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Overview of Heroin detox

While there are many substances that have proven to be prone to abuse, it goes without saying that some substances are more highly addictive and significantly more dangerous than others. For instance, alcohol is one of the most unexpectedly addictive substances despite it actually being legally produced, distributed, purchased, and consumed. In fact, alcohol is the most-abused substance in the world, but a recent epidemic threatens to overthrow alcohol in terms of the number of people addicted to the substance.

In the 1990s, the release of a certain pharmaceutical drug by Purdue Pharma completed changed the place of substance abuse and addiction in society. That drug was OxyContin, and its abuse spread like a virus. But when some policy changes made it more difficult for substance abusers to get OxyContin and other controlled substance, and due to changes in production of these drugs that served to make them tamper-resistant, many of those who were abusing or addicted to painkillers switched to heroin, a more powerful, less expensive, and more readily available alternative. As a result, we’re currently in the midst of what the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has dubbed a “heroin epidemic”.

Although heroin addiction continues to rage today, there are many resources available to help people break their dependence on heroin, beginning with heroin detoxification.

Click below for detailed Opiate detox guides

How Detoxing From Heroin works

Understanding the role that heroin detoxification plays in recovery requires knowledge of where the drug comes from and its effects. As many are likely aware, heroin is a derivative of opium, which is a powerful substance obtained from the opium poppy. When heroin was first created and sold in the nineteenth century, it was actually intended to be a pain reliever—in the same vain as morphine, which is another opium derivative—as well as a cough suppressant. Upon its initial release, it was infamously sold by Bayer, known internationally as the makers of aspirin. However, within a few decades, it became clear that heroin wasn’t the safer alternative to morphine.

Today, heroin is one of the most-abused and most dangerous substances in the world. The drug offers an intense euphoria when used recreationally, which is caused by the flood of neurochemicals that’s triggered after a person imbibes a large amount of the drug. In the brain, there are these things known as opiate receptors. Without heroin in the body, a person has a natural, limited amount of opiates that serve to mitigate physical pain and calms a person during times of stress. However, when a person takes a large amount of heroin, there is a surge of neurochemicals that cause feelings of euphoria; additionally, the drug bonds with the opiate receptors, strengthening the euphoria while causing the analgesic, or painkilling, effects for which heroin is know.

After abusing heroin for an extended period of time, a person’s body begins to adjust or accommodate the continuous presence of the drug. With most of the drug’s effects occurring in the brain, the brain adapts to a person’s frequent substance abuse—and the resultant change to neurochemical balance—by decreasing or almost eliminating the natural production and activation of these important neurochemicals. In other words, the body has come to rely on the heroin to maintain the needed chemical levels. Without heroin the brain’s neurochemical level will plummet, causing the individual to experience withdrawal symptoms. These physical and neurological effects must be addressed before a heroin addict can progress through phases of actual treatment. Specifically, a person beginning the rehabilitation process will need to begin with a heroin detox.

WHAT DOES THE Heroin DETOX PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

Addiction is neither physical nor psychological; instead, it’s a combination of both. The recovery process addresses both, but they must be addressed in a specific order so that an addict has an optimal chance of achieving lasting recovery. With heroin and most other substances, it would be difficult—not to say virtually impossible—to focus on treatment and counseling to address the psychological aspects of addiction while experiencing active withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, detoxification treatment is the first phase in the addiction recovery process, addressing the debilitating physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms so as to prepare the individual for upcoming stages in recovery.

When a patient arrives at his or her heroin detox facility, the first step is called intake. The intake process is mostly comprised of an assessment, which is how the severity of one’s addiction is determined. This assessment involves asking questions like how long he or she has been addicted to heroin, whether addiction runs in the family, and whether the individual suffers from any other health issues. Next, the patient is escorted to his or her accommodations where he or she will reside during the detoxification process.

The primary goal of a heroin detox program is to help patients stay as relaxed, comfortable, and free of withdrawal symptoms as possible. The facilities achieve this goal by addressing patients’ dietary and nutrition needs while providing continuous, round-the-clock medical supervision. This continuous medical care offers assurance to patients who might worry about their withdrawal symptoms becoming so severe as to be life-threatening.

It may not occur overnight, but it’s very easy to become addicted to heroin due to the drug’s very nature and the complex physical and psychosocial nature of the disease of addiction. Moreover, the experience of being in the throes of active addiction varies to a degree for every addict, further complicating heroin detoxification and treatment. Fortunately, there are many heroin detox withdrawal symptoms that most heroin addicts tend to experience over the course of their detoxing from heroin.

When a heroin addict abruptly ceases use of heroin, withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest rather quickly, between six and twelve hours after the last dose. Some of the common symptoms include intermittent hot flashes and cold chills. Additionally, heroin addicts often report experiencing the sniffles and a runny nose—reminiscent of the flu or a severe cold—as well as excessive yawning. The onset of heroin withdrawal is also known to be accompanied by a sense of anxiety, restlessness, feeling depressed or angry. These feelings are often due to their desperation for heroin while being unable to function at anything close to a normal level.

People experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms frequently report having trouble sleeping, which progresses to the point of insomnia. This difficulty sleeping can be attributed to the prior use—either knowing or unknowing—of heroin as a sleep aid. There’s also an overall feeling of unwellness and physical discomfort that borders on pain throughout the body. Heroin withdrawals typically entails twitching and trembling, cramps, watery eyes, nausea, and diarrhea as well.

Heroin Detox Withdrawals

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It may not occur overnight, but it’s very easy to become addicted to heroin due to the drug’s very nature and the complex physical and psychosocial nature of the disease of addiction. Moreover, the experience of being in the throes of active addiction varies to a degree for every addict, further complicating heroin detoxification and treatment. Fortunately, there are many heroin detox withdrawal symptoms that most heroin addicts tend to experience over the course of their detoxing from heroin.

When a heroin addict abruptly ceases use of heroin, withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest rather quickly, between six and twelve hours after the last dose. Some of the common symptoms include intermittent hot flashes and cold chills. Additionally, heroin addicts often report experiencing the sniffles and a runny nose—reminiscent of the flu or a severe cold—as well as excessive yawning. The onset of heroin withdrawal is also known to be accompanied by a sense of anxiety, restlessness, feeling depressed or angry. These feelings are often due to their desperation for heroin while being unable to function at anything close to a normal level.

People experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms frequently report having trouble sleeping, which progresses to the point of insomnia. This difficulty sleeping can be attributed to the prior use—either knowing or unknowing—of heroin as a sleep aid. There’s also an overall feeling of unwellness and physical discomfort that borders on pain throughout the body. Heroin withdrawals typically entails twitching and trembling, cramps, watery eyes, nausea, and diarrhea as well.

List of Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Hot flashes & cold chills
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Moderate pain in some muscles or joints

Can you detox from Heroin at home?

As mentioned above, one reason why most addicts aren’t seeking treatment—according to surveys, only about one in ten addicts is receiving any type of treatment—is due to fear of withdrawals. The reason that addicts are so fearful of withdrawals is because they’ve only ever experienced withdrawal symptoms at their full intensity without any treatment or supervision and without any separation from their home environments.

Of course, it should be made clear that heroin withdrawals aren’t known for being deadly, at least not in the same ways that alcohol withdrawal and benzodiazepine withdrawal are dangerous. In effect, the most difficult thing about detoxing from heroin at home would be the likelihood of being confronted by people, places, things, and situations that would cause cravings and make a person want to resume using heroin. In other words, it would be possible to detox from heroin at home, but it would also be much more difficult. At home, a person wouldn’t have the treatment and supervision that he or she would get at a detox facility where he or she wouldn’t surely have a much higher chance of success.

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How long does it take to detox from Heroin

Everyone is different, has different needs, experiences things differently. In fact, this variance in people’s preferences and needs is why there is such a wide variety of addiction treatments and facilities that are currently available: to address such a multitude of specific and unique needs. Similarly, everyone who goes into a heroin detox program will be on their own timeline for detoxification, which is to say that there’s essentially no reliable way to determine exactly how long a person will require in detox treatment to complete detoxification.

However, there are a number of considerations for which to be accounted during the intake process, which lets the intake coordinators and counselors determine an approximate length of time required for treatment. Again, they are an approximation as to how long a person might need in heroin detox treatment rather than a definitive start and end date. Things that are taken into consideration are meant to address the severity or intensity of one’s addiction, including things like the length of time spent in active addiction, the severity of one’s daily habit, whether addiction runs in one’s family, whether the individual suffers from any other medical conditions, whether there have been previous rounds of treatment and attempts at sobriety, and so on. In short, these factors help with estimating whether a person will complete heroin detoxification relatively quickly or whether he or she will need an extended period of treatment.

  • Between 2000 and today, rates of heroin addiction have increased exponentially in every single age group, from adolescents to seniors.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average age of first-time heroin users is 24.5.
  • Fewer adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 consider heroin the most dangerous drug today than in 2002.
  • Roughly half of all people addicted to heroin either have been or are also addicted to prescription painkillers.
  • Annually, there are between 1 and 1.5 million heroin-related emergency room visits.
  • The so-called “heroin capital of the United States” is Baltimore, MD.
  • Deaths from heroin overdose increased 39 percent in a one-year period, from 2012 to 2013,