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How to Stop Chills From Opiate Withdrawal

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Feb 25, 2024 • 8 cited sources

Both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic strategies can stop the chills from opiate or opioid withdrawal.

Chills, fever and cold sweats are common in people who abruptly stop taking opioids and are going through withdrawal. Some people are so uncomfortable during withdrawal that they return to drug use to relieve the chills and other distressing symptoms. 

For this reason, it is important to address the symptoms of withdrawal, including cold sweats, to help prevent people from returning to opioid use.

How To Stop Chills from Opioid Withdrawal

Quick Answer

The best way to quit opioids or opiates and stop the chills and cold sweats is to receive professional detox treatment. Medical detox services can relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings and increase your comfort during this process.

How to Get Rid of Opioid Withdrawal Chills

Regardless of which opiate or opioid you are withdrawing from—Norco, Vicodin, Percocet, fentanyl, heroin or otherwise—you will likely feel like you have the flu. This includes fever, cold sweats, and chills. 

There are many ways to ease opiate withdrawal chills, both at home and in professional treatment settings. And these strategies include prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as non-pharmacologic interventions.

Withdrawal Medications to Ease Your Chills 

Opioid withdrawal can be life-threatening.[2] If you develop severe symptoms, your team can help you feel better with withdrawal medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone and more.

1. Methadone

One of the oldest medications used to treat opioid use disorder available, methadone can soothe overly excited brain cells and ease your withdrawal symptoms, including fever and cold sweats.[2]

Some people stay on methadone for life while others choose to slowly wean off the medication, depending on what their needs are and their treatment goals. 

2. Buprenorphine and Suboxone

A partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine can latch onto opioid receptors used by drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers. Instead of feeling high, you’ll feel calm and normal and, if done correctly, should have minimal withdrawal symptoms and cravings for other opioids.

If you are at home and unable to or unwilling to go in person to the doctor or hospital, you can receive Suboxone online through Bicycle Health. Most patients are able to get Suboxone the same day they meet with their provider. 

Your chills may stop, and you may not feel drug cravings. Some people stay on buprenorphine medications like Suboxone for months, years, or even indefinitely to keep relapse risks as low as possible. 

3. Clonidine 

Clonidine has no opioid medication in it and thus it is not considered the best or most effective treatment for chills associated with opioid withdrawal; however, it can be a helpful medication to use in addition to Suboxone or Methadone, to help decrease chills. [3]

Once you feel better and your withdrawal progresses, you’ll usually stop taking clonidine. It is usually used short-term on a limited basis for acute withdrawal symptoms such as chills. Methadone and Suboxone, in contrast, can be used more long term to prevent withdrawal and cravings and prevent relapse. 

OTC Medications to Treat Fever and Cold Sweats

Other ways to treat fever, cold sweats and chills at home include OTC medications, such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Naproxen
  • Aspirin

All of these OTC medications work as fever-reducers and pain-relievers and may be able to ease withdrawal chills as well as headaches, muscle aches and joint pain.

How Long Do Cold Sweats Last?

Opioid withdrawal symptom time frames can vary, depending on the type of drug you took.

If you used short-acting opioids like heroin, chills may start within eight to 24 hours of quitting and last between four and 10 days. If you used long-acting opioids like methadone, withdrawal symptoms start within 12 to 48 hours and last between 10 and 20 days.[5]

Know that these time frames only apply to people who aren’t taking medications. If you enroll in a qualified treatment program, your symptoms might be mild and follow a different schedule.[8]

Other Tips to Make Your Chills Stop 

​​The best way to make chills stop is to enroll in a qualified treatment program. Quitting drugs without help can be dangerous, and it’s also rarely effective. As your symptoms intensify, you may be tempted to relapse to make the discomfort stop.

If you’re enrolled in an at-home detox program with medication, talk to your doctor if chills begin. Following a few basic self-care tips may help too.

These are good strategies for chills:

  • Stay calm. Your thoughts impact your health. The more worried, anxious and upset you feel, the faster your heart races and the worse your chills get. Breathe as slowly as you can. Focus on your heartbeat or your breath. This can help to keep you present and more relaxed.
  • Dress in layers. Put on a sweater or coat when you feel cold, and take it back off when you’re too warm.
  • Try a fan. A portable fan can be a lifesaver when you’re feeling too hot, and you can turn it off when you’re too cold.
  • Regulate with non-alcoholic drinks. Consider warming tea when you’re cold to heat you up from the inside out. Wrapping your hands around a warm mug can be helpful too.
  • Sponge your body. Lukewarm water can help reduce a fever and help you stay cool.
  • Get enough rest. Get plenty of rest so your body can move through opioid withdrawal more efficiently and get rid of the chills.

If your chills are intense, consider mindful meditation. Research performed with women experiencing hot flashes suggests the technique can reduce the intensity of episodes.[6] Download an app (like Calm or Headspace) to help you get started. Or just close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out.

If you’re feeling up to it, consider a gentle stretching or yoga class. Early research suggests that yoga can help some people stay sober after drug treatment.[7] You might appreciate the opportunity to move and breathe in a quiet space with other people.

If your chills worsen as your withdrawal progresses, talk openly and often with your treatment team. You may need a medication adjustment to stay comfortable and on track.

Nutrition & Hydration During Withdrawal

Perspiration, vomiting and diarrhea can leave you dehydrated and more prone to chills. Nausea may complicate your recovery, as your favorite foods may no longer be appealing.

Experts say people moving through withdrawal should drink two to three liters of water per day, which equates to about 12 cups.[4]

Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they may make you feel worse. Feel free to sip on anything else that seems comforting and enjoyable as you recover.

Warm drinks (like tea) can help you address your chills from the inside. Electrolyte beverages (like Pedialyte) can be a good option if your diarrhea has been relentless and left you feeling depleted.

If you’re tired of sipping, remember that plenty of foods are packed with hydrating properties. Clear broth, gelatin and watermelon are all high in fluid content and could be good choices.

Comfort Your Mind

Moving through opioid withdrawal isn’t always easy. In fact, researchers say fear of severe withdrawal symptoms often becomes the main reason people keep using opioids.[8] While you can’t make your mental state improve instantly, you can take care of your emotional health as you recover.

Use your meditation apps to help control your thinking and breathing, especially when your chills are intense. If you don’t enjoy these tools, close your eyes, and focus on breathing in and out. As you control your breathing, your attention may shift from your discomfort to your power and self-control. For some, it makes symptoms easier to handle.

Attending a support group meeting, such as Narcotics Anonymous, may be helpful. Surrounding yourself with peers who understand your discomfort could give you peace of mind. And these people may have good ideas to share about easing your path to sobriety. Find a meeting with this tool.

If your symptoms are so severe that you’re tempted to return to drug use to make them quit, contact your doctor. You may need a different type of treatment, or you could benefit from enrolling in an in-person detox program. Opioids won’t be available there, so you’ll be less likely to relapse.

Why Do You Get Chills From Opiate Withdrawal?

Continued opioid misuse can lead to physiological dependence, which means your brain and body have grown accustomed to the presence of the drug and now need it to function. When you abruptly stop taking an opioid like heroin or prescription painkillers, you’ll experience distressing withdrawal symptoms, including chills and cold sweats.

While the opioid withdrawal process is complex, researchers think sudden drug cessation leads to a condition called “adenylyl cyclase superactivation-based central excitation.”[1] As part of this process, enzymes that control the widening and contraction of your blood vessels are altered.[2] As your tissues are flooded and then deprived of blood, you experience tremors and chills.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice. July 2002. Accessed June 2022.
  2. Opioid Withdrawal. StatPearls. March 2022. Accessed June 2022.
  3. Opiate Withdrawal Using Clonidine. JAMA. January 1980. Accessed June 2022. 
  4. Withdrawal Management. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. 2009. Accessed June 2022.
  5. Withdrawal Management. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. 2009. Accessed January 2024.
  6. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. April 2017. Accessed January 2024.
  7. The Role of Yoga in Management of Substance Use Disorders: A Narrative Review. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. January 2018. Accessed January 2024.
  8. Review Article: Effective Management of Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms—A Gateway to Opioid Dependence Treatment. American Journal on Addictions. January 2019. Accessed January 2024.

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