Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug made from morphine. Morphine is a natural substance extracted from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants found in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be seen as a white or brown powder, as well as a black sticky tar-like substance called black tar heroin.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), in 2019, approximately 14,019 people died from an overdose involving heroin. The CDC reports, since 1999, nearly 841,000 people died from a drug overdose, and in 2019 70% of drug overdoses involved opioids like heroin. With the vast number of treatment facilities across the nation, what is the best way to detox from heroin?
What is Detox
To learn the best way to detox from heroin we must first understand what detox is. Detoxification or detox is the process of clearing the body of drugs and alcohol from an addiction. Detox programs help safely manage withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug or alcohol use in a controlled, professional setting. Detox affects each person differently and can come with some severe side effects. This can include:
- Nausea/ vomiting/ choking
- Body discomfort and aches
- Intense mood swings
- Poor sleep patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased body temperature
- Heart attack
Detox can also last days or months depending on the person, their addiction, the amount taken, and underlying medical or mental issues. This is why it is important to seek out professional help when choosing to stop using and detoxing from a substance.
When addicted to a strong substance like heroin, trying to stop can be extremely difficult and strenuous on the mind and body. When abusing any substance for a period of time, the body creates a physical and psychological dependence on the substance to function properly. Oftentimes, the intense symptoms people experience when trying to withdraw or detox from heroin can deter people from quitting altogether.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Nausea/ vomiting
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Muscle and body aches/ pains
- Runny nose
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Impaired respiration
On their own, heroin withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. However, some of the psychological symptoms, like depression, can result in suicidal thoughts and tendencies. This is why heroin should not be stopped suddenly and detox should be done with licensed professionals to manage these symptoms.
Detoxing from Heroin
Heroin, along with other opioids, is a short-acting substance that takes effect immediately after use. However, this means that it also leaves the bloodstream rather quickly. That being said, heroin withdrawal symptoms will start to occur within 6-12 hours after the last dose. Seeking out a detox facility is important for the safety of you and others around you when choosing to end your addiction.
The peak period of detoxing from heroin is days two and three. This is when the most extreme and heightened symptoms occur. The final 5-10 days is when symptoms begin to subside. During medical detox, medications and therapy are used to help the body and brain recover from its dependency.
Medications used to treat opioid use disorders work through the same receptors as the addictive substance, however, are a safer alternative and less likely to produce harmful behaviors. These medications help manage withdrawal symptoms in a controlled setting and help people taper off addictive drugs. Some of the medications used include:
- Methadone (Dolophine® or Methadose®)
- Buprenorphine (Subutex®)
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol®)
Break Free From Your Addiction
If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction and ready to receive help contact the Harm Reduction Center. HARC is a private healthcare facility that offers a variety of treatment options from Integrated Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to all levels of outpatient care. If you are ready to break free from your addiction, contact us today!