Effective Heroin Detox Methods
Heroin has been a staple on the American drug market for decades. The abuse of this drug dates back as far as the 1930s, and its use has seen peaks and valleys ever since.
More recent history has included an upturn in the use of heroin. The prescription pill epidemic of the mid-2000s gave way to the heroin epidemic, and currently, fentanyl is invading every corner of the United States.
Heroin is an extremely difficult drug to detox from because of the physical dependence associated with its abuse. The chemicals in this drug bind to receptors in the brain, rewiring the entire structure and altering the way the body processes certain signals.
Individuals who seek abstinence from heroin must undergo what’s known as heroin detox. This can be incredibly uncomfortable and often requires the presence of medical professionals.
What Is a Heroin Detox?
Heroin detox is the process in which an individual eliminates all traces of the substance from their body. This is done through complete abstinence from the drug over a period of five to seven days.
There are several important characteristics of heroin detox. Several distinct phases are included in the process, which can be quite difficult. However, completing heroin detox is rewarding for individuals suffering from substance abuse disorder and is often the most important step in recovery.
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Features of a Heroin Detox
There are several important features of a heroin detox that individuals must be aware of. The following section outlines the most significant features of this process.
- Individuals must remain free from heroin use during the entire process. Failing to maintain abstinence is known as relapse.
- During the detox process, individuals will go through withdrawal symptoms. These range in severity and are marked by several distinct phases.
- Individuals have the choice between at-home detox and medically-assisted detox.
Before identifying someone who has an issue with heroin abuse disorder, it’s vital that they’re able to identify the signs of heroin withdrawal.
Signs of Heroin Withdrawal
The following are the most significant characteristics of heroin withdrawal.
- Frequent yawning
- Water eyes
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle aches
- Increased heart rate
- Cold chills/goosebumps
The intensity and duration of heroin withdrawal depend on the length of abuse and the amount ingested. Heroin’s half-life and the amount of time it stays in a user’s system also play a role.
A heroin withdrawal timeline is an example of what to expect from detox and how long it may last. In the following section, we’ll outline a potential heroin and opiate withdrawal timeline.
Potential Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
The half-life of heroin plays a key role in the withdrawal timeline. Heroin normally stays present in a user’s urine for about three days. However, withdrawal normally begins after traces are eliminated from the blood.
Heroin’s half-life is somewhere around six hours in the human body. This means it takes about 12 hours for the drug to be completely eliminated from the blood system.
The half-life might be longer if the use was extremely heavy, depending on the amount ingested. After complete elimination, users will begin to experience the signs of withdrawal.
Stage 1 of the heroin withdrawal timeline begins 12 to 24 hours after the last use. This is also called the anticipatory phase. Users will experience anxiety in preparation for the detox process. There will also be frequent yawning, watery eyes, and possible muscle aches.
Stage 2 includes the marked presence of nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, and irritability. There will also be an intense craving for the drug. This is often the most intense period of withdrawal and lasts anywhere from two to four days.
Stage 3 begins around day four and persists until day six or seven. During this time, insomnia may continue, and fatigue and irritability.
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How Long is Heroin Detox?
Heroin detox lasts for around five to seven days in total. The total amount of time also depends on the method of administration.
Normally, users who inject heroin will experience the shortest detox period because of how fast the drug metabolizes in the body. Individuals that insufflate (snort) and smoke the drug will experience slightly longer periods of detox.
There are potential remedies for the most severe symptoms of withdrawal. This often comes in the form of certain medications prescribed during the detox period.
Heroin Withdrawal and Suboxone
Suboxone exists as a potential option during detox. The primary ingredient, buprenorphine, causes the brain to identify this substance as heroin because of the way it acts on the receptors in the brain.
Because of this reaction, Suboxone can prevent or minimize the symptoms of withdrawal. However, individuals must wait for at least 12 to 24 hours after their last use of heroin to ingest Suboxone.
Not all individuals can tolerate Suboxone being introduced into their system. Some users will experience what is known as precipitated withdrawal, which is the sudden onset of the most intense symptoms of withdrawal.
Because of this, individuals are left with two options if they participate in at-home detox. These options are either cold turkey or a heroin taper.
A heroin taper is when a user slowly decreases the amount of heroin used. Individuals will gradually consume smaller amounts until the drug can completely be abstained from. It takes an incredible amount of willpower and discipline to complete this at home, but it is a better option than the alternative.
Risks of Cold-Turkey Heroin Detox
Cold-turkey heroin detox presents significant risks for individuals who choose this method. Listed below are some of the most significant pitfalls associated with this form of detox.
- There is a high risk of relapse because of the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Individuals will engage in drug-seeking behavior in an effort to find relief from the side effects of withdrawal.
- There’s also no presence of a medical or mental health treatment team. Without these supports, individuals are highly likely to relapse.
- Prescription medications that can potentially provide relief during detox aren’t available. Primary care physicians rarely prescribe any form of relief when it comes to heroin detox. Normally, they recommend medically-assisted detox followed by some form of a treatment program.
Because of the risks listed above, choosing a medically-supervised detox may be a more suitable option. The next section will outline some of the most significant benefits of medically supervised detox.
Benefits of Medically Supervised Detox
Individuals suffering from heroin abuse disorder have much greater chances of successfully navigating recovery when choosing a medically supervised detox program. The list below contains the most important benefits of medically supervised detox.
- Access to constant monitoring by medical staff. Nurses are able to administer IV fluids to prevent dehydration. Additionally, important vital signs are monitored to ensure there are no further medical complications.
- There is support from mental health professionals during detox. This is a great source of strength and education for an individual going through this process.
- Several medications are available that may provide relief during the opiate or opioid detox process.
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Medications Used for Heroin Detox
Medications used for heroin detox include the following:
- Temporary use of antianxiety medications to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and relieve anxiety.
- Antidepressants are also prescribed to combat mood swings and feelings of depression until the brain’s chemistry goes back to normal.
- Stomach medications are prescribed to prevent nausea and vomiting. Promethazine is one of the most commonly prescribed medications during detox.
- Blood pressure options such as clonidine may also provide relief.
- Finally, muscle relaxers are also used to assist with muscle aches.
The symptoms caused by heroin withdrawal may be intense. However, you can’t die from heroin detox. It is important to remain hydrated to avoid complications involved with dehydration.
Seeking treatment following heroin detox is incredibly important. However, many individuals are concerned with the cost of this treatment. In the following section, we’ll outline the cost of heroin addiction vs. treatment.
Cost of Heroin Addiction vs Costs of Addiction Treatment
The cost of heroin addiction is incredibly high. Unfortunately, this cost isn’t always measured in monetary value.
- Individuals suffering from heroin abuse disorder often lose contact with friends and family.
- The job dynamic also suffers. Many users suffering from heroin abuse disorder will lose their job, often leading to a life of crime to fund their addiction.
- Many individuals that experience heroin abuse disorder also lose many friends. It’s not uncommon for users to experience the death of dozens of friends as a result of an overdose.
Clearly, the cost of heroin addiction is much greater than the cost of treatment. Currently, there are options for insurance for every citizen within the United States. All of these insurance options cover some form of treatment for substance abuse disorder.
Even in cases when individuals don’t have insurance, there are state-funded rehabs. Grants are also available to cover the cost of treatment in these cases.
After heroin detox, there are several treatment options to choose from. The right decision must be made to promote long-term recovery.
Residential Treatment Following Detox from Heroin
Once a heroin detox is complete, it’s crucial that treatment options are available immediately to promote a healthy recovery. There are normally two primary courses of action when it comes to continuing treatment after detox.
Inpatient treatment includes clients taking up residence in a facility for a period of 30, 60, or 90 days. There are significant highlights and advantages to choosing inpatient treatment, which is highlighted below.
- Access to dual-diagnosis treatment is important during inpatient rehab. Dual-diagnosis treatment is the process of identifying and treating underlying mental health conditions associated with heroin abuse disorder. Mental health challenges involved with heroin abuse include anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. Psychologists work with clients to get to the root of substance abuse disorder during treatment. Talk therapy and other methods are used to educate clients and prevent the chances of a relapse.
- An efficient diet plan is available at many inpatient treatment programs. It’s important that clients have access to an efficient and healthy diet to promote physical and mental wellness. Certain vitamins and minerals are helpful during treatment, and dietician specialists can craft plans that provide these resources.
- The ability to engage with peers who are going through the same ordeal is extremely important. Group meetings headed by mental health specialists allow time for discussion and questions.
- Additionally, resources are made available to promote aftercare services and continued treatment. This includes options for primary care and mental health specialist appointments and locations for NA and other 12-step programs.
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Outpatient treatment has benefits, but significant pitfalls and risks are also associated.
- Individuals may continue a normal work and home life. Outpatient treatment meetings must be attended at a facility of the individual’s choice. These meetings are normally conducted daily, so there must be options for travel.
- Strong willpower is required to complete outpatient treatment. There are always significant risks of relapse involved because of environmental triggers. It’s important that individuals stay away from elements of temptation or acquaintances that may give them access to heroin.
Depending on your situation’s specifics, one of these treatment options should be suitable for you. However, long-term recovery from opiates doesn’t stop there. Aftercare services are also vital for recovery.
Long-term Recovery from Opiates is Possible
Continued attention to mental health and attending group meetings are crucial for a successful recovery. Individuals should find primary care mental health professionals once rehab is complete. Additionally, participation in group meetings and 12-step recovery programs or their alternatives is also important.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we have experience assisting individuals to recover from opiate abuse disorder. We provide referrals for medically-assisted detox, top-tier inpatient rehab, and outpatient rehab services to meet your needs.
All of the important elements mentioned above are available in our programs. We provide a holistic treatment approach to healing with an environment conducive to recovery.
We also provide several resources for aftercare services and continued treatment. If you or someone you know is suffering from heroin abuse disorder or struggling with other opiates, we encourage you to contact one of our admissions specialists at Icarus Behavioral Health. They’re happy to answer any questions and address concerns regarding all of our treatment options.