Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Detox: What to Expect – Heroin is an illegal, powerful opioid street drug that has an incredibly high potential for abuse and addiction and is notorious for the very unpleasant effects that users experience when they attempt to quit or dramatically reduce consumption – otherwise known as being “dope sick.”
Those people who have engaged in the long-term, excessive use of heroin may develop a physiological dependence. Dependence occurs as the brain becomes used to the presence of a psychoactive substance, and becomes unable to function normally without it. This effect results in harrowing and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that occur as the body is struggling to correct the chemical imbalance that ensues.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
The initial comedown from heroin can vary from person to person regarding duration and severity, but physical heroin withdrawal symptoms typically onset within 6 -12 hours after the last use and peak within 1-3 days. After this, they gradually subside and are usually absent by the end of a week. Some people, however, may experience weeks or months of mental/emotional withdrawal symptoms, also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
PAWS occurs as a person’s brain chemistry continues to return to normal. As the brain gradually recovers, levels of chemicals undulate as they approach the new equilibrium, resulting in post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Moodiness and irritability
- Anxiety and depression
- Fatigue and low enthusiasm
- Concentration difficulties
- Sleep disturbances
Each individual will experience acute heroin withdrawal uniquely, but there are several certain common features, including the following:
Most people who undergo heroin withdrawal encounter a powerful desire to use more of the drug. This feeling is referred to as a craving and is prevalent among people detoxing from addictive drugs or alcohol. The craving is prompted by both the user’s desire to relieve heroin withdrawal symptoms and to re-experience the intense and euphoric feelings that heroin use induces.
Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria and is characterized by depression, irritability, agitation, and anxiety. Unfortunately, dysphoria is a common feature of heroin withdrawal, and even without a history of mental health disorders or trauma, these mood fluctuations are to be expected. This is just one of the many reasons why it is vital to seek emotional support while undergoing heroin withdrawal.
Aches and Pains
As a semi-synthetic opioid, in addition to producing euphoria, heroin serves as a potent painkiller by blocking the body’s pain pathways. A rebound effect occurs while withdrawing from heroin, and the person will likely experience achiness and pain in various areas of the body.
Excessive Bodily Fluids
Heroin withdrawal can cause an overproduction of bodily fluids, such as tears, sweat, and mucus. As with other short-term physical withdrawal symptoms, this is a result of the body restabilizing itself.
Diarrhea and Stomach Pains
Another common effect of heroin withdrawal is stomach pain, which is produced by spasms in the digestive tract and may be accompanied by diarrhea or loose and frequent bowel movements. The discomfort of diarrhea and abdominal pain in conjunction with concerns about having “accidents” may make it difficult to follow a regular routine.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are typical features of heroin withdrawal. These symptoms can exhaust a person physically, result in discomfort and dehydration, and, along with diarrhea, can compel those who suffer to remain close to a bathroom much of the time.
Restlessness and Sleep Disturbances
People experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms often feel restless, which in combination with anxiety and insomnia, can make a person feel quite agitated and unhappy. Heroin withdrawal frequently results in sleep disturbances, particularly insomnia.
Medical Detox and Treatment
While many seek medical intervention for heroin withdrawal, many also do not, for a variety of reasons. For example, they may not know that medications are available, such as Suboxone, that can help them feel better and carry significantly less potential for abuse than methadone.
In some instances, users underestimate how unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will become, and they think they are better off enduring it at home, alone. Unfortunately, this approach frequently leads to relapse and is less likely to succeed than detox in a medical setting. The reason for this is partly because heroin withdrawal symptoms aren’t being managed, and also due to the user being free to obtain more heroin and may do so while he or she is in the throes of acute withdrawal.
Moreover, addiction professionals urge users to undergo a supervised clinical detox, where patients can be continuously monitored and withdrawal symptoms treated and managed with approved medications. This method is designed to protect against relapse and maximize comfort and reduce suffering.
After detox, patients are urged to participate in an addiction treatment program that uses an integrated, evidence-based approach to the treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Indeed, many people who engage in excessive drug and alcohol use also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety, among others.
It is imperative to treat these conditions in conjunction with substance abuse to prevent relapse and improve the patient’s mental wellness and outcome. Our caring clinical staff are certified addiction specialists and render treatment to patients with compassion and expertise. We provide patients with the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to recover and maintain long-lasting sobriety and well-being.
You can reclaim your life and experience the happiness you deserve! Please contact us immediately to begin your journey to recovery!
Related: Heroin Effects and Signs of Use