These days, nearly 100,000 Americans use heroin a year. With numbers like that, it’s no shame if you or a loved one are suffering from heroin addiction. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs available.
But while heroin addiction is a disease that’s nothing to be ashamed of, it needs to be kicked as quickly as possible. Heroin is highly dangerous, and without a good heroin detox, addicts are at significant risks.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about heroin detox symptoms, so you can know what to expect when you go into detox.
Some Things to Remember
Before we get into the specific symptoms of detox, remember that it’s not something that everyone needs. Detox is usually only for severe addictions.
The point of a detox is to make sure that you don’t relapse into addiction when suffering from withdrawal symptoms. With a drug like heroin, your body has likely built up a dependence on the drug. To abruptly stop using the drug will make your body panic and get sick.
These symptoms can be hard to manage, in combination with the psychological impact of not having the relief that comes from getting high. This leads many people to relapse.
Detox is when doctors and therapists watch over someone who’s suffering from withdrawal 24/7. It often comes with medical treatment.
Alcohol addicts are recommended to go through detox, since they may develop delirium tremens — a deadly condition. Though heroin is a more dangerous drug than alcohol, withdrawal symptoms aren’t deadly. It’s good to remember, however, that the symptoms may cause someone to start using heroin again, which is deadly.
How Long the Symptoms Last
Another important thing to remember about heroin detox is that symptoms peak and valley at different points of the treatment. Luckily, heroin is a fast-acting opioid that leaves the body soon after detox.
This is important to tell your heroin-addicted family members or friends. It’s not too late for them to get out. Heroin leaves the body fast.
Withdrawal symptoms don’t set in immediately. They usually set in around 6-12 hours after the last dose of the drug. They proceed moderately over the course of 2-3, progressively getting worse until they peak.
Things begin to get better after that. However, the symptoms last for about 5-10 days.
This is why medical detox is so important. Though someone might feel confident that they can kick their addiction at the beginning, they may feel differently a week into the symptoms.
Symptoms of Moderate Withdrawal
Addictions that are less severe may cause less severe withdrawal symptoms. You can also expect to find less severe withdrawal symptoms on the non-peak days of detox.
Those suffering from withdrawal may experience trouble concentrating, agitation, and an inability to focus. These are confusing symptoms — isn’t quitting a drug supposed to make you feel better? Rather than feeling physically sick, many people are thrown off by the emotional side effects.
There are physical symptoms too. Constipation, nausea, bone aches, vomiting, and diarrhea are also reasons why many people give up early on.
Though these are only moderate symptoms, they can confuse heroin users who don’t know what they’re going through. The emotional symptoms in particular might make people think they’re better off using the drug. However, it’s only a temporary roadblock.
Symptoms of Severe Withdrawal
Severe heroin addictions come with severe symptoms. You can expect some of these symptoms to appear at the worst parts of a withdrawal cycle — around 2 or three days in.
Detox patients may experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia. These are especially dangerous symptoms since they can cause users to go into a panic. This is why medical supervision is so important.
But that’s not all. Patients going through severe withdrawal symptoms might undergo such severe physical ailments that they can think they’re dying.
A detox patient may go through hypertension, muscle spasms, impaired respiration, and an increased heart rate. These symptoms are painful and concerning. Beyond simple aches and pains, they can decrease a person’s quality of life.
On top of that, a person might experience severe substance cravings, an inability to feel pleasure, and suicidal ideation. These are especially discouraging because they also decrease the quality of life in a mental capacity. Mental health symptoms are hard to manage, and those going through withdrawal may think that their distress is coming from things that aren’t related to drugs at all.
Heroin Detox Medication
Medical professionals have developed prescription drugs to aid with recovery and decrease withdrawal symptoms. The most famous of these drugs is methadone.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid — that means it was developed by humans. Just like other, more dangerous opioids, it operates on the opioid receptors of the brain. However, unlike its dangerous counterparts, it does so more slowly, therefore not producing euphoria.
Buprenorphine is another popular withdrawal medication. It’s often considered superior, since it only acts on some of the brain’s opioid receptors, having even less of an effect than methadone.
Buprenorphine can also be prescribed for long-term use, whereas methadone should only be limited to medical facilities. It, in general, has a lower likelihood of abuse.
Understand Heroin Detox Symptoms
As you can see, quitting heroin isn’t as simple as not using the drug. Those who attempt to quit heroin will undergo moderate to severe heroin detox symptoms that can severely impact someone’s quality of life.
This is why medical detox exists. In medical detox, you can get medications for your withdrawal symptoms, and get the supervision you need to make sure you don’t relapse.
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