Heroin Detox & Withdrawal
Heroin detoxification is the guided process of removing all remnants of heroin from the body. Because heroin is such a powerful and addictive drug when people detox off of it, there are various unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms.
Detox it is the first practical step towards recovery for an addict. Whether they are trying to recover in a treatment centre or by themselves at home – both with the guidance and care of a doctor or other professional – detoxification is an essential step towards rehabilitation.
Heroin Detox Centres
A heroin detox centre is a place available to addicts where they can recover and eliminate heroin from the body. At each of our centres, there are generally doctors and various other trained professionals to help someone through the process as comfortably and safely as possible.
There are lots of options out there for people looking to detox off heroin. Some centres specialise in heroin specifically, and others are detox facilities for various drugs and addictions. At Rehab Recovery, we have decades of experience in the rehabilitation process and we believe that entering a centre is the safest way to detox from heroin.
What Happens During Drug Detox
During detox, a person will experience various withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, muscle aches, hot or cold flashes, and nausea. Most of these symptoms are uncomfortable but not dangerous when there is a medical professional observing and keeping track of vitals and how the person is doing overall.
How the detox goes depends a lot on the nature of the addiction. Generally, an addict can expect heroin withdrawal to be shorter, yet more intense than the withdrawal experience for other drugs. The detoxification process is usually very individualized and carefully planned by a doctor or team of professionals.
Types of Heroin Detox
There are two main types of heroin detox processes that we offer to our patients. These include:
Inpatient detox is when a person goes and stays at a care facility or rehab centre. Here they will be cared for and monitored by a team of people, including doctors, nurses, and therapists, twenty-four hours a day.
Often a person will stay at the facility until after the detox symptoms have stopped so they can learn how to cope and prevent relapse to heroin use. This is generally the most popular form of detoxification and treatment.
Inpatient treatment includes medically-assisted detox, which is a much safer and effective way of conquering addiction rather than attempting to tackle addiction on your own.
Outpatient detox and treatment is also an option. The actual detoxification process must still be planned and regulated by a doctor or medical professional, and then after the initial detox, a person will visit a doctor or therapist on a regular and scheduled basis.
Outpatient heroin detox can be very dangerous, as the individual is often unable to manage withdrawal symptoms alone. Our research has also shown that those conducting an outpatient heroin detox are more likely to relapse, in order to curb the negative withdrawal symptoms.
Gradually Reducing vs. Sudden Cessation
Below, we highlight the main difference between gradually reducing a heroin dose over time and suddenly stopping heroin intake altogether:
1. Gradually Reducing
Often a doctor will recommend a gradually reducing schedule to detox addicts, especially in more severe cases. This means that a doctor will help the patient slowly reduce the amount of heroin that they are putting into their body. The goal of this kind of treatment is to minimize withdrawal symptoms, though it can take longer.
2. Sudden Cessation
Full detox is the equivalent of going ‘cold turkey,’ which means stopping the intake of heroin completely and all at once. This can make the detox process shorter, but the withdrawal symptoms are generally much worse and can even be dangerous.
This is the kind of detox that most people attempt to do by themselves, and then, unfortunately, end up relapsing. If you do decide for sudden cessation, it is essential that you seek medical advice and conduct this process under the care of a medical professional.
Full detox comes with a myriad of unpleasant sensations ranging from mild, moderate, or severe in intensity, and can include:
If you are considering a going ‘cold turkey’, it is widely stated by medical professionals that you should do so in an inpatient facility where you will be monitored at all times. As you now well know, there are risks associated with a sudden cessation of heroin, including hallucinations, seizures, and convulsions.
At our inpatient facilities, our expert care team will go through your options with you and decide which type of detox suits you best. Sudden cessation may be the quickest way of withdrawing from heroin, but it can also be the most uncomfortable.
Benefits of Medically Assisted Heroin Detox
A medically assisted detox is when a person receives certain medications to help them through the detox process. These medications can be used to minimize pain and even avoid certain symptoms altogether, which is especially beneficial with the more dangerous symptoms.
Not everyone recovering from addiction needs a medically assisted detox, but it can be extremely beneficial to people with severe addictions/dependencies or other physical and mental health problems. Medically assisted heroin detoxes are almost never done in outpatient treatment.
For many recovering heroin addicts, their first step is entering a medically-supervised detox facility. It is essential that detox is completed successfully because the body needs to be freed from the toxins of the addictive substance before therapeutic work can happen.
Medications to Aid With Heroin Detox
Doctors can prescribe three types of medication that will assist with the heroin detox process. These medications usually work by alleviating the withdrawal symptoms commonly experienced during detox:
Methadone is an opiate just like heroin, but it is slow-acting and weaker. Doctors may prescribe this medication to a person going through heroin detoxification to help them slowly get off of heroin.
Detoxing with a weaker opiate, like methadone, can help minimize and even prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Buprenorphine is a commonly prescribed medication for heroin detoxifications. Common symptoms of withdrawal are cravings, nausea, and muscle aches, all of which buprenorphine works to reduce.
With these medications, detox can be much more bearable, even for those with severe addictions and dependencies.
This medication is generally given to people after detox, not during, but it can still help. Naltrexone is not addictive or sedative, making it a perfectly safe drug for addicts, and it works by blocking the receptors in the brains that react with opioids such as heroin.
Overtime, Naltrexone can eliminate cravings and, therefore, significantly decrease a patient’s chance of relapse.
Risks of Detoxing Alone
There are several risks to detoxing at home. First of all, the risk of relapse is substantially higher when someone tries to detox by themselves. This is because the symptoms of withdrawal can be much more intense and harder to deal with then they expected.
Unfortunately, when someone tries to detox alone and then relapses, they are also more likely to accidentally overdose. This is because their tolerance will be lower than it was before, so when they take it again at the same level they used to, they may overdose.
Finally, when someone detoxes at home, they usually go cold turkey, which can sometimes be fine under the watchful eye of a medical professional, but when someone tries to do it by themselves, the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous.
The person could become seriously dehydrated, experience other dangerous physical side-effects, or even develop severe mental problems leading to destructive behaviour, including self-harm and suicide.
What to Expect from Heroin Withdrawal
You can expect to feel sick during heroin withdrawal, as many of the symptoms feel very similar to the flu. It is important to have realistic expectations of what is going to happen because when people do not they will often resort to taking the drug again to feel relief.
Additionally, taking a drug such as heroin often affects the parts of the brain that control good and logical decision making/reasoning. After withdrawal, your decision-making skills will probably get better, but during it may get worse.
That is part of the benefit of an inpatient program; there will be people that will be able to keep you away from heroin when you are willing to do anything to get some.
What Causes Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin has the biggest effect on the parts of the brain, which control motivation and pleasure. Over time, the brain starts to adapt to the substance and therefore relies on it to feel ‘normal.’ The more it is exposed to opiates like heroin, the less the brain feels like it has to produce natural opiates.
Because of this, when a person stops supplying the brain with heroin, there are not enough natural brain chemicals to help the person feel normal, so they feel all the symptoms of withdrawal.
Over time, the brain will start to make more opiates naturally to restore the person back to normal.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Below, we have listed some of the most common heroin withdrawal symptoms. While these sensations can be unpleasant, it is crucial to remember that resorting to back to heroin use will only prolong the recovery process, and will not help in the long run.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Problems sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Sweating (hyperhidrosis)
- High blood pressure
- Symptoms of hypertension
- High heart rate
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle cramps
- Bad temper
- Bad mood
- Reduced feeling of pleasure
- Inability to focus
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
Below, we have broken down the expected length of time for heroin withdrawal:
6 to 12 hours after the last dose
The initial withdrawal symptoms appear within a couple of hours of the last dose of heroin being taken. This is due to the very short half-life of the opiate drug. The first symptoms are normally considered mild in intensity and can include:
- Drug-seeking behaviour
As the detox elapses, other symptoms can occur which may be considered more intense but not unpleasant. These include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
Within six hours of the person taking their last dose, withdrawal symptoms and pain can start to develop. Usually, the earliest symptoms are pains like muscle aches that become more and more intense during the first two days. Someone also may experience things like panic attacks, diarrhoea, and insomnia.
Generally, days 1-2 after the last dose of heroin is the time when the worst symptoms will be exhibited. The symptoms that occur here are commonly referred to as grade 2 symptoms and can include:
- Dilated pupils
- Leg cramps
- Muscle twitches
- Loss of appetite
Up to 36 hours after the last heroin dose is what is considered as grade 3 symptoms. These include:
- Low-grade fever
- Increased blood pressure
- Stomach cramps
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle Weakness
At this point, a person is fully into withdrawal and often peaks. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, stomach cramps, hyperhidrosis, shivering, and nausea. They will also probably deal with more severe versions of the symptoms from days one and two.
This is generally when the main period of withdrawal starts to end. Most of the physical symptoms will lessen and then disappear completely, though the person may still feel tired and worn out for a while.
Post-acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
For months after the initial withdrawal, certain symptoms may appear randomly due to all the neurological changes that heroin makes. This is called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS.
The most common symptoms of PAWS are:
Further Treatment After Detox
After detox, treatment does not usually stop if the person wants to have any kind of long-lasting success. The person could choose to stay in an inpatient treatment program for a while and then gradually move to outpatient or move straight to outpatient treatment.
It highly depends on the patient and the doctor or therapist’s recommendation. No matter what, some kind of ongoing treatment is key to helping a person stay sober and learn how to cope with life without drugs.
How Much Does Heroin Rehab Cost?
There is no one simple answer to this as there are a lot of factors that affect cost. Here are some of the biggest factors.
- Location: Rehab centres in certain states and cities are more expensive than others
- Type of rehab: Inpatient rehab typically costs more because it is intensive, 24/7 care
- Length of treatment: The longer you receive treatment, the more it could cost in total
- Type of treatment: Certain medicines and forms of therapy can cost more money than others
- Amenities: Some treatment centres include things like pools, gyms, gourmet food, massage therapy, and acupuncture. The more amenities at a treatment centre, the more it generally costs
Get In Touch Today
Call us now on 0800 088 66 86 for a free heroin detox assessment, and to receive confidential and life-saving advice on heroin detox. Start your journey to recovery today.