Heroin detox is often needed to help individuals kick the drug for good. Heroin is a highly addictive illicit opioid drug. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2021, an estimated 1.1 million people used heroin within the past year, and 5.6 million people met the diagnostic criteria for an opioid use disorder.
Heroin withdrawal can be debilitating and potentially dangerous. When you are ready to take back your life from heroin addiction, it’s important to get help from a qualified heroin detox.
How Heroin Detox Works
Heroin withdrawal can be incredibly painful, especially if you try to detox on your own. By entering a heroin detox facility, medical staff is able to monitor your symptoms and provide medically-assisted treatment to help mitigate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Combined with individual and group therapy during detox, you can help kickstart a new life for yourself in recovery.
Unfortunately detoxing at home on your own can come with many downfalls. Because of the painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, it can make it extremely hard to stick to your plan for detoxing. If you begin to feel you cannot handle the symptoms, you can be tempted to use it over and over again, which can lead to overdose, and ultimately death.
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Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin is one of the most highly addictive substances and use can quickly lead to tolerance — a circumstance where a person needs more and more heroin in order to feel the same effects — and dependence. Dependence is a state where a person’s body has become so used to the presence of heroin that when use is suddenly reduced or abruptly stopped withdrawal symptoms emerge.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, and can include:
1. Restlessness and agitation
3. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
4. Involuntary leg movements
5. Cold sweats
8. Excessive yawning
9. Runny nose and watery eyes
10. Severe pain in the muscles and skeletal system
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
Most people who are addicted to heroin begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours after last use. Acute symptoms usually peak within one-to-three days and gradually subside over the next 5-7 days.
While acute withdrawal symptoms generally last about a week, it is not uncommon for people to experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) symptoms for several weeks or months. Symptoms of PAWS include:
3. Anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure)
Can I Detox From Heroin On My Own?
Heroin withdrawal syndrome can be incredibly intense, and symptoms may be severe and, in some cases, potentially life-threatening — especially for people who have used heroin for long periods of time and individuals struggling with polysubstance use or co-occurring disorders.
Generally it is not recommended that an individual attempt to detox from heroin on their own. Instead, you should seek the help of a qualified addiction treatment specialist at a supervised heroin detox. In heroin detox, specialists can monitor your physical health and safety, ensure your comfort, and immediately address any potential emergency situations that could arise.
What to Expect During Heroin Detox
Because each person that comes to us has unique circumstances, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. When you first come to a drug detox in Atlanta, a team of specialists will perform an assessment to determine what your specific needs are, and a plan is established that takes into account your physical and mental health care requirements. From there, treatment begins.
The goal of heroin detox is to help rid your body of opioids as safely and comfortably as possible. Often medications are used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings that may occur as your body begins to adapt to a drug-free state.
While detox itself is not considered standalone addiction treatment, it is a necessary first step on the road to recovery. During detox you will participate in individual counseling sessions and in group sessions to help get to the root of the underlying causes that lead to addiction, as well as learn coping skills that can help you deal with stressors and other triggers to use.
Drugs Used to Detox from Heroin
While heroin withdrawal is not necessarily dangerous, it is one of the most difficult substances to stop using. Heroin binds to specific receptors in the brain that help the body regulate pain and manage “feel good” chemicals (e.g., dopamine), effectively changing the way the brain works.
Even after a person has successfully detoxed from heroin, cravings can persist for days, weeks, and months. Medication-assisted treatment is often a necessary component of heroin detox, in order to manage withdrawal and mitigate cravings. Some of the drugs used to detox from heroin include:
Methadone — This medication is an opioid agonist, which helps reduce cravings for heroin and other opioids, reduces withdrawal symptoms, and helps to blunt the effects of other opioids. Methadone is often used a replacement therapy for opioids and is gradually reduced over time to help people achieve and sustain recovery from heroin addiction.
Buprenorphine — This medication is a partial opioid agonist, which helps to diminish cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms, without the euphoric experience that people experience when taking opioids. It can be used as both a short-term treatment and for longer-term treatment to manage heroin addiction recovery.
Naltrexone – This medication is an opioid antagonist and blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids. It binds and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, which effectively helps reduce and suppress cravings. This medication is most often prescribed after an individual has successfully gone through withdrawal to help mitigate cravings.