Coronavirus Special: How Opioid Users Can Stay Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Taken from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

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Most of us are freaked out by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. I, on the other hand, feel like we’re living in a movie — it’s quite surreal. As Tennessee’s confirmed case count continues to rise, with the first case in a neighboring county being confirmed just yesterday, my sentiment towards the spread of the novel coronavirus increasingly becomes that of concern.

I’ve heard that drug users like me may be more susceptible to catching COVID-19, as well as facing general life-related issues thanks to the coronavirus outbreak.

The purpose of this writing isn’t to generate views by regurgitating tips that others have floated already. Rather, I’m here to share original ideas with people who use drugs and the greater harm reduction sphere at large.

Here are a few ideas to keep opioid users, specifically, safe during this period of contagion.

Take Benadryl to Potentially Reduce Risk of Transmission

Whether it’s prescription opioids for chronic pain or illicit heroin for something else, opioids often make us itch. I’m not a pharmacologist, but I understand that opioids release histamines, which, in turn, cause itchiness, also known as “opi-itch.” Most opioid users report that opi-itch is most prevalent in the face, especially the nose. My own experience supports this, too — for me, usually, my nose is the itchiest.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can be used as an opioid potentiator, or anything that nets users more utility from opioids (i.e., greater analgesia for people with chronic pain). The two primary uses of diphenhydramine as an opioid potentiator is to improve the “nod” and to reduce opi-itch.

In my time as an opioid user, I’ve scratched the ever-living fuck out of my face, my nose bearing most of the brunt.

As you know, we’ve all been prompted to avoid touching our faces, as pathogens are more readily transmitted through eye, nose, and mouth contact.

By taking Benadryl, we opioid users reduce our propensity for touching our faces, thus reducing the likelihood of coming down with the novel coronavirus.

Keep in mind that diphenhydramine is a sedative. Mixing opioids with other sedatives can sometimes prove dangerous to users — one of the most extreme examples of which is combining benzodiazepines with opioids. Although the sedative synergy between Benadryl and opioids might not have great potential, it’s certainly something to be aware of.

I found that just one 25-milligram tablet of diphenhydramine was more than enough to send the infamous opi-itch packing. Well, the itch didn’t disappear entirely, though the drug has consistently worked well enough for me to always keep Benadryl around whenever I used opioids.

Stash Running Low? Use Cimetidine

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) published a guide, more or less, about navigating the current coronavirus-influenced landscape of drugs titled “COVID-19 Guidance for People Who Use Drugs and Harm Reduction Programs.” If I’m not mistaken, it came out last week, around Wednesday, March 11.

One of the global harm reduction leader’s central tenets to skirting COVID-19 transmission is to stock up on supplies.

Most of us don’t have enough money to afford opioids en masse. If you’re anything like me, we’re not going to be able to afford heroin, prescription opioids, or pressed pills containing nothing but fentanyl masquerading as legitimate pharmaceutical opioid painkillers.

What if we could artificially stretch out the duration of opioids? Wouldn’t that be something?

Tagamet (cimetidine), an over-the-counter drug that reduces stomach acid, does just this, believe it or not. It makes opioids last longer by inhibiting liver enzymes that metabolize opioids.

In my experience, taking cimetidine anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before dosing increases the duration of opioids like heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine for anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

Browsing drug-related Internet forums like Reddit’s r/Opiates subreddit will help you find that the most common dosage of cimetidine for this purpose is 600 milligrams.

Know that cimetidine can interact with many other drugs, too, potentially making them last longer or have stronger effects. Research contraindications between drugs — meaning both medications and their recreational, often-illicit counterparts — you currently take online to make sure taking cimetidine isn’t a bad idea.

If you think it might be a bad idea, don’t risk it!

If Securing Undoubtedly-Sterilized Poppy Seeds Is Possible, Poppy Seed Tea May Be Worth Trying

As all opioid users worth their salt know that morphine, codeine, and thebaine — these three opiate alkaloids are the most prevalent, though there’s about four dozen in total — are opiates, or drugs naturally derived from Papaver somniferum, best known as the opium poppy.

In my experience, the high from poppy seed tea (PST) isn’t as good as other opioids, even though it contains morphine, codeine, and company.

Although the duration of the poppy seed tea high is much longer than taking other opioids, whether it be pain pills or heroin, a major downside of PST comes in not knowing how strong individual batches of poppy seeds are.

According to Reddit’s r/PoppyTea subreddit’s “Alkaloid Data,” expecting batches of poppy seeds with morphine/codeine concentrations of ~150/~12 milligrams per kilogram of poppy seeds is reasonable.* However, research has shown that poppy seeds’ alkaloid content can range up to 6,000 times stronger than one another!

For this very reason, you should proceed with extreme caution in seeking out poppy seeds, using them to make poppy seed tea, and ultimately consuming it. If you do decide to drink poppy seed tea, please take the following basic precautions:

  • Make sure you have naloxone (Narcan) around.
  • Always use around somebody else who isn’t also consuming poppy seed tea, has the means to call 911 should you overdose, and knows how to recognize an opioid overdose and administer naloxone in response.
  • Remember — you can always take more, but you can never take less.

Where can you find poppy seeds to make poppy seed tea, however — any supermarket should do, right? Virtually all poppy seeds sold by supermarkets or grocery stores come pre-washed, meaning they’re not rich in alkaloid content. While I’m not a poppy seed-sourcing expert, I do have some experience buying them.

Personally, I’ve bought them twice before and found that eBay was a good place to look for

I’ve bought them twice before and found that eBay was a good first market to turn to. A 2019 study reported that the per-pound price of unwashed poppy seeds from an online American seller that advertised them as a “homemade high” cost $25.99. That price is more or less common across the modern American poppy seed market.

Right now, reputable sellers of “unwashed” — that’s the go-to descriptor poppy seed tea fans look for from poppy seed vendors; “unprocessed” is common, as well, as are reviews that say things like “this gets my NOD of approval” — poppy seeds on eBay sell pounds for anywhere from

I bought “unwashed” poppy seeds on eBay back in 2017, and I remember them costing between $20 and $35 per pound. Now, prices are more or less the same, with well-reviewed listings ranging from roughly $25 to $40 per pound.

*The alkaloid content of poppy seeds is based on research ranging from peer-reviewed, empirical evidence, such as a European Food Safety Authority study, to an “in-home analysis” carried out by one of the subreddit’s members.

Kratom Might Be a Good Idea

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is — depending on who you ask — an opioid. Either way, whether you think it’s an opioid or not, what’s important to know is that the drug is very similar to an opioid.

Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of opioid-dependent kratom users, have reported online that kratom either entirely or almost entirely ceased opioid withdrawal symptoms. This holds true in my experience, as well. The worse the opioid dependency, the less effective kratom will be in satisfying opioid withdrawal.

Both of them cause similar effects, such as mild euphoria, constricted pupils, constipation, and the raspy voice we sometimes experience from taking opioids. Kratom, in my experience, feels so very similar to hydrocodone. Your mileage may vary, but it’s at least worth a shot.

Doses of kratom usually range from 3 to 12 grams, and, on the modern American kratom market, you can find high-quality, reasonably-priced kratom from reliable vendors for anywhere from $80 to $120 per kilogram.

For an idea of how long kratom can last you, I used roughly 7 grams per dose — that’s an above-average dose based on American kratom consumers at large — anywhere from two to five times per day when I took kratom. At that rate, just one kilogram lasts anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks.

Talk about bang for your buck!

When shopping for kratom, avoid gas stations, head shops, and similar “shady” sources — that’s not an optimal word choice, but it’s the most appropriate I could think of.

By nature, since American kratom consumers are less likely to research the reputability of kratom sources when shopping in person, they’re less likely to source high-quality, almost-certainly-unadulterated kratom.

Also, since head shops, gas stations, and the like sell many different items, store operators often aren’t overly familiar with any single product — this is especially true with kratom, which only recently rose to its current level of popularity in the United States. Do you think decision-makers will understand the kratom market and how to secure high-quality, almost-certainly-unadulterated kratom from

Further, finding cheaper, high-quality, and more-reliably-sold kratom is infinitely easier on the Internet than in person. Even if owners can afford the upfront, startup costs associated with obtaining the American Kratom Association’s (AKA) Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) seal, they rarely do so in practice. This is so because kratom companies typically can’t justify the costs of becoming AKA GMP Qualified unless they’ve already been in operation for long enough to

To have the best chance at purchasing high-quality, almost-certainly-unadulterated — by “unadulterated,” I’m referring to kratom that is free of largely-benign impurities like dust, potentially-harmful heavy metals, active ingredients other than Mitragyna speciosa’s alkaloids**, non-kratom-related active ingredients, or even the coronavirus, although that’s so very seriously unlikely — look for well-reviewed, web-based, domestic American vendors that have been given the AKA GMP Qualified seal. Also, the longer a vendor has been around, the more reliable they likely are.

In summary, kratom may help reduce opioid users’ risk of catching COVID-19 for the following reasons:

  • Since kratom is exponentially cheaper than heroin to purchase in bulk, the more opioid users rely on kratom to satisfy themselves, the less we’ll have to expose ourselves to the world.
  • Even if you don’t plan on using kratom, you’ll feel so much better being able to fall back on kratom to help opioid withdrawal syndrome subside. After all, we should plan on the illicit opioid supply chain experiencing disruptions due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
  • Kratom can readily be purchased online, helping us steer clear of people who’re carrying COVID-19, as well as environments that may contain the pathogen.
  • Lastly, research has found Mitragyna speciosa to have immunostimulant properties.

**Kratom extract contains higher concentrations of such alkaloids; its addition to raw kratom can make it substantially stronger than raw kratom leaves could ever be on their own.

In Closing

Of course, I can’t guarantee that sniffing out any of these avenues will undeniably reduce your chances of catching the coronavirus. However, I do think that these four recommendations are all good to keep in mind.

Disclaimer: The information shared herein is not medical advice. Do not substitute this information for medical advice. I am not a medical professional. Although I use drugs myself, I don’t recommend drugs, whether legal or illicit, to anybody.

Long-term drug user, writer, practicing harm reductionist. Lifelong resident of rural Tennessee. Director of Tennessee Harm Reduction.