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Managing Withdrawal Symptoms from Heroin
Heroin. Who knew that this powerful opiate would rise from the ashes of the 1970s urban street scene to a resurgence in use and popularity among all walks of U.S. life, especially in white suburbia? Shockingly, this deadly drug claimed approximately 13,000 lives in 2015 according to the most recent data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, up 52% from 2013. Add in overdose deaths from opioid prescription medications and the fatalities balloon to 33,000 between the two.
For the lucky ones who choose to face down their heroin addiction and get clean, the road to restored health is bumpy and long. However, while the recovery process is challenging, it is as necessary as food and water to survival for an addict seeking renewed hope and well being.
Heroin Detox Timeline and How Long Is Withdrawal
The first stop along the recovery path is the detoxification of the drug from the body so that active treatment can commence. Heroin detox is rarely life threatening, however intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms from heroin can swiftly send the individual right back to using. To help ensure that detox is completed, a medically monitored detox is always recommended.
Medical detox provides the support and supervision needed to successfully manage withdrawal symptoms from heroin dependency. Utilizing targeted medications, the detox care providers guide the individual through the phases of withdrawal to help assuage the highly unpleasant symptoms. Vital signs are monitored throughout the process to keep a close eye on the physiological changes that accompany detox. Emotional support is key during heroin detox, encouraging the individual to stay the course and get to the other side without giving up. It is important to not try to stop heroin cold turkey because it will most likely cause you to use again and potentially put you at risk for an overdose due to your body having a lower tolerance than when you stopped. Many people make that mistake and do not realize the dangers of overdose after stopping and then starting at the same usage prior.
What are the Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms from Heroin?
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms from heroin addiction will be correlated with the acuity of the addiction—how long the heroin habit has lasted and what levels of drug use were involved. This is because someone who is abusing heroin will experience altered chemical and structural changes in the brain, therefore the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will reflect the level of that impact.
In most cases, the heroin withdrawal signs symptoms begin to show up about 6-12 hours after the last dosing and then peak in days 2-3. Heroin withdrawal symptoms mimic a bad case of the flu, with chills, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sweats, goose bumps, and diarrhea common. Heroin detox usually lasts a week to ten days, although lasting psychological effects can persist for months. Some of these symptoms include depression, anxiety, and insomnia, which can be treated by medication and therapy on an ongoing basis in recovery. The detox timeline will very per individual but typically 7-14 days is the period that most of the drug will be removed from the system. Sticking with the detox and treatment during this time is key as the withdrawal is only temporary and the treatment center will provide medications to help relieve the symptoms.
What is Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Detox care providers use over-the-counter medications to help mitigate the discomforts of the various flu-like withdrawal symptoms from heroin. When intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms threaten to derail recovery, the use of prescription medications, called a medically assisted treatment (MAT) can prove essential. Use of these drugs may help reduce the powerful cravings that can lead to relapse. These drugs include:
- Buprenorphine. It is believed that buprenorphine is more effective as an anti-craving medication than is naltrexone. It works by slightly stimulating the opiate receptors.
- This is a combination of both buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and can be used for maintenance therapy.
- This is used to help reduce agitation, anxiety, cramping, muscle aches, and sweating. It does not reduce cravings.
- Helps reduce drug cravings by blocking the effects of opiate drugs. Commonly used in long-term maintenance drug therapy.
The use of these medications is provided in tandem with psychological therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Generally, most MAT cases are slated for a limited duration, as these drugs can be highly addictive, and abused, too.
Seeking Help for Heroin Addiction and a Medical Detox
The Treatment Specialist will connect you with a treatment center that offers specialists who are well-versed in identifying the unique needs of each individual and matching those to the most appropriate treatment provider. Let our experts take the guessing and busy work out of the search for quality treatment. For a free assessment, insurance check call (866) 644-7911.