Heroin affects millions of people. Its use has grown substantially over the past decade. It has become such a widespread epidemic that it has filtered into suburban areas from inner-city neighborhoods in many states nationwide. The biggest contributing factor to this rise is the increase of people who have become addicted to prescription painkillers or opioids. Once addicted to opiate painkillers, they then turn to heroin because it is easier and less expensive to obtain.
Additionally, there continues to be a need for more treatment facilities to help people battle their addiction and withdrawal from heroin in a safe and secure way. Until the addiction numbers go down and the treatment numbers go up, there is a problem that weighs heavy on many Americans.
The detox period of heroin withdrawal varies from person to person. The timeline is affected by several factors such as: how long you’ve been suffering from addiction, how much you last ingested, your weight, and overall health. Generally speaking, heroin withdrawal lasts a week with symptoms beginning 6-12 hours after the last use. These symptoms are often painful and uncomfortable, especially in the first few days. As your body adjusts to being without heroin (when it has adapted to the addiction), there is an intense reaction which results in various side effects.
Side effects can range in severity and may include nausea, restlessness, insomnia, profuse sweating, aches and pains throughout the body, and depression. When you are going through heroin withdrawal, it can feel like a severe case of the flu. Because of its intensity, many people have tried to go through heroin withdrawal and have relapsed because the symptoms are too powerful and the cravings are too strong.
We highly recommend seeking the help of a treatment facility, which can help you through this challenging time. The staff can help make the process as comfortable for you as possible and provide the support and encouragement you’ll need to get through it. Plus, it will ensure that you are going through detox in a safe and secure facility where your health can be continuously monitored.
What Is Heroin Withdrawal Like?
Just as addiction is personal to each individual that suffers from it, the process of heroin withdrawal is personalized as well. In addition to side effects, cravings are especially strong during the first few days of withdrawal. This is because once the body has become dependent on heroin, it feels “normal” to have it in the system. Being without it throws the body off its addiction normalcy causing it to react in adverse ways.
Once you reach the middle stage of withdrawal, you may start to feel heavy cramping or experience vomiting, in addition to other unpleasant side effects from the first few days. It will start to take a toll on your body as it works hard to rid the heroin out of the system.
Between the cravings and the side effects, it’s clear that heroin detox is a difficult road but not an impossible one. You can make it through with the assistance of others. Going through withdrawal puts you in a vulnerable state. If you are experiencing it alone, you may not have the strength you need to continue. There is help available to you from people who are familiar with the process and how to best help you.
The starting point to sobriety is always detox. But once the week of heroin withdrawal is over, then it’s on to the next phase of treatment. To continue on the path of sobriety, you must learn how to take care of your body and address the root of the problems that led to the addiction in the first place. This is done through either inpatient or outpatient care.
Through your chosen treatment, you will take part in individual counseling, group therapy, and educational classes to learn more about your disease and coping skills for dealing with triggers of addiction. During treatment, you shouldn’t feel the side effects that come with the initial withdrawal period. When in recovery, your body is regaining its strength and correcting its balance post-detox. There may be minor setbacks but if you take one day at a time, you’ll start to feel the progress.Speak with a treatment specialist today.
How to Deal with Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to the original symptoms that occur during the initial detox period, there are symptoms that can occur beyond the average 5-7 days. These post-acute withdrawal symptoms may include severe anxiety or depression, which is not uncommon when dealing with addiction. Co-occurring disorders are often diagnosed when being treated for addiction. This is another reason why it’s strongly recommended to go through detox under the secure supervision of a treatment facility.
You’ll receive the proper health monitoring so that you can go through the withdrawal process safely. Additionally, you’ll receive the support you need during detox and receive a treatment plan for the following months of recovery. If there is a dual diagnosis, a doctor will need to regulate your medication and track your progress to make any adjustments as needed.
Since the body is in a position where it craves the drug, the safest bet is to withdraw from heroin slowly rather than all at once. Buprenorphine and methadone are two medications that may be administered by a medical professional to help ease cravings and symptoms. Following the initial stages of detox, more natural remedies may help with pain and anxiety of addiction withdrawal as well. Massage therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy are all ways that can complement the process and create a better sense of comfort for you.
What Happens After Heroin Withdrawal?
There are multiple parts to the recovery process. Detox is the big, first step, but it must be immediately followed by rehabilitation. Many treatment centers off both detox services and rehab care in the same place. Once you finish one phase, you will be cleared to enter the next one. It usually takes 90 days for most heroin addiction cases to go through the complete process. However, your personalized treatment plan will depend on your specific needs and how quickly you progress. The important thing is that you receive adequate treatment to help you maintain your sobriety. You want your healing to be efficient but you want it to be effective as well.
It may feel normal to want to rush through the process, but think about the timeline for heroin withdrawal and recovery in a similar way to recovering from a broken bone. With a broken limb, you’ll have to undergo surgery as the intense, first step. Then, there is the rehabilitation process. Without it, you could reinjure your bone or cause additional problems. It may take some people longer to heal than others. This depends on their dedication to the rehab process and how well the body responds to treatment. The same can be said for the time it takes to go through the full recovery process for addiction. There is a general timeline to gauge progress but ultimately, it’s up to each individual.
Don’t feel like you have to measure your progress against someone else’s since every recovery journey is slightly different. Heroin addiction is a disease that requires the help of professionals who know how to monitor these types of conditions and provide healthy guidelines as milestones for success. The focus is your individual health and wellness.
How Is My Health Affected?
Simply put, addiction is a health problem. It affects many areas of your body and can also take control of your mind and decision-making abilities as well. When you look at addiction as an illness, it becomes easier to understand how it needs time to heal. During the withdrawal treatment and continuing into treatment and beyond, you will want to start creating healthier habits.
How are you caring for your body? How have you improved your diet, exercise routine, and mental health? Your time spent in inpatient or outpatient care can give you the tools you need to make healthier choices. Take it day by day and listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling fatigued, rest more. Drink plenty of water, exercise often, and maintain a healthy diet. These are all recommendations for anyone who wishes to stay healthy, but it’s even more important for someone recovering from addiction. Drug addiction can take a big hit on your immune system, which means you’ll want to start regaining your strength and rebuilding your ability to fight the disease.
In the beginning, it may feel like you’ll never feel well again. But as you start to return back to your normal self and a life lived before heroin, you’ll see how strong the body really is. It may take weeks, even months, to return to what feels like a healthy state but it’s worth it. Slowly but surely, through rehab, you’ll rebuild your life and reinvigorate your senses and well-being.
Seeking Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Once you decide to seek treatment for heroin addiction, you help choose your path for recovery. If you decide to attend inpatient care, treatment facilities are regularly located in serene areas where it’s easier to focus and stay dedicated to your sobriety. This can be a cabin in the mountains or near a lake. Being surrounded by the peacefulness of nature is a strong benefit to your care.
There may be areas of your current life that you need a break from in order to dedicate yourself to your long-term sobriety. Certain inpatient treatment facilities also have activities like hiking, biking, game rooms, reading areas, and gyms so that you can really regain your strength and focus on healthy activities.
Outpatient care is another option for treatment. It has many of the same parts of inpatient treatment but you don’t stay overnight at the facility. You are able to remain in your own home, which can be good if you have a strong support system to help you through the process. However, if you are in a position where you current environment holds too much temptation for you, inpatient care might be a better option. Just because you have decided to seek treatment doesn’t mean everyone in your life will feel ready to do so as well. Remember – it’s about choosing what’s best for you.
Intervention for a Friend or Family Member
If you are researching treatment centers for a loved one, don’t hesitate to ask questions about the program, benefits, and success rate of the facility. The ultimate goal is to have your friend or family member successfully go through rehab and achieve sobriety. But it’s also essential that they feel comfortable and safe during the process.
You may have tried to convince your loved one to seek treatment before to no avail. Call on the support of an interventionist specialist who knows how to handle these sensitive situations. While you don’t want your friend or family member to feel on the defensive, you also want to remain firm in your request.
By arming yourself with knowledge about available treatment facilities ahead of time, there’s not as much leeway for excuses. Show the options available to benefit them. Provide the support and hope they need to get through such a difficult time.
Heroin Withdrawal Is Temporary, Your Health Is Forever
Heroin withdrawal can feel like it takes much longer than its typical 5-7 days. Since addiction takes over every aspect of your body, a week “deprived” of what it feels like it needs can be difficult to say the least. The good news is there are ways to alleviate your symptoms. There are solutions available so you don’t have to go through withdrawal alone. And once the detox period is over, you have finished the first phase to your new life of sobriety.
With every milestone you meet, you are one step closer to a healthier, more promising future. And you deserve the chance to live a fulfilling life. Even if you have tried treatment before and relapsed, perhaps it’s time to try again. You have the support behind you to create an environment that will benefit you and your long-term goals. We want to help you achieve sobriety and we also want to help you maintain it for life.Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Revised Jan. 2018, Accessed Feb. 22, 2016.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. What Are The Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use? Revised June 2018, Accessed Feb. 24, 2016.
Medline Plus. Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. Revised Aug. 2018, Accessed Feb. 23, 2016.
US National Library of Medicine. The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. July 2002, Accessed Feb. 22, 2016.
US National Library of Medicine. Withdrawal Management. Accessed Feb. 24, 2016.