heroin withdrawal

What to Expect in Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin is a powerful and addictive drug which attaches itself to the pleasure centers of the body and creates a wave of immediate euphoria for the user. Heroin also blocks the body’s reaction and response to pain, creating an ideal situation for addiction. Heroin can be smoked or snorted, but is most often injected.

Since heroin affects both the pleasure and pain centers of the body, withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe. The amount of time and the severity of your withdrawal symptoms may vary, depending upon how long you have been using. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin between six and twelve hours after your last dose and the severity of the symptoms peak between days one and three. Symptoms usually disappear after about a week, but many addicts experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms, (PAWS) which may last for up to two years after you become clean.

Once you decide to quit heroin, you have a number of options for treatment, including going it “cold turkey” at home, a managed detox in an inpatient facility, or an outpatient rehabilitation program.  Each option has a number of benefits, and the severity of your symptoms may determine your best course of treatment. If you are suffering from severe withdrawal, a doctor may prescribe a medical detox, in which prescription medication including methadone, clonidine, or suboxone may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

What to Expect with Heroin Withdrawal and Detox

Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Cravings: You may experience an intense physical urge to take more heroin. This will continue until the body has weaned itself from the expectation of the high the drug causes.
  • Mood changes: You may experience significant mood swings and/or other emotional/psychological issues, including depression, irritability, and anxiety. If these symptoms do not pass once you’ve come out of withdrawal, you may want seek additional care from a mental health professional.
  • Increased aches and pains: Since heroin blocks the body’s pain receptors, once you have begun to detox from the drug, you may be more sensitive to normal aches and pains.
  • Excessive body fluids: During detox, you are more likely to have a runny nose, excessive sweat not due to physical exertion and tears.
  • Flu like symptoms: Diarrhea and stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, fevers are common side effects of detox as your body readjusts to a new “normal”.
  • Restlessness and Insomnia: Increased restlessness and inability to sleep are two common side effects of detox, and are often seen together. Lack of sleep, coupled with restlessness, anxiety or depression, can all complicate your recovery, so you should alert a medical professional if you are having trouble sleeping or sitting still for moderate periods of time.

Once the initial shock of detoxification has worn off, you may still experience some lingering side effects of your addiction. Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) are common, and may last for up to two years after your detoxification program is complete. PAWS include difficulty thinking or trouble thinking clearly, short and long term memory loss, trouble sleeping, and loss of coordination, increased stress, and being more emotional. A long term treatment plan can help you address these side effects and better manage your recovery.

Regardless of whether you choose an inpatient, outpatient or at home plan for your heroin withdrawal treatment, the success of your recovery ultimately depends on treating the emotional reasons for your opiate use and abuse and developing a long term sobriety plan. For many former addicts, detox is the first and although physically debilitating, easiest step in their recovery. A combination of therapy and support is essential for preventing relapse.

Call to connect with a treatment center for a free confidential telephone assessment and to review options for Heroin Withdrawal Treatment and Detox at 866-644-7911

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