Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin Withdrawal

Years ago, I was involved in a car accident that left me with some injuries that continued to linger. Eventually, I was prescribed painkillers to combat the pain.

I was physically hurting — every single day. I needed something for relief, and the painkillers I’d been prescribed just weren’t getting the job done anymore.

I remember talking to a guy at a party about my situation. He seemed to understand. It was the first time I’d actually talked to someone who could relate to me.

He had a similar issue, but he’d been in a work-related accident. He told me about the one thing he found that had given him the sense of comfort he needed: heroin.

I looked at his arms; I saw the trail of red bumps from his most recent uses. I knew the dangers of heroin, but I was so stuck on just getting rid of the pain that I eventually tried it.

For a while, it worked. But I noticed my life slowly started to break into pieces. I was losing my family, friends, and my job. Every time I tried to quit, I felt sick — so sick — to the point where I ended up using heroin again to just ease how ill I was feeling.

In hindsight, I was going through withdrawal. And that made it so much harder to get sober. It wasn’t until I received professional treatment that I was able to leave heroin behind.

If you’re reading this, please understand that recovery is possible. Learn from my experience, and let it serve as an example that just because you fall, that doesn’t mean you can’t get up.

What Is Heroin?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.”

Heroin is typically injected, snorted, or smoked. It’s also often mixed with other drugs, most notably crack cocaine in a combination that’s referred to as a speedball.

In 2018, there were 778 deaths involving heroin in the state of California. Even one is far too many, so there’s still much work to be done. 

The NIH also explains, ”Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.”

These are just a few of the reasons why heroin can be so addictive and appealing to people. Not only does it act quickly, but it provides a sense of euphoria (pleasure) once it enters the system, not to mention pain relief.

In the short-term, heroin can cause:

  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itchiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Problems thinking
  • Falling in and out of consciousness (being awake)

Long-term effects include:

  • Collapsed veins from injecting
  • Insomnia (not being able to fall or stay asleep)
  • Damaged nose tissue from snorting
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramping
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Mental health disorders
  • Lung problems from smoking
  • Infection of heart lining and valves

Heroin use can also lead to addiction and overdose. If you are addicted to heroin, it can be difficult to leave it behind without professional treatment. You may experience withdrawal, which occurs when you regularly use heroin but abruptly stop. This can be dangerous.

Identifying Heroin Withdrawal

Since heroin is an opioid, it can cause physical addiction. That physical addiction can also lead to withdrawal when the drug isn’t consumed.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Opioids can cause physical dependence. This means that a person relies on the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Over time, more of the drug is needed for the same effect. This is called drug tolerance. How long it takes to become physically dependent varies with each person. When the person stops taking the drugs, the body needs time to recover. This causes withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from opiates can occur any time long-term use is stopped or cut back.”

Signs of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dilated pupils (black centers of the eyes enlarged)
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Symptoms of withdrawal usually begin to occur within 12 hours of the last use. Other opioids may cause similar withdrawal effects.

In order to address heroin withdrawal, medications may be given in a treatment center. These medications, along with therapy, can help ease withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of obtaining and maintaining sobriety. It’s also important to seek a professional medical detox to eliminate all the toxins from your system. Going “cold turkey” on your own is dangerous and not recommended.

What Is Heroin Detox?

Heroin detox is typically the first step taken on the road to recovery.

Detoxing from heroin without the supervision of a medical professional can be difficult to manage. In a lot of cases, people who have withdrawal symptoms end up returning to heroin because the symptoms can be so uncomfortable.

At a detox facility, a trained medical staff will monitor progress and vital signs as heroin leaves the body. Medications may also be given to help ease the effects of withdrawal.

In some cases, those addicted to heroin might be malnourished, which is why introducing healthy foods to the body is also an important part of the detox process. Good nutrition also helps with healing the brain and body.

Detox usually lasts anywhere from seven-10 days. When you arrive at the detox center, medical staff will perform a medical evaluation to make sure the detox is as comfortable as possible.

The Impact of Co-Occurring Disorders

There are many reasons why someone may turn to heroin. It could be because they are attempting to numb themselves or forget about the problems they’re facing in their life, including mental health disorders.

A person is said to have co-occurring disorders when they have the combination of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD), such as heroin addiction. This is common and often found during the professional treatment process.

The National Institute of Mental Health says, “Researchers have found that about half of individuals who experience a SUD during their lives will also experience a co-occurring mental disorder and vice versa. Co-occurring disorders can include anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia, among others.”

There are currently three possibilities as to why these conditions co-occur. For example, one theory in particular is that common risk factors contribute to both mental health and substance use disorders, such as both being tied to genetics (inborn traits passed down from generation to generation).

Another theory is that mental health disorders contribute to substance use disorders. Because people with mental health disorders may seek an escape from their troubles, they may turn to substances like heroin to “self-medicate.”

Finally, substance use disorders may contribute to mental health disorders since they may cause changes in how the brain operates.

Signs of Addiction

Addiction may look different for everyone, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for various symptoms.

Here are a few signs of addiction to look out for:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Abandoning responsibilities at work, school, or at home
  • Problems with the law
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drop in attendance at work or school
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings
  • Mental health disorders
  • Strong cravings for heroin
  • Inability to stop using heroin despite wanting to
  • Taking larger amounts of heroin just to feel its effects
  • Continuing to use heroin despite the health issues caused by it
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using heroin

If any of these symptoms are noticed, addiction may be a real possibility. Seeking professional treatment can effectively treat the condition and launch a healthy path to recovery.

Don’t Let Heroin Control Your Life

“It was so risky and so scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Maybe the truth was, it shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder — if not impossible — to lose.”

— Sarah Dessen

Heroin doesn’t have to control your life. In fact, you’re better off without it. Right now, it may seem like you’re alone, fighting addiction with no one by your side. However, you should know that there’s always someone available to help.

At some point, we all need someone to point us in the right direction, which is why you should never hesitate to ask for help. Asking for help takes strength and courage. While your situation is unique, remember, other people have overcome heroin addiction. It is possible.

The first step on the road to recovery may be difficult. You may even feel like you want to give up. But you are stronger than you know. In the end, you’ll be glad you didn’t give up. There is more to life than heroin, and you deserve to experience it all.

Call Pathways Recovery Today

Pathways Recovery provides three levels of heroin addiction treatment solutions for those battling heroin addiction, including a detox center, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient treatment.

The facility is designed to provide the best possible experience for clients as they work toward recovery. Pathways Recovery’s master’s-level clinicians and staff will work tirelessly to make sure each client is safe and well taken care of.

The detox center provides medically assisted detoxification for those who need it. Our clients will be supported through this entire process with a qualified team available to provide supervision for safety and peace of mind.

After the detox process, clients will enter the residential program to begin the healing process. Pathways Recovery treatment programs are tailored to the unique needs of each client.

Therapy sessions are designed to get to the root cause of addiction, psychiatry is used to focus on undiagnosed mental health disorders, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available if the client needs it. MAT helps to stabilize the brain’s chemistry and body functions. It shuts off the euphoric effects of opioids and helps the body carefully move away from feelings of cravings.

The third and final part of the process is intensive outpatient treatment, which is perfect for clients transitioning from their residential stay. With three weekly group sessions available, clients can remain connected to the recovery process.

Pathways Recovery, located in Roseville, California, near Sacramento, can give you the treatment you need. If you need heroin rehab, we’re here for you. To learn more, call 916-251-0381

Frequently Asked Questions

What is heroin detox?

Detox is typically the first step taken on the road to recovery. Detoxing from heroin without the supervision of a medical professional can be difficult to manage. In a lot of cases, people who have withdrawal symptoms end up returning to heroin because the symptoms can be so uncomfortable. At a detox facility, a trained medical staff will monitor progress and vital signs as heroin leaves the body. Medications may also be given to help ease the effects of withdrawal.

What are the long-term effects of heroin use?

Long-term effects include:

  • Collapsed veins from injecting
  • Insomnia (not being able to fall or stay asleep)
  • Damaged nose tissue from snorting
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramping
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Mental health disorders
  • Lung problems from smoking
  • Infection of heart lining and valves

Heroin use can also lead to addiction and overdose. If you are addicted to heroin, it can be difficult to leave it behind without professional treatment. You may experience withdrawal, which occurs when you regularly use heroin but abruptly stop. This can be dangerous.

What are co-occurring disorders?

A person is said to have co-occurring disorders when they have the combination of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD), such as heroin addiction. This is common and often found during the professional treatment process. Co-occurring disorders can include anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia, among others.

Pathways Recovery