The Process of Detoxing from Heroin

Detoxing from heroin can be made more tolerable when medically assisted in the proper clinical setting.

Heroin withdrawal treatment makes detoxing from heroin and other opiate drugs safer and more tolerable. Treatment is provided in a clinical environment with doctor supervision and it is medically managed for the duration of the patient's withdrawal. Detoxing from heroin is not an easy or comfortable process for anyone, but the heroin withdrawal treatment methods that are available can provide a less difficult and even shorter heroin withdrawal timeline for most patients. While new strides are being made in the treatment of drug addiction, the rising trend being seen in opioid abuse across the country remains disturbing and worrisome.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that 435,000 people used heroin in 2014 alone. That same year, it was reported that 4.3 million people were taking narcotic pain relievers for "non-medical reasons". This means that over four million people were taking controlled drugs that were not prescribed to them. These narcotic pain relievers include drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and codeine. These drugs are all opiates, which are extremely addictive and can easily cause physical dependence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heroin use and opioid abuse directly influence each other:

  • More than nine in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
  • Past abuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for initiating heroin use.
  • Approximately three out of four new heroin users admit to having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.

Even with heroin withdrawal treatment available, detoxing from heroin is difficult and painful for many individuals. Unfortunately, it also takes more than just going through the withdrawal process to stay in recovery. Just like a person's addiction, the heroin withdrawal timeline varies for everyone. Factors like the scope of addiction, duration of abuse, and types of substances abused aside, a typical heroin withdrawal timeline looks like this:

  • Physical symptoms will begin to appear between six and 24 hours from the last dose taken. An individual will likely begin to feel restless or have anxiety. He or she may start to excessively perspire, have muscle aches, a runny nose, watery eyes, and be unable to sleep well.
  • Withdrawal symptoms are at their peak usually between the 2nd to fourth day after the last dose of the drug was taken. Symptoms during this stage include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, distorted vision and dilated pupils, weakness, and chills.
  • Most individuals find their symptoms subsiding after a week, although many symptoms will persist for weeks or sometimes even months, making subsequent care and treatment necessary to maintain recovery.

Detoxing from heroin can be minimized to some degree with heroin withdrawal treatment that is provided in an inpatient drug addiction rehabilitation facility, which is considered the first stage in recovery. Medically assisted detox provides patients with medical care during the process in a controlled environment, leading to a greater chance of success. Medications that can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Clonidine – This medication can reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms by up to 75%. Clonidine is effective for relieving anxiety, cramping, muscle aches, sweating, restlessness, and more.
  • Suboxone – This medication is a combination of a milder opiate (buprenorphine) and an opiate blocker (naloxone). The abuse potential of Suboxone is low, and its efficacy rate is high. It is effective in treating symptoms of withdrawal and can shorten both the intensity and duration of the withdrawal process from opiates.
  • Naltrexone – This medication helps prevent relapse and can be given in a pill form or as an injection.
  • In addition, patients can be treated with antidepressant medications to address any underlying mental illnesses that must be identified through psychological evaluation.

Get help immediately and avoid and serious health complications.


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