The withdrawals associated with heroin addiction vs the withdrawals from alcohol abuse are easily some of the most difficult to overcome without professional help. Heroin and alcohol withdrawals symptoms are both physically and mentally demanding, attempting a cold turkey (without medical assistance) detox is never suggested. Not only is it rarely successful, but it can also be very dangerous. A heroin detox vs an alcohol detox have shared obstacles and some different challenges that one will need to overcome when they decide they want to get their lives back.
Overcoming Withdrawals without a Medical Detox
There are no at home or over the counter remedies that will alleviate the withdrawals associated with either substance, entering an out of state detox facility or a local detox program will give anyone struggling the greatest chance of achieving long-term success. With proper medication, therapy and guidance one will have much easier time overcoming the physical and mental symptoms. The thought of facing withdrawals head-on will keep many people actively taking their substance of choice. The longer they use, the deeper into the pit of addiction and dependence they will fall.
While heroin and alcohol do share similar withdrawals they have a large number of differences as well. They are addictive in different ways, are obviously made from different ingredients, come with varying challenges during detox and have different health risks. While they have a large variety of opposing characteristics, they also have a lot in common. Let’s take a look at both substances in detail.
How Long Does it Take to Become Physically Hooked on Alcohol?
While one might feel some unpleasant repercussions after a night of heavy drinking, they will not be physically addicted. Even those who binge drink for 2-3 days in a row have a slim chance of “needing” a drink the next day. Some people might have a drink the next day to help ease the pain of the hangover, they should not be physically hooked. If someone of average height and weight is to drink more than 5 drinks a day for over a week, they will find themselves building a tolerance.
As their tolerance grows it will take more and more alcohol to produce the desired effect. As they continue to drink more and more and consume alcohol on a daily basis they will eventually need to avoid withdrawals. It typically takes 2-3 weeks of daily drinking to build a physical dependence. Once hooked it will be very difficult and potentially deadly to stop without the help of an alcohol detox center.
What is it Like to Detox From Alcohol?
There are three phases of alcohol withdrawal. Which level of the detox one will reach is determined by a few factors, the main one being how much and how often they drink. Their age, physical and mental health and length of abuse will all play a role. The average length of time spent in an alcohol detox center is around 7-12 days, but the actual amount of days will vary from person to person. It isn’t rare for facilities to custom design a treatment plan around each client’s specific needs.
A good portion of those who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms will need to enter an alcohol detox program. Symptoms can set in just a few hours after the last drink, they will reach peak severity after 3-7 and slowly get better after a week. Many medical professionals will classify alcohol withdrawals into three primary stages. These stages are marked by the level of intensity for the symptoms that are present.
Anyone who is struggling with alcohol abuse disorder and is physically dependent will experience the following symptoms.
- Abdominal discomfort
- Tingling in fingers, toes and other joints
- Muscle tremors
- General discomfort
- Mood swings
- Issues sleeping
This phase of withdrawals will occur for the first day or two after the last drink was consumed. For those who have been drinking in excess for over two months will go through much more intense symptoms. This stage of alcohol withdrawal can also include hallucinations. They can experience touch-related, vision-related and sound-related hallucinations, leading to confusion, paranoia, fear and delusional thinking.
Stage two alcohol withdrawal symptoms will start to occur two to three days after the last drink. Not all heavy drinkers will go through these symptoms, but around 70% of problem drinkers will go through them. There is a high chance of a seizure occurring during stage two which can be potentially fatal. On Top of the symptoms described in phase one, anyone struggling will also experience:
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat which will lead to high blood pressure
- Restless legs
- Uncontrollable sweating including cold sweats
- Clammy hands
Around 33% of those struggling with alcohol abuse disorder will experience the worst and most terrifying stage of withdrawals, stage three. This part of alcohol withdrawal is extremely intense, very dangerous and physically/mentally draining for the user. Stage three is noted by delirium tremens or DTs. DT’s can be fatal when proper medication is not administered. Common symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Delirious mental state
- Intense hallucinations, where what is real and what is not is hard to differentiate
- Loss of memory
- Intense confusion, followed by fear and paranoia
- Grand-mal seizures
- Involuntary nervous system instability. This can lead to life-threatening alterations in heart function, brain chemistry and body temperature.
How Does Someone Become Addicted to Heroin?
Heroin is easily one of the most addictive substances on earth. Some users report feeling mentally dependent on this drug after just one use. No one will become physically hooked after just one use, but if they are to use just a few days in a row they have a very high chance of becoming addicted. The physical withdrawals at this point are minimal, but the brain will blow them out of proportion, leading many users to continue to abuse the drug. After just a week of continued use, they will be at the mercy of the drug. Without the help of a heroin detox center, it will be very hard to break free.
What Does it Feel Like to Withdrawal from Heroin?
Some of the withdrawals from heroin are similar to that of alcohol, but thankfully they are not life-threatening. Heroin withdrawals are often described as flu-like, but with added mental symptoms and additional physical pain, they are much more severe. There are no non-narcotic or nonaddictive substances that will make a heroin detox less challenging. Most addiction professionals agree the best way to break free from the grip of heroin abuse is to enter a medically supervised heroin detox center. Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
- Achy Joints
- Cold sweats/profuse sweating
- Watery eyes
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts/ideations
- Vomiting/upset stomach
- Restless legs
- A runny nose
- Intense drug cravings
The average stay at a heroin detox center is around 5-10 days, but it will vary from user to user. Method of use, amount used, purity of the heroin and how long they have been using will all play a role. Most heroin throughout the United States is no longer just heroin. It is now commonly being cut with dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil. These substances can be over 5,000x more potent than pure heroin. These drugs have helped make heroin one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States.
Getting Help for Drug or Alcohol Abuse
If you or a loved one are currently struggling with heroin addiction, alcoholism or abuse issues related to any mood or mind-altering substance, please get help now. Far too many people struggle with drugs and/or alcohol and never get help. Maybe they are too scared to admit there is a problem or maybe they think they are too far gone and will never get clean. Some people feel they don’t deserve to be clean and happy. This is never the case. Help is available.
Call our toll free line at any time to speak with an addiction professional. The call is free of charge and so is the over the phone consultation. All calls are confidential, don’t wait another day a better life is possible! No one should have to try and overcome addiction alone, get the help you need now.