With the crackdown on prescription pain pills in recent years, some individuals have turned to heroin as an alternative to drugs like hydrocodone or OxyContin. In fact, reports indicate that about half of heroin users first abused painkillers before trying heroin. As you may have heard in the news, the highly addictive nature of heroin has created a heroin addiction epidemic in America. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of deaths due to heroin overdose quadrupled between 2002 and 2013 – and it hasn’t slowed down.
Those who try heroin don’t take long to become addicted to it. The immediate effects of heroin are extreme feelings of pleasure lasting a few minutes.However, this rush of euphoria is followed by horrendous withdrawal symptoms once the drug has worn off. This is one reason it’s so tough to stop using the drug. The user will feel so horrible that they would rather use the drug again than to keep enduring the misery. However, the risk of overdosing on heroin is high, so using it is a huge gamble.
Though everyone has a different experience when it comes to heroin withdrawal symptoms, the most common ones reported are:
If one is addicted to heroin, they will benefit from attending a detox center in order to contend with detoxing from the harmful toxins lodged in the body from heroin usage. The reality of coming off heroin is that it can be difficult due to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Therefore, detox centers have a detox process that works quite well and employ measures that make the process less daunting.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms won’t be the same for everyone. They can depend on factors, such as:
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Flu-like withdrawal symptoms will begin within six to 12 hours after the last use of heroin is taken.
Withdrawal symptoms usually peak between days 2 and 3, with some becoming quite intense. Of course, the severity will depend on the factors mentioned above. Common symptoms include anxiety, cravings, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, body aches, nausea, vomiting, shaking, and continued symptoms that resemble the flu.
Each day beyond day 3, the symptoms will become less in intensity, with the exception of cravings. Many people report they still crave the drug even at the end of the first-week mark and beyond.
Physically, the body will have flushed out the toxins associated with heroin after about a week to 10 days. However, there may still be lingering cravings, fatigue, and some depression or mood swings for some weeks or perhaps even months.
When coming off a drug such as heroin, detoxing is very important to manage the range of the withdrawal symptoms and assure the safety of the individual. Undergoing a detox allows the body to flush out the toxins associated with the drug and is a necessary process in order to get free from dependence on it.
Stopping heroin should never be done cold turkey or without support from addiction specialists who can monitor for complications and perhaps give medications to decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Medical maintenance therapy may also be used to taper one off heroin.
Additionally, due to the intense cravings felt during the detox stage, there’s an increased risk of relapsing, which increases the risk of accidentally overdosing.
Some addiction recovery centers will offer medication-assisted therapy (MAT). This helps weans the patient off of heroin by taking a drug that reduces cravings and provides a similar, yet milder effect than heroin. This approach is safer for the patient and is administered by medical professionals.
Common medical maintenance drugs include:
A synthetic opioid that reduces cravings for heroin. When taken, it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain that would produce euphoric feelings from heroin. However, methadone is quite addictive, and medical monitoring is necessary to watch for this.
This partial opioid also works with the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin but to a far lesser degree. It’s safer than methadone in that it is less addictive.
A combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, which combine and block opioid receptors.
Blocks the euphoric effects that opioids produce. This drug is not addictive and can be taken as a pill once a day or as an extended-release injection once a month (Vivitrol)
Detoxing also involves putting natural substances and healthy foods into the body to make one feel better and begin the healing process. By replacing unhealthy habits with good health habits, one is well on their way to change their life for the better.
The detox phase is simply the first part of heroin addiction recovery. Additional treatment will be necessary to contend with any underlying issues that could have contributed to forming an addiction in the first place. Some people opt to enroll in a residential treatment center, where they will stay for around 30 days or more, depending on their needs.
Others will opt to attend a certain number of sessions per week at an intensive outpatient treatment center. Both types of treatment usually include:
Sitting down with a healthcare professional for an intake evaluation, assessment, and discuss the healing process. You won’t be left wondering what will occur while you’re in treatment and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. The staff is there to assist you in getting free from addiction and learning how to create a beautiful life for yourself.
While you are going through the treatment process, you’ll have the opportunity to talk with substance abuse counselors about addiction and other issues you may be having. You may also be introduced to group counseling or 12-step meetings.
You’ll be able to converse with a professional about a treatment plan for yourself. It’s a great idea to set some goals for yourself during this time and create an action plan for the achievement of such goals.
While in treatment, you’ll be able to create a relapse prevention plan, and create a plan for your ongoing support once you’ve finished treatment.
If you are struggling with heroin addiction, or if you tend to cave every time you begin to face the harsh withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to reach out for some help. Contact us today and get started on your recovery journey. Our specialists are standing by to answer any questions you may have. It’s your time to break out of the bondage of addiction. Call us at 305-595-7378 and allow us to help you take that first step toward freedom.
(August 2018). Heroin Withdrawal. Delphi Behavioral Health Group. Retrieved December 2018 from https://delphihealthgroup.com/heroin/detox-withdrawal/
Hartney, E, (November 2018). Coping With Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms. Very Well Mind. Retrieved December 2018 from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-to-expect-from-heroin-withdrawal-22049
(n,d). One Nation Overdosed. NBC News. Retrieved December 2018 from https://www.nbcnews.com/americas-heroin-epidemic
(July 2015). Today’s Heroin Epidemic. CDC. Retrieved December 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/