Heroin is one of the most difficult drugs to detox from, as it leads to painful withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings. If you’re ready to quit heroin for good or are thinking about going to treatment, you’re probably the most curious about the heroin detox process. Before getting sober, you may have a lot of questions, such as, “What are the symptoms of withdrawal? How long does medical detox take? Is heroin detox life-threatening?”
Detox is scary, but that’s mostly because people don’t know how it works. At Ohio Addiction Recovery Center, we want to teach you what it’s like to detox from heroin by discussing physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and what you can expect from a professional heroin detox. With the right knowledge, you can begin your journey to sobriety without fear.
What Happens During Heroin Detox and Withdrawal?
When people stop using heroin, they experience uncomfortable and sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms. The drug is highly addictive, both physically and mentally, so a lot of things happen during withdrawal.
When you use heroin, you flood your brain with pleasure chemicals like dopamine that produce a euphoric high. The more you use heroin, the more adjusted your brain becomes to the flood of chemicals. Once you develop physical dependence, it’s hard to imagine life without the drug, and it’s even harder to function normally without it. Eventually, you need more heroin to get the same effect, but then the body increases its tolerance again. This cycle of substance abuse continues until you need a shot of heroin to not feel sick and even extreme amounts won’t get you high. Once you need the drug to feel normal, you’ve become chemically dependent on it. Your body believes it needs heroin to function.
When you take heroin away, your body panics. The brain is now used to the flood of chemicals and it’s suddenly not getting it anymore. The brain no longer produces dopamine on its own and withdrawals set in. Oftentimes, these withdrawals are so agonizing that people continue to get high simply to avoid experiencing the symptoms. This is where the help of a professional treatment center comes in.
Physical Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal mirrors mild to severe flu symptoms. Users withdrawing from heroin can expect:
- Extreme muscle ache
- Clammy skin
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal pain
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to physical withdrawal, people also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms. Although the physical withdrawal symptoms are sometimes excruciating, the mental cravings and psychological symptoms of heroin detox are powerful. If you’re detoxing from heroin, you can expect:
- Inability to focus
- Mood swings
While these withdrawal symptoms are difficult to manage without professional help, heroin withdrawal usually isn’t fatal.
Heroin Detox Timeline
Depending on the dose you take and how long you have been abusing the drug, withdrawal symptoms may begin just hours after your last high. Symptoms tend to peak after 24-48 hours, then subside after that. However, it can take the body a few weeks to fully detox from heroin. Most physical symptoms abate after a month, but you could experience minor psychological withdrawal symptoms for up to two years. Fortunately, there are many FDA approved medications used to treat opioid use disorders that can reduce these symptoms and mitigate cravings.
Should I Detox at Home?
At-home heroin detox usually doesn’t work for one obvious reason – withdrawal. During home detox you’re likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms that are difficult to cope with without any help. Your symptoms may seem minor at first, but after several hours they are likely to progress. If you have a severe opioid addiction, it might be too much to handle on your own. Since there’s not much you can do against withdrawal at home, look to professional heroin detox for help.
The Benefits of Professional Heroin Detox
You have a much better chance of making it through the pains of heroin withdrawal by detoxing at a licensed drug treatment facility. Unlike at-home detox, professional addiction detox has clinically proven tools and methods that keep the patient as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Although access to opioid drug therapy has expanded over the last few years, it’s still difficult to get FDA-approved opioid addiction medicine outside of a treatment facility. At a professional detox, you can access professionally guided drug therapy that calms withdrawal symptoms. Most detox facilities use a partial opioid antagonist like Suboxone to slowly wean your body off of opioids. This kind of medication-assisted treatment helps ease extreme discomfort and symptoms.
Unlike normal opioids, Suboxone doesn’t produce the typical euphoria associated with heroin. However, it does drastically reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The ultimate goal of medication-assisted treatment is to one day be entirely opioid-free. As a result, doctors reduce your dose over a period of several days until you’re completely opioid-free.
As we learned above, extreme flu-like symptoms are the calling card of heroin withdrawal. A professional heroin detox’s drug therapy will help alleviate symptoms. Unfortunately, patients are still likely to experience mild to moderate aches and pains. Detox medical staff provides over the counter cold and flu medication and other non-narcotic medication to help alleviate the physical heroin detox symptoms. After all, it’s much easier to concentrate on your recovery when you’re not bogged down by symptoms and cravings.
Medical staff will monitor your progress throughout the detox process. Monitoring includes regularly checking your heart rate, blood pressure, and vitals, as well as getting a psychological evaluation of your mental health. In the unlikely event that you experience a health or psychological emergency, medical professionals are ready to intervene and assist. Regular monitoring by a professional staff keeps you as safe as possible throughout the heroin detox process.
You’re not out of the woods just because you’re abstaining from heroin for a short period of time. If that were the case, no one would relapse and there would be no need for comprehensive treatment programs. Unfortunately, there’s more to detox than clearing the drugs out of your body. Instead, you need follow-up treatment to stay off heroin for good. We recommend inpatient residential treatment for help getting over the humps of heroin addiction followed by outpatient treatment. Heroin addiction treatment helps with detox but also teaches you the necessary emotional tools and counseling to deal with all parts of your addiction.
Get Started With Heroin Detox Today
We know that heroin detox is a scary and painful process, but it’s much easier with the help of medical and addiction professionals. Millions of people have overcome heroin addiction – and you can, too. You don’t want to be the next statistic in the ongoing opioid crisis. If you’re ready to stop using heroin and learn how to attain long term sobriety, call Ohio ARC opiate detox center today.