How to Detox from Heroin?

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Heroin is a highly addictive drug. With regular usage, a person is more likely to develop an addiction, making it harder to quit taking these substances even when they want to. The best way to go through the process is with the help of a heroin detox center since there are medications and treatments available to help you recover.

In 2020, heroin overdoses resulted in the deaths of nearly 13,000 people, or more than four deaths for every 100,000 Americans. Compared to 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving heroin was roughly seven times higher in 2020. Heroin accounted for nearly 20% of all opioid-related deaths.

Several factors, particularly the opioid epidemic, are responsible for the increase in heroin usage. If you are one of the thousands of Americans battling heroin addiction, there is still hope for you. Heroin-dependent individuals may find recovery difficult, but it is not impossible. Unfortunately, heroin is a powerful and highly addictive drug with severe withdrawal symptoms. In this article, we will discuss what heroin is, what heroin withdrawal is like, and the best approach to detox to live in sobriety.

What is Heroin?

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has categorized heroin as a Schedule I controlled drug. This indicates that heroin has no medical use, and it has a substantial risk of developing a dependency due to its highly addictive nature. Heroin is generated from the chemicals found in poppy plants and is considered an opioid.

Individuals who develop a heroin addiction may enter an unending circle. Even when a person wishes to quit, heroin withdrawal symptoms might be severe enough to lead to relapse to ease the discomfort. The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies on the length of time of drug usage, the amount of substance used, and other variables such as the individual’s metabolism, weight, and genetics.

Why is Heroin Detox Important?

Medical heroin detox is key in facilitating safe detoxification and guiding individuals toward hope, health, and recovery. Heroin’s initial withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant enough to induce relapse in many users.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses FDA-approved drugs in conjunction with counseling and behavioral treatments to treat substance use disorders. MAT is generally used to treat addiction to opioids such as heroin and opiate-containing prescription medications, although some address addiction to alcoholism.

Image presenting the heroin Detox withdrawal timeline

What Are the Common Withdrawal Symptoms?

Heroin is an opiate drug that inhibits several central nervous system processes, including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and temperature regulation. Heroin binds to opioid receptors, increasing neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for pleasure. 

Heroin misuse also produces a surge of pleasure. During the heroin withdrawal phase, the effects reverse those of intoxication. A person with a history of mental illness or previous opiate withdrawal may undergo a more severe withdrawal.

In general, heroin withdrawal is not considered life-threatening; however, some psychological and medical symptoms may have life-threatening implications.

Therefore, abrupt cessation of heroin should never be attempted without the assistance of mental health professionals who can apply different strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms and keep patients safe.

What is the Heroin Withdrawal Timeline?

When people stop using heroin, they may experience immediate mental and emotional changes. The brain needs time to understand that the medications are no longer there. Once this occurs, the body appears to respond by pushing you to seek out the medication. 

Typically, the heroin withdrawal timeline includes:

  • Withdrawal symptoms start appearing between six to twelve hours after the last use.
  • Peak symptom duration ranges from one to three days.
  • After approximately one week, withdrawal begins to decrease.

How to Manage Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal management entails the presence of a medically-trained physician to assist with withdrawal symptoms. This method is sometimes referred to as medical detoxification

So, what occurs during medical detoxification? Expect the following during the withdrawal management process:

Patients  Are Put into a Secure Environment

Before the withdrawal management procedure can begin, the patient must be placed in a safe environment. During medical detoxification, medical specialists will be accessible to give support and provide medical detoxification for any co-occurring problems.

Additionally, it is advantageous to have someone there who has previously undergone the detoxification process. If a patient experiences intense cravings or suicidal thoughts, a comforting expert will be present to ensure their safety.

Patients May Be Given Opioid Replacement Medications

Medical heroin detoxification often entails using opioid replacement drugs to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naltrexone are the two most used opioid replacement drugs.

  • Buprenorphine is a partial opioid that may be used during medical detox. This prescription drug occupies the same brain neurons as heroin but does not have the same effects. However, the consequences are comparable but less severe.
  • Buprenorphine/naltrexone is a partial opioid. This medication stays in a person’s system longer than heroin. Therefore, those who take buprenorphine/naltrexone will suffer fewer of the negative consequences associated with heroin usage. Buprenorphine/naltrexone helps decrease heroin cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and the desire to use.

An opiate replacement drug lets a person gradually weaned off the opioid while simultaneously alleviating withdrawal symptoms. Typically, a physician will prescribe an initial dose that prevents withdrawal symptoms and slowly lowers the amount at regular intervals to wean the individual off the medication.

Table showing mild, moderate, and severe heroin detox withdrawal symptoms

Patient May be Prescribed Other Drugs

In heroin medical detoxification, partial opioids are not the sole medications used. Other medications that may be utilized for withdrawal treatment include:

Naltrexone – This medication is an opiate antagonist. The drug does not alleviate heroin withdrawal symptoms, although it is often administered to patients who continue to have cravings despite treatment.

Clonidine – This medicine was initially intended for the treatment of hypertension. However, it can also relieve stress, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, and jitteriness in those undergoing medical detoxification. Although it is not approved for this use, it is often used to help treat withdrawal symptoms.

Robaxin – It is a muscle relaxant. Similar to Clonidine, it is not officially licensed to treat heroin withdrawal. Still, it helps relieve muscular pains, tension, anxiety, and any other discomfort a patient may experience during withdrawal.

Other medications: In addition to prescribing the drugs listed above, medical professionals may also prescribe various additional medications to treat withdrawal symptoms.

What to Expect During Heroin Detox?

A professional heroin detox program employs methods that keep patients comfortable, alleviate physical and mental issues, and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Professional medical staff can prescribe medications to help distressing withdrawal symptoms when needed. In medical detox, there is no need to worry about secondary addictions, as these medications are under the control of staff.

Remaining that heroin detox is just the initial step away from addiction and toward life-affirming recovery is essential. Individuals must actively participate in drug addiction therapy to enjoy a permanent recovery. Various treatments are used to determine “why” someone began abusing drugs, and coping skills are taught to prevent relapse.

The most common forms of heroin addiction treatment therapy are behavioral therapies. Typically, these sessions include residential treatment or intensive outpatient care, including group therapy, family therapy, individual therapy, and educational sessions for relapse prevention.

Without adequate treatment, the cycle of substance abuse, abstinence, and relapse will continue. If individuals undergo heroin detox without rehabilitation, relapse is inevitable. The heroin addiction treatment program is a logical progression from detox to the residential level of care, where clients learn why they began substance abuse and their long-term recovery prospects.

Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?

It is uncommon for heroin withdrawal to result in death, although it is possible. For example, some individuals may get acute dehydration or heart failure if they often vomit or urinate due to heroin or opiate withdrawal. If not carefully monitored and managed, specific symptoms that might occur after discontinuation can be fatal.

During heroin or opiate withdrawal, there is also the risk of relapse, which should be kept in mind. The discomfort of heroin withdrawal may cause a heroin addict to relapse on their drug of choice, but this is exceedingly risky, particularly if their tolerance has decreased. This can lead to severe adverse effects (such as overdose) and death. To withstand the entirety of your withdrawal phase, you must consult your doctor or find a reliable drug and alcohol detoxification center.

How Can I Proactively Aid My Recovery?

Although medical detoxification is the most effective option, you need not be inactive in your recovery. You should be aware that nothing will ever change until other aspects of your lifestyle alter. 

To support your recovery process, especially in the early phases when cravings and withdrawal symptoms may arise, you must take action to help your recovery. These are some healthy options to consider:

  • Your nutrition has a more significant impact on your mood than you may realize. Try eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding processed and junk foods to better manage your stress and general health.
  • Try to get more sleep. Getting sufficient rest and staying hydrated is essential for your physical health and recovery.
  • Try to exercise frequently. Physical activity can give a diversion and lessen stress. Ensure that you are performing activities within your capabilities and not overexerting yourself. Find an activity you love, such as running, yoga, or swimming.
  • Determine how to battle your stress. During rehabilitation, stress has the potential to lead to relapse.
  • Find coping mechanisms to assist with negative emotions. In therapy, you can learn more about stress management strategies or try meditation. Maintaining healthy relationships can also reduce stress and increase the probability of your recovery success.

You can also get social support in other ways, such as by joining recovery support groups. These include group therapy, 12-Step groups, and community health groups. It is comforting for persons in recovery to have access to a group of people who can connect to their experiences.

At-Home Options

When you are addicted to opiates, your body adapts to having them in your system. Additionally, your body may get tolerant to some of the adverse effects of the medication, such as constipation and dry skin. 

Suddenly discontinuing opiates may provoke a severe reaction.

If you attempt withdrawal alone, you will need to be well-prepared. Try to gradually taper off opiates before quitting totally. This may reduce the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Due to the compulsive nature of addiction, self-regulated tapering is difficult for most individuals. It often results in a complete relapse into addiction. Dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea is widespread and may have severe health consequences. 

During withdrawal, dehydration places a significant number of individuals in the hospital. During the withdrawal process, consuming ample amounts of hydrating liquids is vital. Electrolyte-containing liquids, such as Pedialyte, may aid in rehydration.

Quitting Heroin: Cold Turkey vs. Medical Detox

An individual can detox from heroin using the cold turkey method. Understandably, some individuals may resist the thought of using another drug while detoxing from heroin. Logically, you may believe that it makes more sense to abstain from all drugs. However, medical detoxification is far safer than cold turkey detoxification.

Having a physician on-site to assist with withdrawal treatment is an additional benefit. You would also be accompanied by someone who has gone through this procedure and completed it. In addition, empirical research shows that medical detoxification with a physician offers greater success chances than the choices. If you are still considering a cold-turkey detox, It is recommended that you rethink.

While you may have seen anecdotal evidence online of a person who successfully finished withdrawal without assistance, most of those who do this will relapse throughout detoxification and may even overdose. You may not obtain knowledge about these problems by researching online viewpoints. As they may have slipped back into the cycle of addiction, a considerable majority of those who have a relapse do not take the time to write about their experiences on the internet. Choosing medical detoxification over cold-turkey detoxification will likely provide a favorable outcome.

You will have a greater chance of long-term recovery if you participate in a medically assisted withdrawal program. In addition to preventing relapse, medical detoxification prepares you for the long path to recovery. You are not required to go through this procedure alone.

Picture showing stats of deaths resulting from heroin overdoses
heroin detox

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best way to detox from heroin?

  • With the assistance of a specialized service, family, and friends, a willingness to explore the underlying reasons for substance abuse, and the social resources to alter the conditions that fostered substance abuse in the first place.
  • Reasonable expectations on your definition of recovery and the timeframe for its accomplishment.
  • The elimination of harmful conditions that induce drug consumption, such as homelessness, (physical and/or mental) health concerns, and abuse (physical, emotional or historical)

What is the best way to detox from opiates?

The best way to detox from opiates is often in a hospital under medical supervision. Several medications can be used to alleviate the symptoms of heroin withdrawal and make the detoxification procedure as safe and comfortable as possible.

Some individuals may be able to detox at home, but it is crucial to have a support system in place in case of issues. Opiate addiction is extremely tough to overcome without expert assistance. Opiate withdrawal can cause health problems and be physically and emotionally taxing, so it’s better not to take chances. Seek help from a health care provider to determine the best detox strategy for your unique health needs.

How do I get through heroin withdrawal alone? Or should I get help at a drug rehab center?

Most individuals who try to quit heroin addiction on their own are unsuccessful. Heroin withdrawal is highly unpleasant, and most people relapse to alleviate the symptoms.

Rehab increases your likelihood of success considerably. 

You will receive medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, education and support on how to avoid relapse, and information about medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to help you stay sober.

How does someone help a heroin addict detox?

  • The most effective way to help heroin addicts detox is to make them as comfortable and patient as possible.
  • During detox, you will likely be perceived as a bad person. So, prepare yourself for an onslaught of insults and shouting. Detoxification seems like death; therefore, addicts often verbally lash out when they cannot intervene physically. Just let them.
  • Keep the addict on lockdown. If they try to escape, don’t let them. Do not give them money or anything of value that may be exchanged for drugs. Always keep an eye on them!
  • As long as the heroin addict is willing and able to quit, a few days of babysitting is a small price to pay for saving the life of a family member or friend. Times might vary based on the degree of use and the duration of addiction. A detox might last between 5 and 12 days.

The Haven Gets You the Care You Deserve

It is crucial to work to free your body from the grip of addiction, but it is necessary to do so in a safe and supportive environment. The duration of heroin withdrawal varies from person to person. Yet, it is often intense and scary. However, at The Haven treatment center, you will be given the tools and resources necessary for a complete recovery.

Our professional medical staff offers help to reduce withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, aches and pains, cold sweats, cravings, sleeplessness, and agitation. The medical team monitors vital signs, conducts withdrawal evaluations, and administers general medical treatment. 

Medication may be used to reduce the intensity of symptoms and the risk of consequences.

Contact us at (561) 328-8627 to learn more about our services

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