Laudanum Addiction Treatment

A comprehensive GUIDE to understanding your or your loved one’s addiction to Laudanum and finding the best treatment program options.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: While it’s considered an old-time or vintage medication, laudanum still has the potential to induce euphoria and become addictive. Addiction responds best to a combination of medications and talk therapy. Main options include inpatient and outpatient rehabs. However, all reputable rehabs should create an individualized treatment plan JUST FOR YOU.



Basic Info

Laudanum is a reddish-brown opium tincture formulated for oral administration. Chemically, this opium tincture is made of air-dried poppy (Papaver somniferum) latex and contains alkaloids such as morphine and codeine.It is considered a “vintage med“, but recent studies have indicated increasing home production of laudanum based on recipes using poppy seeds.

Laudanum is known to produce psychoactive effects, altering normal chemical processes in the brain.

Addictive Potential

Laudanum is an addictive drug that falls under the class of drugs called “opiates”.  According to the DEA Drugs of Abuse guide from 2017, laudanum is classified as a Schedule II drug. This is because while laudanum is an effective pain reliever, it also comes with a high potential for abuse and addiction. The high concentration of morphine makes Laudanum extremely potent and addictive. Because of its extremely addictive potential, you should use this medication only as directed by your doctor.

Laudanum addiction typically occurs when you take this drug:

  1. a) non-medically
    b) chronically/repeatedly for a prolonged period of time

Those who abuse Laudanum often take it:

  • Recreationally to get high.
  • To self-medicate physical pain, past trauma, or emotional pain.
  • To increase feelings of well-being and happiness.

Causes of Addiction

Any type of drug addiction happens when a combination of genetic, biological, and environment factors mix to form a perfect storm. Often, addiction occurs when:

  1. There is a genetic predisposition for craving.
  2. Laudanum is misused.
  3. Laudanum is abused with alcohol or other substances.
  4. Laudanum is taken more often than prescribed or without a prescription.

Signs of a Problem

The hallmark signs of addiction are related to:

  • Loss of control of drug use (amount, frequency, or time spent using).
  • Drug craving, obsessive thinking, or compulsive use.
  • Continued use of the drug despite negative consequences.

Stil, there are are a few behavioral signs that can also indicate a larger problem.

  1. Sudden mood swings occur.
  2. Slowed reflexes apathy and depression become common.
  3. Social isolation and neglect of hobbies or family become frequent.
  4. Criminal activity to obtain money for drug use can surface.

If you find yourself behaving in a similar way, you can benefit from MEDICAL help. Addiction is not a self-manageable condition, especially in cases when dependence has occured. The treatment program you choose can make the difference between ending up on relapse merry-go-round or discovering a new path of lasting recovery.

Breaking Free

The first step to overcoming Laudanum addiction is willingness to make a change. Every change can be hard in the beginning. Most people are usually faced with doubt and fear before starting on their recovery journey, but the truth is that, treatment does not work if you don’t work at it. The following ideas might help you motivate yourself to start the process of change:

The second step includes creating a support network. Having friends and family members who are ready and willing to participate in the recovery process will encourage you to succeed when crisis occur and treatment becomes hard. Avoid contact with friends and family who are not supportive or judgemental in any way.

The third step involves participation in a medically supervised detox program. Laudanum detoxification will help you easily deal with painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, with the assistance of medication and psychological counselling. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the combination of addiction treatment medications and behavioural therapy is the best way to ensure success for most addicts.

SUGGESTION #1. Remove all substances (including laudanum) from your home and surrounding. This way you’ll make your environment a less triggering place.

SUGGESTION #2. Write down the reasons why you want to quit Laudanum and list the benefits of a sober life. Think about the positive impact of becoming drug-free over your health, partner, kids, and your career. Whenever quitting gets tough, remind yourself of the benefits to stay motivated.

SUGGESTION #3. Research your local treatment options, including detox, counseling, and ongoing care. Consider entering a rehab. Then, schedule an appointment with a professional. You can start with your family doctor or general physician. Or, you can go straight to a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist.

Why Rehab?

After you successfully remove laudanum from your body, most people should proceed to a rehab facility. Treatment centers help you develop physical, emotional, and mental strength during early recovery. They also teach you about the harming effects of laudanum abuse and ways to avoid relapse. A reputable rehab will help you learn how to recognize and avoid whatever caused you to turn to laudanum in the first place.

Standard Laudanum treatment centers offer a variety of therapy solutions such as:

  • Art classes
  • Family therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Individual therapy
  • Meditation
  • Support group meetings

Stages of Treatment

Stage 1: Evaluation and Assessment.

The first stage of treatment aims to establish a diagnosis of your physical and mental condition. Assessments and evaluations are a starting point that help doctors ensure you get the right kind of care and help you need. Usually, assessments are conducted by a mix of medical professionals that might include intake staff, office admin, addiction counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists or other health professionals with a background in addiction treatment. A typical entry evaluation can take 1 to 1.5 hours and may include:

  • Drug Testing.
  • Interviews.
  • Medical History.
  • Questionnaires.

Stage 2: Detoxification.

Detoxification is a systematic and safe process during which a physician treats laudanum withrawal. Chronic use of opiates can cause physical dependence over time and sudden discontinuation will result in withdrawal symptoms. The detoxification process is designed to decrease the severity or intensity of these effects and to supervise the removal of toxins left in your body.

Detoxification is usually supervised in an inpatient setting at a hospital or residential treatment center. Inpatient detoxification offers a close monitoring, prevents relapse, and has been proven safe. However, outpatient detoxification has the advantage of being less disruptive to your life and less expensive. The choice of setting depends on:

  • Co-existing medical and/or psychiatric conditions.
  • Your general health.
  • Your history of substance abuse.

Talking to a trained detox or medical professional is the right first step in choosing the appropriate program.

Stage 3: Therapy.

Addiction treatment programs should provide psychotherapy and behavioral therapies that can help you get to the root causes of your addiction and help you develop new behaviors that don’t involve laudanum use. These therapies may include:

  • Education.
  • Family therapy.
  • Individual and group therapy sessions.
  • Nutritional counseling and wellness activities.
  • Psychotherapy and behavioral therapies.
  • Thorough planning for aftercare programs.

…and other supportive services.

Stage 4: Aftercare.

After completing residential treatment it is essential that you continue your recovery by taking part in a Laudanum aftercare program. While many skills are developed during residential treatment it is essential to continue to take an active part in the recovery community. Aftercare programs are designed to help you during the critical early days of recovery when you first return home. The main goal of aftercare programs is to teach you how to maintain  sobriety.

Fear of Laudanum Withdrawal is Normal

Laudanum is a combination of morphine, codeine, thebaine, and papaverine. These substances are highly addictive and can make quitting Laudanum difficult without proper medical assistance. Laudanum withdrawal begins with milder symptoms and then progresses into stronger symptoms. Acute withdrawal usually peaks at 72 hours after last dose and resolves 7-10 days after quitting.

Quitting an opiate is usually followed by:

  • goose bumps
  • insomnia
  • muscle aches and abdominal cramps
  • nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • nervousness and agitation
  • runny nose, watery eyes, and increased perspiration

Overall, laudanum withdrawal feels like a very bad flu. In order to prevent relapse and keep the condition under control, inpatient detox is best. Health care professionals can make this process more comfortable. Detox clinics closely monitor your health and may provide different types of medications to ease the discomfort.

Stabilization from detox and withdrawal lasts 30 to 60 days (sometimes longer) depending on your frequency of use, dosages employed and the duration of use. Some clinics also offer rapid Laudanum detox. This method uses anaesthesia. While sedated, you are administered large doses of opiate-blocking drugs. However, the efficacy of this method is not well documented; the practice of rapid opiate detox carries risks and is not standard practice at this time.

Co-occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders become an issue when opiate addiction and mental illnesses develop alongside each other. Frequently, depression and anxiety can accompany an addiction problem. Understanding the relationship between Laudanum abuse and mental illness can help you take some action before the situation turns worse.

Mental health illnesses commonly associated with drug problems include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder

Individuals struggling with depression and anxiety often seek the “high” from Laudanum as a means to gain relief from symptoms of mental illness. Over time, this pattern of laudanum use only works to reinforce the addiction in terms of the psychological dependence that develops as you seek out relief through drug abuse. So, addiction and co-occurring disorders bring a rapid decline in quality of life resulting in:

  • Damaged relationships
  • Financial and law problems
  • Homelessness
  • Job loss
  • Poor physical health

How to Help a Loved One

When your loved one is abusing laudanum, you can be wracked with fear, guilt, and shame. Know that addiction is a medical condition and that it is treated medically. Also, know that addiction often occurs in family systems. So, while you consider a plan for intervention, here’s what you can do:

1. Show your concern about your loved one well-being without judgment. Show empathy and compassion in the same way you’d show it to someone suffering from any other chronic illness. Avoid telling your loved one what he/she needs to do. Practice these phrases with your loved one:

“I would feel better if you…”
“I’d like to help you with…”
“Will you let me take part in your recover?”

2. Create a stress and substance free environment. Get rid of drugs or alcohol in the home, including marijuana.

3. Establishing basic rules of behaviour and make sure to set boundaries. This way you addicted loved one will know you do not support their behaviour.

4. Reach out for professional assistance and help. Find a licensed addiction treatment specialist. Also, consider bringing a professional interventionist to plan an intervention. Or, work with a family counselor who knows the CRAFT model of family training. Finally, consider calling a rehab (or a hotline number like ours) to talk about treatment.

5. Keep track of your loved one’s medications and refills so you and they know what they’re taking and how much should be taken and when. Keep this data on hand for when your loved one accepts help.

6. Be on the lookout for signs of overdose. Call 911 or contact (800) 222-1222 the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Seek advice from prescribing doctors about what to do in these situation. Or, look into having naloxone at home. Narcan and Ezvio are two medicines that can reverse an opiate or opioid overdose.


  1. Don’t confront.
  2. Don’t judge.
  3. Don’t yell or threaten.
  4. Don’t talk to your loved one when s/he is intoxicated.

Calling a Hotline

Calling a helpline is easier and may even be less intimidating than going to your doctor and discussing the problem. If you fear being judged, labeled, or shamed…calling a helpline can help you avoid these.

When you CALL us, we’ll listen.

We know that it can be hard to pick up the phone. So, our staff have been trained to understand addiction as a medical condition. It’s our job to relate to you with compassion and then get you the help you need. Drug abuse hotlines like the one listed on this page are:

FREE.You can dial toll-free 24/7.
Confidential. No personal information must be disclosed during the call.
Anonymous. You only share as much information as needed.

So, you can view a helpline as a ‘safe’ place where you can ask all your questions regarding signs and side effects of  addiction. We invite you to finally talk openly and honestly about:

  • Laudanum use problems.
  • How long you or your loved one has been using laudanum.
  • How much and how often you use laudanum.
  • Whether or not you’re drinking or using other drugs in combination with laudanum.
  • Other mental health issues you’re battling.

Most importantly, you can understand which treatment options might help you – after just one phone call.

Ongoing Treatment

We want to impress on you the idea that addiction treatment is a lifetime committment to living a different life. So, there are certain things that you’ll have to continue doing after rehab ends.

Aftercare is a formalized, post-treatment care option that aims to prevent relapse by teaching you how to cope with triggers and maintaining attendance in on-going therapy or counselling. Relapse prevention techniques for  should involve:

  • Addressing pleasant memories of drug use.
  • Coaching in addressing slips.
  • Developing a lifestyle that’s protective.
  • Developing coping skills and stress management skills.
  • Learning about the relapse process.
  • Training in identifying warning signs and high-risk situations.

This is a long task list, which is why aftercare help extends into the weeks and months that follow formal treatment. So, reputable rehabs stay in touch with you after you leave. You can receive this ongoing support in the form of:

  1. Alumni support
  2. Support groups
  3. Touchup counseling

These elements will help you stay involved with the sobriety community, and prompt you to continue to work on your recovery, so they won’t slip back into destructive habits.

Your Questions

We invite your questions in the comments section.

We hope to cover most of your questions about addiction treatment…but understand that you might have that burning question to ask. Just know that we love to hear from our readers. And we’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction
NIH: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
SAMHSA: Treatments for Substance Use Disorders


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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