If you have made the decision to quit heroin once and for all, you have made a positive life choice. Heroin is a potent and dangerous drug that severely impacts the addict’s life. Not only does it ruin the life of the user, their family and loved ones also are negatively affected by heroin addiction. While you may be excited to break the cycle of heroin addiction, you may also have a tremendous fear of heroin detox.
As you are aware of, heroin withdrawals can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. While you know that you need professional help through a drug treatment facility, you may feel you can detox on your own using self-invented methods. Self-detoxification can be very dangerous, and without proper medical supervision you can put your health and life at risk.
Heroin detox can be a scary process. However, educating yourself about heroin detoxification will help alleviate your fears. Additionally, getting experienced help from a reputable drug rehabilitation facility will make the detox process more tolerable. If you have more questions about heroin detox, contact us toll-free today.
What Happens When I Quit Taking Heroin?
Before we discuss the heroin detox process, it is important to understand what happens once you quit taking the drug. While the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, it is dependent on the level of dependence and abuse. For those who may not have been using heroin for a long time, the withdrawal symptoms may be mild and include the following:
- Abdominal cramps
- Runny nose
- Sweats and chills
- Muscle and bone aches
However, those who are long-term heroin users, the withdrawal symptoms are more severe and may include the following:
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle spasms
- Hallucinations (audio, visual, tactile)
- Difficulty feeling pleasure—also known as anhedonia
- Intense drug cravings
The severity of withdrawal symptoms is also dependent on the age of the heroin user. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms can be more intense if there are other substances that are being abused and if there are underlying physical and/or mental illnesses.
A Brief Timeline of the Heroin Detox Process
Heroin is a short-acting opioid. This means that the drug takes effect rapidly, but it also leaves the bloodstream in a relatively quick fashion. When someone quits heroin, they can experience withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours after their last dose. The first wave of withdrawal symptoms will peak on the average of 2-3 days and are mostly physical in nature. The most common symptoms can include the following:
- Profuse sweating
- Abdominal pain
Once the first wave of symptoms subsides, a second and more intense wave of symptoms will appear. These symptoms usually will last on average between 1-2 weeks and can include the following:
- Mood swings
- Muscle and bone pain
While these symptoms will gradually subside and users will begin to feel better, the psychological symptoms of heroin use may persist for months. Known as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), these lingering symptoms of heroin use can be very intense. These reactions occur as the brain slowly regains the ability to regulate itself and with the stresses of daily life.
Going Through Heroin Detox
When you enter drug treatment to begin the process of recovery, your first step in that journey is heroin detoxification. When you enter heroin detox, you will be given a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose any underlying physical and/or mental health issues. If these issues exist, experienced treatment personnel will create a customized treatment plan that will address those specific needs.
To make the heroin detoxification process more manageable and easily tolerated, treatment staff will utilize an emergent therapy called medication-assisted therapy (MAT). With MAT, patients will be administered specific medications to help minimize the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. While there are many different medications that can be used, many treatment facilities use three main medications:
Vivitrol is an opiate blocker that attaches to opioid receptors in the brain but does not activate the opioid receptors. Unlike medications like methadone where users may experience some sort of “high”, those who use Vivitrol will not feel the euphoric or sedative effects. Naltrexone treatment has become an attractive option because the chances of developing an addiction to the medication are non-existent. Additionally, Vivitrol is available as a shot that can be administered once monthly.
Another popular medication utilized at MAT programs nationwide is Suboxone. This medication is a combination of the opiate blocker naloxone as well as the opiate buprenorphine. Suboxone blocks the ability for opioids drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers to attach to the opioid receptors in the brain. Those who take Suboxone do run a slight risk of becoming addicted to the medication. When users stop using this medication, they can experience withdrawal symptoms like heroin withdrawals. As a result, this medication must be administered by experienced treatment personnel. Additionally, patients must be closely monitored while on Suboxone.
Another medication that can be used in heroin detox is buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid drug that is similar in chemical makeup to heroin. This medication allows newly recovering heroin users to safely taper off heroin, as well as reduce the severity of heroin withdrawal symptoms. This drug also helps reduce cravings for heroin. Buprenorphine comes in tablet form and is placed under the tongue to dissolve for a few minutes daily. When it is absorbed, it directly enters the bloodstream. Much like Suboxone, users of this medication do run the risk of becoming addicted to the medicine itself.
The overall goal of heroin detox is to stabilize you both physically and psychologically. Once you are stable, treatment staff can prepare you to enter intensive drug treatment. While it is highly recommended that you attend intensive inpatient treatment, the commitment it requires may not be realistic given your work and family responsibilities. In that case, an intensive outpatient detox program may be more suitable to your needs.
Don’t Wait Another Day to Get Help
While heroin detox can be frightening, there are great treatment options that will help you navigate your withdrawal symptoms. Don’t wait another day to address your heroin addiction; call us toll-free right now and let us help you find the heroin detox and treatment options that will help you find happiness, health and sobriety.