If you’re addicted to heroin, you have probably thought about getting professional help. You may be feeling very alone. However, heroin addiction occurs in all walks of life. It’s not a character flaw. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Addiction to heroin is best handled by addiction medicine specialists. You will find these professionals in any quality substance abuse treatment center. This article will help you to learn about medical detox for heroin addiction. It’s important to educate yourself as much as you can. This is true whether the addiction concerns you or someone close to you. There is always hope.
Heroin is an opium derivative. It can be snorted, smoked, swallowed or injected. Many heroin addicts prefer to inject the drug directly into a vein. This method uses the smallest amount of product while delivering the rush, or intense feeling of euphoria, that users seek most of all.
Injection is dangerous because street heroin is produced in illicit, makeshift laboratories. Little attention is paid to quality control or sanitary precautions. This means that the finished product is not medically suitable for injection. It may contain bacteria that can cause endocarditis, which is an infection of one or more of the heart’s four valves. These valves are involved in sending vital oxygen-carrying blood to all parts of your body. Damaged heart valves can result in debilitating illness and death.
Street heroin may also be contaminated with toxins. It’s often cut with fentanyl by greedy dealers. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid at least 30 times stronger than heroin. It’s not uncommon for heroin users to overdose and die from the inadvertent intake of fentanyl.
Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal
Addiction to heroin will result in a withdrawal syndrome if the drug is suddenly stopped. Withdrawal is painful and extremely unpleasant. In fact, addicts who have experienced it will universally avoid it at all costs. It’s a main reason why many people remain addicted. The prospect of withdrawal is enough to instill terror in the bravest person.
Symptoms generally start with anxiety and then build up from there over time. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscle, joint and bone pain
- Severe diarrhea
- Stomach pain
- Extreme lethargy and weakness
Symptoms may persist for anywhere from 10 days to several weeks or more, depending upon the individual, the dosage, the route of administration, the frequency of use and the overall length of time the drug was used.
Medical Heroin Detox Protocol
If you have experienced heroin withdrawal yourself, you probably have an intense fear of it. You need to know that you shouldn’t let this fear stop you from going to substance abuse treatment. Medical detox uses medications that will keep you comfortable as your body withdraws from the heroin. Some common medications include the following:
- Muscle relaxers
- Clonidine, a beta blocker
Medication protocols, just like treatment plans, are highly individualized. Everyone is different. If you’re not getting sufficient withdrawal relief, speak up. Your medications can be adjusted. During heroin detox, you should not be in any kind of significant pain. You should be able to eat and drink fairly normally. You should be able to sleep, although you cannot yet expect the normal sleep patterns you once had before you became addicted. It will take time for your brain to heal and restore its correct balance of neurotransmitters. Brain chemistry cannot normalize itself overnight.
People with drug addictions are more likely to have a concurrent form of mental disorder, such as depression, than the general population. A quality substance abuse treatment center will screen you for a possible dual diagnosis during your comprehensive intake interview. If a mental disorder is suspected, you may receive special medications to treat your condition. This is very helpful. A client with an untreated mental condition will find it much harder to cope with and overcome their addiction than someone who doesn’t have a mental disorder issue. In fact, their condition may well have contributed to their addiction in the first place.
Here is some detailed information about the medications named above:
Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, is a partial narcotic medication that quells withdrawal symptoms by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors just enough to produce relief. It curbs drug cravings, too. It works very well for some people but not so well for others.
Methadone is a full narcotic that also attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors. However, it does this more efficiently than buprenorphine does. Methadone will reliably stop opioid withdrawal symptoms in just about everyone, including those not helped by buprenorphine. Methadone is highly effective at controlling drug cravings.
With both buprenorphine and methadone, the drugs’ dosage is gradually reduced over the detox period. One oral dose is sufficient for 24 hours.
Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety and hypnotic medications related to Valium. Other common brand names are Xanax, Dalmane, Halcion, Tranxene and Ativan. They will help with severe anxiety and insomnia.
Muscle relaxants, such as Robaxin and Flexeril, may help the restless leg syndrome and tremors that can occur during withdrawal.
Beta blockers are drugs normally used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart conditions. Clonidine works exceptionally well. By blocking the body’s adrenalin receptors, it eases withdrawal symptoms considerably for many people. It also causes profound drowsiness, which may be a desirable side effect for a client with insomnia. The detox period may last anywhere from a week to several weeks in total.
How to Get Help
Never let fear of withdrawal stop you from seeking help. A quality treatment center will be sure to keep you as comfortable as possible. If you’re ready to seek help, you have only to call us at 866-802-6848. We are professional counselors, and we are available 24 hours a day. We can help direct you to the best facility for your needs. We help people every day, and we look forward to helping you.