Herbal medicines for the management of opioid addiction: safe and effective alternatives to conventional pharmacotherapy?

CNS Drugs. 2011 Dec 1;25(12):999-1007. doi: 10.2165/11596830-000000000-00000.


Striking increases in the abuse of opioids have expanded the need for pharmacotherapeutic interventions. The obstacles that confront effective treatment of opioid addiction - shortage of treatment professionals, stigma associated with treatment and the ability to maintain abstinence - have led to increased interest in alternative treatment strategies among both treatment providers and patients alike. Herbal products for opioid addiction and withdrawal, such as kratom and specific Chinese herbal medications such as WeiniCom, can complement existing treatments. Unfortunately, herbal treatments, while offering some advantages over existing evidence-based pharmacotherapies, have poorly described pharmacokinetics, a lack of supportive data derived from well controlled clinical trials, and severe toxicity, the cause for which remains poorly defined. Herbal products, therefore, require greater additional testing in rigorous clinical trials before they can expect widespread acceptance in the management of opioid addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / drug therapy*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / adverse effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacokinetics
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacokinetics
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Plant Preparations