What You Must Know to Succeed in Heroin Detox
Drug addiction withdrawal is always difficult to manage. According to the NDS, “Drug withdrawal is a substance-specific syndrome due to the cessation or reduction of heavy and prolonged drug use. This syndrome causes clinically significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
When it comes to heroin withdrawal and detox in particular, it can be a very difficult time for patients, and there are many things patients should understand in order to succeed in heroin detox.
#1: Detox Centers are Affordable, Beneficial, and a Good Choice to Help End Your Dependence.
If you have been abusing heroin for a while and you want to stop, you should absolutely consider detox treatment in a rehab center. Many people who decide to stop taking heroin choose not to attend this type of treatment and decide to go through withdrawal at home. This can be dangerous and may more likely lead to recovery than if you attend treatment at a detox center.
Some of the benefits of heroin detox centers are:
- They help prepare patients for addiction treatment by giving them therapy sessions, helping them find another facility if necessary, and encouraging them to seek further treatment.
- They provide medication as a treatment for the intense heroin withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience. According to SAMHSA, “Even mild levels of opioid use commonly produce uncomfortable levels of withdrawal symptoms,” and heroin use creates very intense, uncomfortable, and even painful symptoms which can be curbed with medications.
- Cravings for heroin can be some of the worst in terms of severity, and medication helps with these as well.
- The encouragement you will find from the doctors, nurses, and counselors at the facility, as well as other patients, can help you succeed in your quest to stop abusing heroin.
Detox centers are also much more affordable than people realize. There are many low-cost and even free facilities where patients can attend detox treatment and receive medication in order to help curb their heroin withdrawal symptoms.
#2: Support is a Key Element of Successful Heroin Detox.
People who feel supported by loved ones, friends, and family to stop abusing heroin will often have a much easier time doing so while those who do not feel this kind of support may relapse more easily. If you have friends or family members you know you can trust to be a great support system, ask if you can stay with them while you are going through your detox period, or ask someone if they would be willing to stay with you.
If you do not have this kind of support easily from those at home, consider attending formal detox treatment or even a support group that meets close to you. These groups help each other through mutual comfort and encouragement, and you can often make a friend who will be more than willing to support you during this time.
#3: Relapse is Most Dangerous Directly After Detox Treatment.
According to the NLM, “The biggest complication” of heroin and other types of opioid withdrawal treatment “is return to drug use.” Patients who successfully complete a detox regimen and are no longer dependent on heroin sometimes do not attend addiction treatment afterward which is a huge mistake.
At this point, the patient is not as tolerant to the drug but may still crave it because they were not treated for their addiction to heroin, only their dependence on it. Many people relapse at this point and, because they are not as tolerant as they once were to heroin, their bodies cannot handle the drug. This is why “most opiate overdose deaths occur in persons who have just withdrawn or detoxed.” Successful detox for heroin hinges on attending addiction treatment afterward.
#4: Give Yourself Plenty of Time.
Heroin withdrawal can make a person feel as if they have the flu and can also cause muscle and bone pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms will start to subside after a while, but this does not mean that you are completely finished with detox.
As stated by Harvard Medical School, “The effect of a single dose of heroin, a relatively short-acting drug, lasts 4-6 hours, and the withdrawal reaction lasts for about a week.” Sometimes, though, it can last longer. Sometimes, when those undergoing detox from heroin stop experiencing the most intense symptoms, they believe that their withdrawal is over and try to go back to their lives right away. But giving yourself another day or two of rest or a light version of your daily routine, just to be on the safe side, can ensure that you do not try to rush into everything when you are not fully ready.
#5: Medications for Detox are Not Just Replacements for Your Heroin Addiction.
Many people decide to do natural detoxes (without the use of medication) because they feel that opioid withdrawal medications are just a substitute for the drug they are already addicted to. This is not so, and withdrawal medications, when used correctly, can actually help patients on their way to ending their long-term addictions to heroin. The most commonly used medications for heroin detox are clonidine, buprenorphine, and methadone. Clonidine is non-addictive, and even though buprenorphine and methadone do have the potential for abuse, careful dosing can keep this from occurring.
The use of medications makes opioid withdrawal much less painful and intense which makes them very beneficial in this instance. According to SAMHSA, “Management of withdrawal without medications can produce needless suffering in a population that tends to have limited tolerance for physical pain.” And, if you take your medication responsibly and are dosed correctly by a doctor, you can begin to taper off the drug until you do not need it anymore.
Success with heroin detox is possible. Many people who were once dependent on the drug no longer are, and with the help of medication, doctors, therapy, and eventual addiction treatment, it is much easier.