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Heroin Detox

Detox Is An Important Step

One of the biggest concerns for someone who is addicted to heroin and who wants to get clean is the detoxification process. The stories are well-circulated — heroin detox is tough and it’s not something anyone wants to have to go through. There is good news, however, and hope for those struggling with heroin addiction: detox can be made much easier and less painful with the right kind of help.

Heroin Addiction Today 

Heroin addiction is a rising problem in America today. An epidemic that was created by the large numbers of prescription painkiller abusers and opiate addicts, heroin addiction has crept up in communities where it was not expected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • In 2016, nearly 948,000 people in the United States (12-years old or older) reported using heroin in the past year, which is an estimated rate of 0.4 per 100 persons.
  • In 2015, 81,326 emergency department visits occurred for unintentional, heroin-related poisonings in America, which is an estimated rate of almost 26 per 100,000 people.

Today, heroin is known for being extremely dangerous and causing problems in lives in every community in America. Overdose rates have skyrocketed in recent years, and according to the CDC:

  • In 2016, almost 15,500 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin in the United States, a rate of almost 5 deaths for every 100,000 Americans.
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths increased five-fold from 2010 to 2016.
  • From 2015 to 2016, heroin overdose death rates increased by almost 20 percent.
  • In 2016, males aged 25-44 had the highest heroin death rate at 15.5 per 100,000, which was an increase of 17.4% from 2015.

Heroin is an addicting substance, and users who experiment with it even once often find they have cravings for more. Once hooked, it is nearly impossible to recover without the help of a professional detox and rehab program.

Signs of Heroin Abuse 

Heroin addiction is not something that can be hidden well for very long. Soon after becoming dependent, the individual will start to lose control of their lives and behaviors, and family and friends usually notice there is a problem. Heroin impacts the reward center of the brain, causing the release of dopamine which results in feelings of pleasure and euphoria. As the person continues using and becoming dependent on this drug, they need more and more heroin to feel the same effects. A result is a person who exhibits major drug-seeking behavior, and lack of commitment in most other areas of life.

According to the NIDA, signs of heroin addiction include:

Short-Term Effects. People who use heroin report feeling a “rush” (a surge of pleasure, or euphoria). However, there are other common effects, including:

  • dry mouth
  • warm flushing of the skin
  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe itching
  • clouded mental functioning
  • going "on the nod," a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious

Long-Term Effects. People who use heroin over the long term may develop:

  • insomnia
  • collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • infection of the heart lining and valves
  • abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • constipation and stomach cramping
  • liver and kidney disease
  • lung complications, including pneumonia
  • mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
  • sexual dysfunction for men
  • irregular menstrual cycles for women

Signs of Heroin Withdrawal 

If an individual who is addicted to heroin stops using, they quickly face withdrawal symptoms. These are most commonly described as flu-like symptoms including muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shakes, fever, sweating, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. All of these make the user uncomfortable, and along with intense cravings to use, heroin withdrawal symptoms prevent many from walking away from the drug.

The first signs of heroin withdrawal occur as early as 6 hours after the last dose. New symptoms usually develop over days 1 and 2, with the intensity peaking at about 5 to 7 days. As the week goes on, symptoms finally begin to taper off, usually after day 7, although some people continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

With the right kind of help, however, heroin detox becomes much easier and manageable. Medications can be use used to that minimize symptoms and speed up the process.

Managing Heroin Detox Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal itself is not usually dangerous, but if symptoms are not managed, complications can arise that are dangerous and even life-threatening. If the person becomes severely dehydrated, or if they aspirate stomach contents during vomiting, the person’s health can be at risk. For this reason, heroin withdrawal should not be attempted alone and is best done under the supervision of trained professionals. Supervised medication-assisted detox is recommended for heroin withdrawal.

Heroin detox should not be something that is feared, and it shouldn’t keep anyone from seeking help for their addiction. Today, there are a variety of medications available that will dramatically help a person through their opioid detox.

Suboxone Assisted Heroin Addiction Recovery 

Medication-assisted treatment at The Ridge means you don’t have to worry about withdrawal because we will help you through it. One of the main medications we use is suboxone, which is a combination of medications that work together to reduce symptoms and prevent further heroin abuse. One of the benefits of suboxone is that it does not produce a high, so it has a low risk of abuse. It is safer than many medications previously used, like methadone, and it has less risk for overdose. The biggest benefit is it eliminates withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It is given once a day to the patient in treatment and eventually, the goal is to taper off of this medication.

Suboxone is made up of buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Buprenorphine is a long-acting medication, staying in the brain for 24 hours. It sticks in the brain’s opioid receptors, meaning other drugs, like heroin, have no effect on the person. If the person would try to use heroin, they would not get high. But they also don’t feel the strong need to use heroin, because buprenorphine is taking its place and preventing detox symptoms. The naloxone component of suboxone prevents the medication from being abused. If a person tries to crush and snort or inject suboxone, the naloxone in it will trigger a fast and severe withdrawal, leading to rapid symptoms of aches, pains, nausea, and headache. Naloxone is a safeguard against abuse of suboxone.

Other medications are often also used during detox to help speed up the process or keep the person safe and comfortable. Medications are given that reduce pain, calm anxiety, eliminate nausea, help the person sleep, and manage depression. When used in combination under the supervision of an experienced professional, the individual in recovery cam successfully make it through detox without any problems.

Therapy and Detox

During detox and afterward, a major concern is a relapse. Even after the person has successfully gone through the withdrawal process, they will still face intense cravings to use heroin. This side effect of addiction can last for weeks and months after the person’s past drug use. The best way to manage cravings is for the person to participate in therapy, counseling, and support group sessions.

The benefit of detoxing at an addiction treatment facility is the staff is equipped to help clients manage cravings and their second thoughts about getting clean. During detox, clients are immersed in a positive atmosphere that provides encouragement, healing, and motivation to remain sober. Surrounded by caring and compassionate staff, encouraging peers, and even family members, the person in recovery will stay with the program and put in the work needed to succeed in recovery. Early recovery programs are designed to motivate the individual going through the toughest days of detox, reminding them why they are there and helping them see the long-term big picture of a life without drugs.

Residential and Outpatient Treatment after Detox

Once the individual has finished detox, it is important that they continue in a treatment program that will support them and walk them through the rest of the recovery process. Residential treatment is the natural next step. This stage of treatment was designed to provide the individual with around-the-clock supervision in a safe facility where there is no access to drugs or alcohol. During residential treatment, the individual is able to forget about their past life and its temptations and struggles, and focus on healing and recovery. Intensive one-on-one therapy sessions with a professional are part of residential treatment, as well as group therapy, family therapy, and physical exercise and healthy nutrition. The person in residential treatment will learn about their addiction and how to address issues in their past, as well as develop skills to live a life that is physically, mentally, and spiritually stable in the future.

The next phase of heroin recovery is outpatient treatment when the individual leaves the treatment facility to return home, but still participates regularly in therapy and counseling sessions. As the person becomes more stable in their sobriety and is at less risk for immediate relapse, they can begin to resume parts of their normal life, such as living at home again, returning to work, and getting involved with activities they once participated in. However, regular attendance at therapy is a must during this phase of heroin recovery, and the continued support of treatment professionals, family, and peers in recovery are still vital. If the newly clean individual finds life to be too overwhelming at this point, they are encouraged to step back again and focus more on their recovery. Each person is different and should go through recovery at his or her own pace.

Long-Term Care for Success 

Finally, after heroin detox, residential treatment, and outpatient therapy, the person recovering from heroin addiction should continue with a long-term relapse prevention plan. This usually consists of occasional therapy sessions and regular support group participation. Because the individual should have built a support system during and after rehab, they now have friends and professionals in place they can count on to help them remain sober. Surrounding oneself with positive influences that will help hold each other accountable is one of the best ways to ensure success in recovery.

Heroin Detox and Treatment at The Ridge 

Heroin detox is an important first step to recovery from this dangerous drug. The Ridge is a residential treatment center that specializes in medication-assisted heroin detox, and we also provide the ongoing therapy and support individuals need to ensure success. Our facility offers the highest level of care, and our high-end amenities help keep our clients comfortable and happy. We use a variety of therapy methods for recovery, and we offer customized treatment in order to provide the care each individual requires.

Do you have a loved one who may need heroin detox?

See our comprehensive family guide: Helping a Loved One or Family Member with Addiction

Get Help Today!
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