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What to Expect During Heroin Detox by Rehab Recovery Centers

If it is your first time going to heroin detox, you’re probably nervous about getting sober, fearful about going through withdrawals, and uncertain of exactly what to expect. Of course, anyone who is addicted to heroin knows how brutal the withdrawal symptoms can be, which is why many people continue using even after they desperately want to stop. Fortunately, medical detox programs are equipped with the medications and therapies necessary to help people just like you make it through the detox process safely and comfortably.

What Happens During Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug that directly impacts the brain’s reward system. Repeated use of the drug increases a user’s tolerance requiring them to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. As tolerance increases, users will get addicted to the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using or decrease their dose.

Unfortunately, people struggling with heroin addiction often continue using the drug simply to avoid going into withdrawal. Withdrawal from heroin produces similar symptoms to oxycodone or hydrocodone withdrawal, but of a far greater intensity. Heroin withdrawal symptoms mimic a severe case of the flu and bring about extreme discomfort. However, detoxing from heroin is typically not a life-threatening process.

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Chills/goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle aches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hypertension

Even though these symptoms are not deadly, people who are detoxing from heroin will also experience intense drug cravings that are difficult to overcome without professional help.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin is a relatively short-acting drug with a short half-life, so it is processed in the body fairly quickly. As a result, heroin withdrawal symptoms may begin anywhere between 6-12 hours after a person takes their last dose. Between 2-3 days, individuals can expect their symptoms to peak before wearing off after 5-10 days.

The heroin withdrawal timeline and intensity of symptoms depend on a variety of factors that are unique for each individual. These include:

  • The amount of time a person has used the drug
  • What does the person is used to taking
  • How often the person takes the drug
  • The method of administration (i.e. injection, snorting, swallowing, smoking)
  • The presence of other mental or physical health issues

Furthermore, depending on how much and for how long a person has used, some recovering heroin addicts will experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Symptoms of PAWS may last anywhere from 18-24 months and fluctuate in severity. Common symptoms of PAWS for recovering heroin addicts include irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, depression, fatigue, memory loss, and more. As time goes by and individuals continue participating in substance abuse treatment, these symptoms should subside.

Medically-Assisted Heroin Detox

Medical detox facilities provide safe and supportive environments to help people manage their withdrawal symptoms. During heroin detox, there is always the chance that complications may arise that require medical supervision. For example, individuals may become severely dehydrated and require IV fluids. Even if a patient’s life is not at risk, heroin withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable and challenging to get through. Professional detox centers mitigate these risks by having clinical and medical staff on-hand 24/7.

When you first arrive at detox, you will speak with a team of addiction specialists who will gather information regarding your medical history, drug use, and treatment goals. During this intake process, you will undergo comprehensive evaluations to determine your specific needs during detox. Then, doctors can prescribe you medications that will help reduce your symptoms while providing around-the-clock monitoring and support.

Once you have completed the detox process, which typically lasts one week or less, you will meet with a substance abuse counselor to make plans for further treatment. After all, detox doesn’t cure addiction. Overcoming heroin addiction requires therapy and ongoing support.

Medications Used During Heroin Detox

People may detox from heroin on an inpatient or outpatient basis, however, inpatient detox is recommended for users with severe addictions. Some medications that may be used during heroin detox include:

  • Methadone – a slow-acting, FDA-approved opiate medication used to taper patients off of heroin.
  • Buprenorphine – the most commonly used drug for heroin withdrawal that reduces physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings. Buprenorphine may come in the form of Subutex or Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone).
  • Clonidine – a blood pressure medication that may be prescribed in patients experiencing hypertension.

Some patients may be prescribed additional medications depending on their symptoms. For instance, antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-nausea medications, anti-anxiety medications, and sleeping medications are also common for patients who are detoxing from heroin.

Treating Heroin Addiction After Detox

The painful withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin addiction make it a difficult habit to break. However, beating addiction of any kind is possible and within reach. Drug and alcohol rehab centers provide inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare programs for people who have completed heroin detox programs and are seeking long-term sobriety.

Treatment may consist of a combination of medications and behavioral therapy as well as 12-step support group facilitation. When choosing a substance abuse treatment center, it is important to find one that will create an individualized treatment plan that is unique to your specific needs.

Find a Heroin Detox and Rehab Near You Today

Getting sober from heroin isn’t easy, but with the help of a medical detox center, it is entirely possible. If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction and are ready to take the first step towards sobriety, pick up the phone and call us today to locate an addiction treatment provider in your city.

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