Detoxing from heroin can be a very unpleasant experience. As you go through withdrawal, you might experience symptoms like nausea, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, depression, anxiety, and irritability. You might also struggle with cravings for the drug. It can seem overwhelming to face, especially if this is your first time seeking treatment. So what helps with heroin detox symptoms?
The withdrawal syndrome itself doesn’t have the same potential life-threatening complications that alcohol does. However, there are dangerous aspects. Depression can lead some people to harm themselves, and if you relapse partway through, your risk of overdosing is higher than it would be otherwise.
Because of this, the CDC and addiction experts recommend that people undergo a medically supervised detox. During a medical detox, healthcare professionals can use medications to help ease the withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.
Different opioids have different time periods for their effects. With heroin, the high tends to set in quickly but not last very long. The crash is fast because of how quickly the drug exits the body. Withdrawal can start in as little as six hours after a dose. The symptoms tend to peak around three days in, and they can taper off after anywhere from 5 to 10 days.
What to Know About Medical Detox
Detox is the process by which you manage your withdrawal symptoms. The more resources available to you, the easier it will be. Treatment centers have access to stable environments, mental health professionals, and medications. All of these things combined can make the withdrawal something that you can handle.
When you enter a medical detox program, usually you’ll have your intake before the drug has exited your system entirely. You will then stay at the treatment center for around a week. Some people need a few extra days, particularly those who have been using heavily for a long time. Others might be symptom-free in as little as five days.
During a medical detox, your team will monitor you for changes. They will regularly check your temperature, oxygen level, heart rate, and overall blood pressure.
A heroin detox center can help reduce the cravings throughout withdrawal. They may prescribe a different opioid medication that stays in the system for longer. In addition, they may use varying medications to treat individual symptoms. For example, you might be prescribed anticonvulsants to help you relax, antidepressants to manage mood swings, and anti-nausea medications to help with digestive issues.
Access to mental healthcare is another key part of the process. Addiction is a mental health disorder, and it is often related to underlying mental health issues that are untreated. It can be confusing and frightening to detox when you aren’t sure how to manage your mental health afterward. Talking to a counselor will help you feel more secure.
This is especially important for people who have diagnosed mood disorders. It’s common for withdrawal to cause serious mood crashes and feelings of upset, which might be worse in those with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Suboxone is one of the most common medications prescribed during a heroin detox. It is made up of naloxone, which blocks the effects of overdose, and buprenorphine, which acts as an opioid without causing the same high as heroin. This medication remains in the system significantly longer than heroin, so it makes the symptoms less intense.
Suboxone isn’t usually intended for long-term maintenance after detox is over. Instead, you’ll follow a treatment plan to slowly taper off the drug. This will take care of the worst parts of the heroin detox. Some doctors do choose to continue prescribing it for maintenance purposes for several months, though.
Because Suboxone is an opioid, it carries some risk of abuse. But the risk is low enough for it to be an FDA-approved addiction treatment.
Like Suboxone, methadone is a long-acting medication that can substitute heroin during your withdrawal. It remains active for at least a day. The “high” it produces is much more gradual and less extreme than that of heroin.
When prescribed methadone, you will typically take one pill per day. The dose will taper over time, until you no longer need the drug. If the medication is abused, it can lead to chemical dependency, similarly to other opioids.
Make sure that you’re honest about your substance use history and when your last dose was. This will let your doctors make the safest recommendation. If you’re ready to ask for help, our counselors are waiting at 833-610-1174.