What Is Ondansetron?

Ondansetron is a generic drug available under the brand name Zofran. Ondansetron is available in the form of a disintegrating tablet, solution, fil, and an IV variation. The tablet is most commonly administered to patients to prevent nausea and vomiting.

For the most part, ondansetron is used for nausea and vomiting relating to medical treatments including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. It’s classified as an antiemetic. Antiemetics are a class of drugs that reduce nausea and vomiting. Ondansetron is believed to work by blocking the effects of serotonin. Ondansetron competes for the 5-HT3 (serotonin) binding sites on nerve cells in the gastrointestinal tract or the central nervous system.

There are side effects of ondansetron including drowsiness, headache, and diarrhea. This medication may also cause constipation and dizziness. One of the most serious side effects of ondansetron is serotonin syndrome, which is a medical emergency. Serotonin syndrome is exceedingly rare and only occurs in combination with multiple other medications that increase serotonin levels. People who take methadone and ondansetron are at an increased risk of experiencing this condition.

People are advised against combining ondansetron with other medications affecting serotonin levels for this reason. There is some evidence ondansetron for opiate withdrawal could be useful, but why is that?

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

Opioids and opiates can include naturally derived substances like morphine, as well as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Heroin is also an opioid. These drugs are not only psychologically addictive but also lead to physical dependence. When someone is physically dependent on opioids or opiates and they stop taking the drugs, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. The body has adapted to the presence of drugs after a point, which can be as short as a few weeks. When the substance is taken away, the body has to readjust.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms vary from mild to severe. The severity and length of symptoms depend on factors like how long someone used opioids and how heavily. The symptoms are the result of the body trying to go back to a normal state of functionality. Along with drug cravings, other symptoms can include fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Withdrawal symptoms continue as the body goes through the process of cleansing itself from opiates. Withdrawal from some substances, including alcohol, can be deadly. Opiate withdrawal generally isn’t life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable and complications are possible.

While most of the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal end within a week, some can linger for weeks or months. Psychological symptoms tend to last longer, especially for people who have misused opiates for a long time. For example, a person may experience anxiety and depression even months after abstaining from opioids.

The benefit of a medically supervised detox program is the ability to better manage withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include mental and physical side effects of opiate withdrawal. Some medications ease a person through detox and prevent complications, as well as raise the chance of achieving long-term success in recovery.

Ondansetron for Opiate Withdrawal

While opiate withdrawal isn’t life-threatening in most cases, nausea and vomiting can lead to complications. Aspiration is possible, which occurs when vomiting and then inhaling stomach contents causes lung infection. Vomiting and diarrhea can also cause dehydration. Ondansetron for opiate withdrawal can be useful in reducing nausea and vomiting.

While ondansetron for opiate withdrawal can be helpful, it’s not a cure-all for addiction. Ondansetron is a medication that can mitigate some of the physical symptoms of opiate dependence. Opioid addiction is separate from dependence. Treating opioid withdrawal symptoms is only one part of a larger, more comprehensive treatment approach.

Another important consideration when discussing ondansetron for opiate withdrawal is attempting to self-medicate. The best course of action for opiate withdrawal is professional treatment. Attempting to self-medicate through detox can be dangerous or deadly.

If you’re struggling with opioid dependence or addiction, please call The Recovery Village. We offer a variety of detox and opioid addiction treatment programs that are specialized and can improve your chances of eliminating substance use disorder from your life.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.