Heroin Detox

Heroine detox and withdrawal symptoms may last around a week, but the symptoms can be severe and include:

  • Sweating
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Cravings
  • Shakes
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Relapse

Medications and therapy are used to calm symptoms of heroin detox which increase chances that a patient will get through withdrawal safely and successfully.

Heroin can be a less expensive alternative drug to highly addictive drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Many people with addictions to opiates have found heroin to be their replacement as prescription painkillers are becoming more difficult to obtain and alter. Opioid drug addiction is reported to of come first in half of the individuals using heroin.

In the last decade, heroin abuse among Americans between the ages of 18-25 has doubled according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 8,200 people died from a heroin overdose in 2013 alone which is nearly quadruple the number of heroin related deaths in 2002.

Heroin has powerful withdrawal symptoms and is highly addictive in nature, therefore anyone who is addicted should go through medical detox.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Detox and withdrawal from heroin differs for each individual. Different factors will affect how dependent a person’s brain and body are on the drug such as how long it has been used and the amount of each dose taken. The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on these factors. A history of addiction or mental illness makes addiction to heroin happen faster.

Heroin, like many other drugs, suppresses certain central nervous system functions like blood pressure, respiration, heart rate and temperature which are all slowed. As heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, the chemicals in the brain that cause feelings of pleasure are increased. There is a rush of pleasure with heroin use, so when it is not taken anymore, opposite feelings occur.

Heroin detox and withdrawal symptoms range depending on how much the brain’s chemical balance has been altered. Individuals who haven’t been abusing for a long period of time may not experience such severe withdrawal as someone who has used heroin in large doses for months or years.

Mild symptoms during withdrawal are: nausea, stomach cramps, muscle and bone aches, chills, sweats, tearing of the eyes, runny nose, and excessive yawning.

Moderate symptoms during withdrawal are: tremors, agitation, diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and goose bumps.

Severe symptoms during withdrawal are: difficulty breathing, depression, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, muscle spasms, elevated heart rate, difficulty feeling pleasure, and drug cravings.

Heroin detox and withdrawal is not usually considered life-threatening, but some medical and psychological symptoms can cause complications. Depression and thoughts of suicide may occur when the brain no longer experiences the effects of the drug. Because of this, it is important detox should not be attempted “cold turkey” and should be managed by professionals that are trained in managing withdrawal side effects and providing a safe environment for detox.

Detox Timeline

Heroin is a short acting opioid. It effects the user quickly and also leaves the bloodstream rapidly. Heroin withdrawal symptoms begin 6 to 12 hours after the last dose, will peak within 2 to 3 days and most symptoms last 5 to 10 days total.

Medical detox offers a more comfortable way to get the drug out of the body’s system since symptoms can peak a few days after the last dose. It also helps to avoid a relapse.

To help the brain and body recover from the side effects of heroin, therapy and medications are used during a medical detox. Vital signs are also monitored to keep an individual safe throughout the withdrawal process. A medical detox may take up to 10 days for someone that is highly dependent on heroin.

Withdrawal and Suboxone

Heroin and other opioids are unique because there are prescription medications that can help with the abstinence and withdrawal maintenance of the drug. Buprenorphine (Suboxone or Subutex), naltrexone or methadone may be given to a person during heroin detox. These medications require a prescription for at home use or an in-clinic visit. Each medication may have different introduction times during withdrawal. This discussion is based on Suboxone.

These medications are used for their ability to suppress symptoms, as well as cravings during the withdrawal process. Buprenorphine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the use of maintenance therapy during opioid withdrawal according to PsychCentral. Suboxone serves as relapse prevention measure in this way and has a lower rate for potential abuse when compared to methadone when used for abstinence maintenance therapy. Studies show that one year sobriety rates with those on Suboxone are 40% – 60%. Unfortunately, some heroin addicts buy Suboxone on the street as a way to “maintain” their addiction because painful withdrawal symptoms in between usage of heroin can be avoided by using Suboxone. These medications end up on the streets typically from individuals who have a prescription but choose to sell the medication.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Methadone has been used for a long time to treat heroin addiction. Methadone is an opioid that stays in the bloodstream longer, typically for a whole day, therefore less of the drug is needed at one time and is substituted for heroin which is shorter acting. It also activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but with much less intensity that heroin produces. By this process, it will minimize withdrawal.

Given once a day, typically in pill form, Methadone is federally regulated. Doses are gradually tapered over a period of time until the brain is able to re-balance its own natural chemistry. Methadone also has the potential to create dependency if it is abused or taken in higher doses, therefore other medications may be a better option for some people.

In addition to buprenorphine products to block opioid receptors, Naloxone may also be given as a long-term maintenance of heroin abstinence. Once a certain amount of buprenorphine is taken, it reaches a plateau, reducing the risk of abuse. When Naloxone is added in, it helps alleviate withdrawal systems and users wanting more heroin.

Individuals in a heroin detox should be very clear with their use history and dose amounts in order to avoid precipitated withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can start suddenly if someone takes certain medications while heroin is still in the bloodstream. This is called precipitated withdrawal and it can be very dangerous. A drug assessment can be done during admission at a detox facility to keep this from happening. A medical detox facility will provide an environment that will help prevent the use of other drugs and provide other services that will provide support during withdrawal.

During heroine detox and withdrawal, Resolutions Behavioral Health will provide a supportive and comprehensive medical environment throughout all stages of detoxification to ensure a successful recovery. If you or a loved one need help, call one of our professional admissions team members today for a free and confidential assessment.