Heroin is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, which means that achieving sobriety can be tough. The first step is to complete a detox. Whether you’re ready to overcome addiction or you’re helping a loved one, here are the things you’ll need to know about a heroin detox.
Who Needs a Detox From Heroin?
Many prospective patients aren’t sure whether they really need to detox from heroin. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who don’t want to acknowledge they are suffering from an opioid addiction. You need to detox from heroin if you have an addiction, your tolerance has changed, you notice withdrawal symptoms, or your drug use is negatively impacting daily life.
Chronic use of a drug like heroin can change your tolerance for the drug in very little time. This means that a person who originally used heroin every 24 hours now feels the need to use the drug every 12 or 16 hours. An increase in tolerance usually translates to more frequent doses or larger doses. This, of course, increases the amount of heroin consumed, which also increases health problems and the risk of overdose.
Many people who struggle with heroin addiction have tried to cut back or even quit entirely in the past. If withdrawal symptoms crop up as soon as you try this, then it’s a clear sign that you are addicted.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to detox from heroin if the drug is negatively affecting your life in any way. Heroin could be stopping you from maintaining relationships with friends or family members or it could be damaging your health. If there are negative consequences, then it is absolutely the right time to begin detox.
How Long Does Detox Last?
One of the most common questions about detox is how long it will last. The exact answer is very individual and it can be different for every patient. That being said, a detox from heroin will typically last for less than one week.
The detox officially begins as soon as you stop consuming heroin. Then, about 10 hours later, withdrawal may begin with some very mild symptoms. Between two and three days into the detox, symptoms will peak. From then on, they will taper off until ending entirely about six or seven days after the start of the detox.
There are several factors that can impact exactly how long a detox from heroin will last. The intensity of the addiction, the amount of heroin consumed and the duration of the addiction all play a role. In addition, the age and health of the patient can shorten or extend the number of detox days you can expect.
What are the Most Common Physical Withdrawal Symptoms?
Since heroin is such an addictive substance, detox can be uncomfortable thanks to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms aren’t exclusively physical, but many of them are.
Arguably the most common withdrawal symptom of a detox from heroin is gastrointestinal distress. Heroin is an opiate, which means that it causes constipation. Detoxing from heroin, therefore, often leads to diarrhea, dehydration, nausea and abdominal cramping.
It is also common for patients to experience shaking or tremors. This can be a result of problems with temperature regulation, but it can also be involuntary muscle spasms or twitches. Some people will also experience muscle aches, an increased heart rate, fatigue and a runny nose. In many ways, these withdrawal symptoms are comparable to a very bad case of the flu.
What are the Most Common Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms?
Not all heroin withdrawal symptoms are physical. In fact, some of the worst symptoms are psychological, emotional and mental. It is just as important to address these potential symptoms when preparing for heroin addiction recovery.
To start, virtually all patients will experience severe cravings for heroin. These cravings can be intense and it can make everything from hunger to thirst seem like minor conditions.
In addition, most patients will be irritable. Mood swings are likely, and it is normal to feel depressed and unhappy throughout the process. Anxiety is also a possibility, and in some severe cases, patients can experience suicidal thoughts.
It is also normal to suffer from insomnia during detox. Restlessness is common at night, and some patients have bad dreams or nightmares that make it hard to fall asleep and feel rested.
Why is Medical Detox Necessary?
Attempting to detox from heroin on your own is a risky endeavor. A medical detox is the only safe way to go through heroin withdrawal. Trying to detox solo means putting your health and safety at risk. In addition, people who try to detox solo are less likely to remain sober for a lifetime.
In a medical detox, patients will get supervision and care 24 hours a day. Whether day or night, patients will have access to the resources, medications, and advice that only addiction recovery experts are familiar with.
Sometimes, patients may require a prescription painkiller that is free from opiates. Patients might also need emergency medical care as a result of an abnormal heartbeat. In other cases, an IV of an electrolyte solution can save the day. The bottom line is that without medical care, patients in detox are at a tremendous risk.
To top it all off, the success rates of a solo detox are unimpressive. During the peak of withdrawal, many people can’t handle the cravings and turn back to heroin. Even those who complete withdrawal on their own are more likely to eventually relapse since they don’t have expert advice and support.
What Comes After Detox on the Road to Recovery?
To overcome a heroin addiction, detox is a critical first step. However, it is not enough on its own to support a life of sobriety. After detox, patients will need to continue their treatment. Residential or outpatient rehab, 12-Step meetings, and sober living homes can all help maintain sobriety.
Although a detox from heroin may be difficult, medical professionals can help. Through a safe detox, it is possible to end a heroin addiction once and for all.