and help the body respond to the physical and psychological stress induced by a Sub-taper.
Note: DLPA often appears to potentiate pain relief and ease depression in patients receiving opiates for chronic non-malignant pain. What does this mean? If DLPA increases the effects of opiates, this means it is a VERY POWERFUL supplement for tapering.
How to use DLPA on a Sub-Taper
Dr. Charles Gant, author of End Your Addiction Now: The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free, recommends using up to 2,000 mg up to three times a day.
My favorite brand is Solgar DLPA, as it is the highest-quality I’ve tried out of several.
Directions: Take 500 mg to start, and work your way up if there are no adverse reactions (such as hypertension). Always take DLPA on an empty stomach 45-60 minutes before meals. Take a maximum of 2,000 mg three times a day (morning, midmorning, and evening).
2. Solgar L-Tyrosine
L-Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that is abundant in many high-protein foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt, almonds, milk, avocados, bananas, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and soy products.
L-Tyrosine is beneficial for tapering off Subs because it helps your brain produce dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
In dopaminergic cells in the brain, L-Tyrosine makes the following conversion:
L-Tyrosine → L-Dopa → Dopamine → Norepinephrine + Epinephrine
When I first used The Thomas Recipe for coming off opiates, I noticed some interesting things:
- Mood Boost – Normally I would be totally depressed coming off opiates. The L-Tyrosine helped to lift the dark clouds of depression.
- Energy Boost – Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of coming off opiates. This powerful amino acid supplement increased my mental and physical energy.
How to use L-Tyrosine on a Sub-Taper
Again, referencing Dr. Charles Gant, he recommends using up to 2,000 mg up to three times a day. If you’re combining this with DLPA or mucuna, which I will talk about soon, you may wish to use low to moderate doses of each, rather than using the full daily limit of all of them.
Directions: Start off by taking 500 mg of Solgar L-Tyrosine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, at least 45 minutes before breakfast. If you don’t have any negative reactions, begin increasing your dose by 500 mg each time, with a maximum of 2,000 mg up to three times a day. In the evening, you may wish to skip the dose or lower it as it can cause insomnia if you take it at night.
3. Herb Pharm Passion Flower
Passion flower is a beautiful flowering plant that has a long history of use among Native Americans in North America and European colonists. Throughout history as well as the present day, passion flower has been used to treat a number of health conditions.
Presently, there are around 14 conditions passion flower has been used for, but for the purposes of this article, I will concentrate solely on how it can help ease symptoms caused by reducing your Sub-dosage.
Passion flower has been shown to be helpful for:
- Gastrointestinal (GI) upset due to narcotic drug withdrawal
- Opiate withdrawal
- Nervousness and excitability
- High blood pressure
- Pain relief
Note: Passion flower can effectively treat depression during a Sub-taper.
Passion flower contains the monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors harmaline and harmine. Passion flower also contains several flavonoids that are MAO inhibitors, including apigenin, kaempferol, and quercetin.
MAOs are enzymes that break down neurotransmitters and stop their messaging activity.
Therefore, taking this herb on your Sub-taper can result in an abundance of the following mood-boosting chemicals in the brain:
- Serotonin – Makes you feel emotionally relaxed.
- Norepinephrine – Increases energy, fights fatigue, fights depression, helps the body respond to stress.
- Epinephrine – Increases energy, fights fatigue, fights depression, helps the body respond to stress.
- Dopamine – Responsible for feelings of pleasure and enjoyment in life.
Note: MAO inhibitor medications used to be commonly prescribed to treat depression. Due to their dangerous reactions with certain foods, they have been largely replaced by other types of antidepressants. Taking passion flower for depression on a Sub-taper is much safer because it can inhibit MAO enzymes without the unpleasant side effects of antidepressants.
Passion flower can also effectively treat anxiety and insomnia during opiate withdrawal.
Passion flower increases brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts as a “mental relaxant.”
- Reduces anxiety
- Muscle relaxant
- Helps one to fall and stay asleep
Note: These medications can be very beneficial for jumping off Subs, however, do to their high potential for addiction, they should only be used for 3-4 days to ease the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. Also, I know it can be difficult to obtain benzos during a Sub-jump. Fortunately, passion flower can be used as a natural alternative for treating anxiety and insomnia.
Passion Flower for Opiate Withdrawal Study
Clonidine is currently the most widely prescribed medication in the treatment of opiate withdrawal. In a study from 2001, 65 opiate abusers were assigned randomly to two groups. One group received clonidine plus placebo, while the other group received clonidine plus passion flower extract.
The maximum daily dose of clonidine was 0.8 mg in three divided doses, with a fixed daily dose of 60 drops of passion flower extract.
- Both protocols were equally effective in treating the physical symptoms of withdrawal.
- Researchers observed that the passion flower + clonidine group showed a significant superiority over clonidine alone in the management of mental symptoms.
How to use Passion Flower on a Sub-Taper
There are many ways to use passion flower on a Sub-taper, including capsules of dried herb, infusions, teas, liquid extracts, and tinctures. The study mentioned above used a total daily dose of 60 drops of passion flower extract.
The most powerful way to take an herbal extract is in alcohol, which makes it a “tincture.”
To experience symptoms relief, all you have to do is buy a small bottle of passion flower tincture, squirt some drops into water or any other liquid (taking it straight tastes bad), and consume. My favorite product is Herb Pharm Passion Flower Extract.
4. Shen Nong’s Ginseng
The name ginseng refers to any of 11 different species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots. Ginseng contains many active substances. The substances thought to be most important are called ginsenosides.
High-quality ginseng is unparalleled in its efficacy at neutralizing fatigue.
This is due to its adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are a class of plants/herbs that, when administered, result in stabilization of physiological functions and facilitation of homeostasis.
Normally, someone on a very low dose of Subs is prone to suffer from a lack of energy for days, weeks, or even months in extreme cases.
Many individuals have to work and/or take care of kids in addition to other responsibilities.
The extreme fatigue from tapering low and jumping off Subs can be a major contributor to people “staying stuck” on medication.
Often they can’t just stop going to work and taking care of children because they don’t feel good. Thus, it can be easy to stay stuck on Subs, and some people even jump off Subs then start using again…and the cycle continues.
This is where adaptogenic herbs can help.
Here are some amazing benefits for you to review, Adaptogens:
- Improve the health of your adrenal system.
- Help strengthen the body’s response to stress.
- Enhance the body’s ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue.
- Calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without overstimulating.
- Normalize body imbalances.
Note: Adaptogens promote the facilitation of homeostasis in the body. They’re called adaptogens because of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific needs. Though the effects may initially be subtle and take time to make themselves felt, they’re real and undeniable.
*Adaptogens work a bit like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is too high it brings it down; when the temperature is too low it brings it up.
How to use Ginseng on a Sub-Taper
Ginseng is the quintessential adaptogenic herb. A randomized, double-blind study from 2010 showed that high doses of American ginseng over two months reduced cancer-related fatigue in patients more effectively than a placebo. Using this herb on a Sub-taper can help to give you a much-needed energy boost in a way that nothing else can.
With this herb, you don’t want to just get the regular stuff sold at a health food store. You really need to use something that is VERY HIGH QUALITY.
Shen Nong’s Ginseng is a premium extract that provides the body with a TON OF ENERGY, adaptability, health, and vitality.
Directions: Take 1-3 droppers as needed 2-3 times per day. Drink it on an empty stomach with a full glass of water.
5. Himalaya Mucuna
Mucuna pruriens, also known as “velvet bean” and other less common names, is a tropical legume native to Africa and Asia. It contains levodopa (L-dopa), which converts to the chemical dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that promotes enjoyment and interest in life.
It also increases mental focus, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Addiction destroys the pleasure/reward center in the brain. That’s one of the reasons why Sub-tapers are so hard to deal with. The dopamine deficiency can cause anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) and other psychological symptoms.
Fortunately, mucuna can help re-supply your brain with this neurotransmitter that is essential to opiate addiction treatment.
Taking this herb on a Sub-taper can provide the following benefits:
- Treats insomnia and deepens sleep
- Reverses depression
- Powerful mood-booster
- Helps the body respond to stress and fatigue
- Decreases opioid cravings
Note: In a study from 2010, it was concluded that mucuna pruriens helps in reducing psychological stress.
How to use Mucuna on a Sub-Taper
Mucuna is truly one of my favorite supplements for Sub-tapering. Himalaya Mucuna is a very good product that is affordable, while also containing a very high percentage of L-Dopa in each capsule.
This is the brand I now use after trying about six different formulas.
Directions: Start out by taking one tablet first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, at least 45 minutes before breakfast. If you do well on it, increase the dose to a maximum of 2-3 tablets 2-3 times a day.
Maca root powder has a long history of being a safe superfood and adaptogen, which has been consumed for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years in regions of the Andes Mountains. The main action of maca root is to strengthen endurance and energy levels, making it very useful on a Sub-taper.
Maca is widely used to promote the sexual function of both men and women.
Many athletes take maca for peak performance and stamina.
Furthermore, if you find yourself overcome with anxiety, stress, depression, or mood swings, maca may help alleviate these symptoms.
Directions: Mix 1 tablespoon MacaForce into a glass of water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and consume.
7. Raw Reishi
Reishi mushroom has been revered as perhaps the most sought-after and valuable adaptogen in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years.
Along with ginseng and many others herbs, reishi is known as a “tonic herb.”
Tonic herbs are substances considered so fundamental and important to overall health, vitality, and quality of life that they are encouraged to be taken daily for their numerous benefits, sick or not.
Whereas ginseng is more known for it’s energy-enhancing and fatigue-fighting benefits, reishi also comes with its own unique abilities. Since it’s an adaptogen, it can certainly increase natural energy, however, what I love most about this mushroom is reishi’s ability to enhance mood.
Reishi is a powerful “Shen tonic,” which translates loosely to an herb that “nourishes the spirit.”
Here is a list of some popular reishi benefits:
- Helps to conquer depression.
- Calms the mind and induces a state of relaxed focus.
- Boosts the immune system.
- Improves cardiovascular function.
- Accelerates the clearance of drugs and chemicals that the liver stores.
- Relaxes the nervous system.
Note: A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in China. 5.4 grams of reishi daily was administered for 8 weeks, resulting in a reduction of fatigue.
How to use Reishi on a Sub-Taper
Reishi has truly changed my life. This stuff makes me totally euphoric. When I take it, I feel relaxed, blissed out, and connected to the whole universe. I’ve taken a ton of different supplements, and this is one I will be using daily for the rest of my life.
I simply cannot recommend it enough.
Directions: Take 1-3 droppers of Raw Reishi up to 1-3 times a day as needed. Drink it on an empty stomach with a full glass of water. Reishi and other tonic herbs usually need to be taken daily for a week or two before the most significant benefits manifest. But once they do, you are in for quite a pleasant surprise! Enjoy 🙂
8. Top Extracts Kava Kava Root
Kava kava, also known simply as kava, is a plant that is native to the Western Pacific. Kava is widely consumed throughout Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia for its sedative (calming) and anesthetic (painkilling) properties.
Kava has the rare ability to induce relaxation while simultaneously improving mental clarity and cognitive function.
Cultures throughout the Pacific have a great respect for kava and hold it in the highest regard. These Pacific cultures frequently hold kava ceremonies, which often accompany important political, religious, and social functions.
Many individuals have used this herb while tapering off Subs. The active ingredients in kava are known as kavalactones.
These substances induce effects similar to alcohol, such as:
The kavalactones in kava contain the following properties:
- Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
- Analgesic (painkilling)
- Muscle Relaxing
- Anticonvulsant (anti-seizure)
How to use Kava Kava on a Sub-Taper
Using kava on a Sub-taper is very simple. You can use kava tea, kava capsules, kava tinctures, kava extracts, etc. My favorite product is Top Extracts Kava 70%. It’s a very reputable company with extremely high-quality products.
I’ve used it several times, and I give it my stamp of approval.
Directions: Start off with a 1/4 teaspoon Top Extracts Kava 70% in a glass of water, milk, or juice. If that doesn’t do the trick, up the dose to 1/2 or even 1 teaspoon. Use it a few times a day as needed to ameliorate symptoms.
9. NatureWise 5-HTP
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid and chemical precursor in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan.
5-HTP is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-Tryptophan.
It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia). 5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system (CNS) by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin.
Serotonin can affect:
- Sexual behavior
- Pain sensation
Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for many conditions where serotonin is believed to play an important role.
Here are just a few common examples:
- Opiate withdrawal
How to use 5-HTP on a Sub-Taper
Taking 5-HTP on a Sub-taper may lead to decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. I’ve known many people on Sub-tapers that stated 5-HTP helped them reduce their dose with fewer symptoms.
Directions: Take 1 capsule NatureWise 5-HTP with food 1-3 times a day.
10. Opiate Withdrawal Formula
Opiate Withdrawal Formula is a powerful supplement that was specifically formulated for people coming off opioid drugs. It contains a powerful and synergistic blend of amino acids, herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that promote physical and mental health during a Sub-taper.
The Opiate Withdrawal Supplement promotes the following benefits:
- Enhances Mood
- Promotes healthy digestion and appetite
- Increases natural energy and focus
- Calms anxiety
- Restores dopamine, GABA, and serotonin production quickly
- Relieves depression
- Reduces insomnia and helps you get more restorative sleep
11. General Wellness Supplements
The first 11 supplements I wrote about are all specific for alleviating certain symptoms on a Sub-taper.
However, it’s also very beneficial to take some general wellness supplements that can also promote physical and mental health while your body is going through a hard transition off medication.
The following list of supplements can create a solid foundation of health:
- For men, take 1 tablet Rainbow Light Men’s Multivitamin daily with breakfast. For women, take 1 tablet Rainbow Light Women’s Multivitamin daily with breakfast.
- Truly Natural Vitamin C – 1.5 teaspoons 3 times a day with or without food.
- Nordic Naturals DHA – 2 softgels a day with food.
- Solgar B-Complex 100 – Take 1 capsule a day with breakfast.
- Solgar Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc – Take 3 tablets daily with dinner.
That’s a lot of Sub-Taper Supplements!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry, because so am I!!! Of course, you don’t need to take all of these supplements to get results, but you knew that, right?
That would actually be unhealthy.
If it were me doing the Sub-taper, I would start off with the general wellness supplements. Then when I started to feel symptoms from lowering my dose, I would either take several of the nutrients from 1-9, or I would just take the Opiate Withdrawal Supplement.
These formulas both contain so many things I probably wouldn’t need to add much other stuff…maybe 1-3 other supplements from the 1-9 list at most.
Using a strategic blend of supplements on your Sub-taper can be an effective part of your bio/psycho/social treatment plan.
Make sure to focus on eating healthy foods, drink plenty of water, exercise on a regular basis, and get to bed before 11:00 pm the majority of the time for maximum results.
And don’t forget about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). To ensure that you feel your best after making your Sub-jump, continue to take supplements for at least 3-6 months. After that, you can get by on taking less, or even none if your nutrition and exercise are very solid.
If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comment box below, and good luck to you. 🙂