Substance Use

How to Cope With Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms & When to Seek Help

When you or a loved one want to break free from an addiction to heroin, the process should be as painless as possible to ensure a successful and long-lasting recovery. If you stop using heroin, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle aches, runny nose, vomiting, and diarrhea. Unfortunately, the quickest way to ease those symptoms is to take another dose of heroin, leaving you in an endless cycle of recovery and relapse.

Although some people quit heroin cold turkey and can get through the withdrawal side effects alone while remaining drug-free, it is rare and never recommended. If you or someone you know are trying to quit heroin, you should know there are safe, effective treatment options to help cope with withdrawal symptoms.

The Science Behind Heroin and Opioid Addiction and Withdrawal

Prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, oxycontin, codeine, and fentanyl, are potent painkillers used to relieve chronic and acute pain. These agonist drugs bind to receptors in your brain, known as opioid receptors, blocking the pain signals and, ultimately, stopping the pain sensation. They also trigger dopamine release, boosting feelings of pleasure and creating a high.

When someone taking opioids can no longer resist the urge to get back that feeling of euphoria after the drug wears off, they may develop a substance use disorder or addiction. Someone with an opioid addiction will begin to misuse their prescriptions and continuously take more of the drugs. The body eventually develops a tolerance or a physical dependence on the medicine, which means the person needs to take an even higher dose to maintain the same pleasurable effects. Sooner or later, they will develop an opioid use disorder (OUD) that may turn into illegal opioid use.

Heroin is an illegal opioid (also known as an opiate) made from morphine, another prescription opioid. It is most often injected into a vein, quickly entering the brain and producing an immediate rush. The effects can last up to five hours, but to avoid symptoms of opioid withdrawal, a regular user must take another dose every six to twelve hours.

The cravings and extreme discomfort of opiate withdrawal keep people addicted to heroin long after the pleasure of taking the drug is gone.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin is a dangerous drug, but abruptly stopping use of it can lead to serious medical complications. Variables such as dosage, length of addiction, and underlying health conditions determine the severity and type of withdrawal symptoms a person with OUD may experience.

Physical withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as six hours after the last use and continue for weeks. Behavioral symptoms, such as cravings, insomnia, depression, and anxiety, can linger for months.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Appetite changes and decreases

  • Anxiety

  • Chills

  • Cravings

  • Diarrhea

  • Excessive sweating

  • Fever

  • Insomnia

  • Muscle and joint pain

  • Runny nose

  • Watery eyes

  • Vomiting

The extreme discomfort and pain of withdrawal from opioid dependence are dangerous but also frightening and stressful. The mind and body both retaliate, making the urge to turn to heroin or other drugs for relief nearly impossible to resist, heightening the potential for an overdose. If you or a loved one are addicted to heroin, seek help immediately. The only safe way to manage withdrawal symptoms is through a treatment program that offers healthcare services and behavioral therapy.

If you have a family member or someone you care about with an OUD, make sure you have Naloxone (Narcan) on hand to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose

Opioid Detoxification and Recovery Services

Managing intense heroin withdrawal symptoms requires a multi-disciplinary approach that addresses the physical and mental toll a heroin addiction takes on a body. A licensed treatment program with inpatient or outpatient detox and drug use therapy services will help prevent a relapse.

The right treatment program will offer medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and follow-up care. Medication-assisted treatment allows doctors to administer buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone, FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorder, to manage withdrawal symptoms, blood pressure, heart rate, and mood swings.

To ensure someone with an OUD is fully supported, one-on-one therapy, family therapy, and support groups are other vital addiction recovery services necessary during the detox and withdrawal process.

Discourage friends or loved ones from using Imodium, acetaminophen, or other over-the-counter medications for at-home withdrawal symptom management. It is not recommended by medical professionals as other complications can occur. Staying hydrated and going for a walk or doing something to distract them from the discomfort of symptoms are natural, safe ways that could ease minor withdrawal discomfort.

Seek Help for Heroin Addiction

Seek help early. Heroin addiction is a dangerous, complex disease; no one should suffer alone. Caron offers a full range of addiction treatment services for individuals and their families, and we’ve helped thousands of people successfully and safely stop using heroin.

To learn more about Caron’s programs and how we can help, contact us today or call us at 1-866-559-1074.

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