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What Is Heroin Detox?
Detoxification is essential in substance use disorder treatment, especially for highly addictive opioids like heroin. While quitting “cold turkey” is possible with some substances, quitting heroin without professional support isn’t recommended.
Many addicts struggle to stay sober because heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to be intense. With inpatient or outpatient medical detox, heroin users may experience less severe withdrawal symptoms and have a better chance of successful treatment.
Why Do You Need to Detox From Heroin?
Heroin withdrawal symptoms make it hard for addicts to stay clean, as they know taking the drug again stops withdrawal symptoms.
By properly detoxing from heroin, patients don’t have to suffer through severe withdrawal symptoms alone. Many heroin rehab centers offer detox programs where a trained medical provider guides patients.
Is It Safe to Detox From Heroin at Home?
Unfortunately, detoxing from heroin at home isn’t safe. While heroin withdrawal typically isn’t life-threatening, some addicts may experience complications that can lead to death if untreated.
Aside from medical complications, withdrawal alone may worsen the potential for relapse. Detoxing in a medical setting like a treatment center ensures few complications and relapse risk.
What Happens During a Heroin Detox?
Detox is often the first step when a patient enrolls in an addiction treatment program.
During a heroin detox, patients can usually expect to have cravings and some withdrawal symptoms. However, the intensity of withdrawals and the length of the detox process will depend on the individual’s substance abuse history.
Seeking support through a medical detoxification program is strongly recommended for heroin users ready to quit.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person abusing heroin quits, withdrawal symptoms can begin as quickly as a few hours after their last use.
Depending on how much you used to take and the length of time you took it, heroin withdrawal symptoms can last 3 to 5 days—potentially up to 2 weeks.
In cases of acute withdrawal, patients may develop opioid withdrawal syndrome. Opioid withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening, so detoxing is important for overall treatment safety.
Some common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Goosebumps and chills
- Muscle aches
- Muscle spasms or cramping
- Runny nose
- Watery, dilated eyes
- Body aches
- Fast heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- High blood pressure
Treatment During Heroin Detox
Medical detox for heroin is available through both inpatient and outpatient options. Depending on the level of care you need, your doctor or healthcare provider can recommend the right approach.
Throughout heroin detox, your doctor may prescribe certain medications to lessen cravings and help ease any withdrawal discomfort. They may also recommend additional care, like supplements, to ensure your overall well-being.
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is a common and essential tool in drug addiction treatment. MAT may ease the side effects of withdrawals and help patients avoid relapse.
Many people addicted to opiates like heroin require some medications to help them through withdrawal and curb the intense cravings. Medications for heroin use disorder are safe, effective, and save lives.
FDA-approved medications for heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Suboxone (Buprenorphine and Naloxone combined)
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 9,173 people died from an overdose involving heroin in 2021. Thankfully, medications like Narcan® can save the life of someone overdosing.
Narcan® (naloxone HCI) is an easy-to-use, life-saving nasal spray that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and is available by prescription.
Fluids and Supplements
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal, like diarrhea and sweating, often deplete the body of water. In addition, people who abuse opioids often have deficiencies in calcium and magnesium.
While detoxing from heroin, drinking water or receiving IV fluids can help avoid dehydration. Taking supplements may help combat body aches and muscle pain, as well.
Supplements you may receive during heroin detox include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Follow-Up Heroin Addiction Treatment
Aside from MAT, heroin addiction treatment typically includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group therapy.
These therapies focus on identifying and changing the thought patterns that lead to drug-seeking behaviors.
After treatment, drugs like Naltrexone help ensure patients don’t relapse by blocking the euphoric and sedative effects of heroin. These medications are safe, invaluable treatment tools for long-term recovery.
Find Help for Addiction to Heroin
If you or a loved one struggles with heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms are holding you back, there are heroin detox centers ready to help.
Medical professionals at your treatment center can walk you through heroin detox and ensure you remain safe and comfortable.
Heroin Detox FAQs
Can you die from heroin withdrawal?
Heroin withdrawal usually isn’t life-threatening, but withdrawal complications or opioid withdrawal syndrome can be dangerous.
Detoxing off heroin under medical supervision at a treatment center is the best way to ensure you safely weather the withdrawal symptoms and quit abusing heroin.
How long does it take to detox from heroin?
Heroin detoxification takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on several factors like dose, frequency, and pre-existing health conditions.
Detox starts once the patient stops using heroin and lasts until withdrawal symptoms are gone.
What are the steps for heroin detox?
During heroin detox, healthcare providers first monitor the patient’s vital signs and symptoms. Then, based on these symptoms, doctors will use medications like methadone or buprenorphine to ease withdrawal symptoms.
Once withdrawal symptoms have passed, the patient can focus on therapy and relapse prevention like Naltrexone.
Where can I get help for detoxing off heroin?
What medications help with heroin detox?
The following medications are FDA-approved and commonly used to help with heroin withdrawal symptoms:
- Suboxone (Buprenorphine and Naloxone combined)