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Understanding Heroin Withdrawal and Detox

October 31, 2017
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Among the many drugs that are misused and are considered to be dangerous for your health, heroin tops the list. Essentially a semi synthesized opioid, Heroin is extremely addictive and is banned almost everywhere in the world. A little too much of the drug may cause an overdose, which might prove to be fatal.

Having a very strong rush and ‘high’, it is very famous among the addicts. It is also popular because of the little time it takes to get the individual under its effect, as heroin crosses blood/brain barrier quickly and stays for long periods of time. The drug is misused by either injecting it in your bloodstream, sniffing it or simply smoking it up. It is considered to be highly addictive, which essentially means that an individual who is using it for a couple of days can easily get addicted to the drug. Also, the drug has the same effect as morphine, relieving the individual of pain, hence it is also called a “blissful apathy.”

Opioid misuse is a new epidemic in the United States.  For the first time in history, the number of drug overdose deaths and opiate overdose death have surpassed motor vehicle deaths.  As per a report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 there were approximately 32,000 deaths caused by auto accidents.  That same year, drug-induced deaths claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 people and that number is growing exponentially. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 114 people die a day because of drugs. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. with almost 140 people dying from it every day. The report also states how opioid usage, especially heroin misuse has out-paced all other causes of death like suicide, homicide, car crashes, and firearms deaths.

Brought in the U.S, heroin is smuggled in from bordering countries like Mexico, or from countries like Afghanistan, China and several other countries via smugglers and their tightly woven networks. The most famous among them being MS-13, a gang that is famous for smuggling and distribution of drugs in the U.S. The group is considered to have its foundation in China, and a fight against this criminal gang, its removal from the streets and have them behind bars is one of the agendas of President Donald Trump.

Heroin was essentially used as medication until it was banned in the U.S. in 1924, as the doctors had a better understanding of its adverse effects on the human body. Heroin use could be potentially fatal and its adverse effects are just not limited to the body, but it causes a disruption in the lives of those around the individual misusing the drug. It affects and impacts the family, friends, the judiciary systems and all of the society as one.

It is one drug that is being misused irrespective of the age and gender classifications, so much so it has also surpassed the income barrier. A study showed the comparison of heroin use with all the demographics, comparing the data of the year 2004 to the recent trends. The study showed that there was a 50 percent increase in women who misused heroin from 2014, whereas a 100 percent increase in men, similarly it was being used in all the income groups with a similar increase of an average of 65 percent from the previous data. The study also revealed that though all age groups were involved, it was most popular among young adults from age 14 to 25.

The Withdrawal Process

The process of withdrawal indicates the earliest stages when an individual stops misusing any drug. The process of withdrawal in heroin addicts is considered to be extremely difficult and painful. Among those who study the withdrawal process in heroin addicts, found that most of the patients commented that the process was extremely painful no matter how early they tried to leave the misuse of heroin.

The process of withdrawal could show the following symptoms:

  • Nausea: the most common symptom is that of nausea. Not using Heroin for even 5 hours, could cause the individual severe nausea.
  • Anxiety and Agitation: The next visible change that an individual may go through, is suffer from severe agitation and anxiety, it is also reported that several of the patients suffer from deep depression and are highly agitated.
  • Muscle ache and spasms: The patients also complain of severe muscle pain that they experience everywhere in their body. Also, they suffer from muscle spasms, where they have involuntary muscle movements that are mostly described as jerks or spasms. These spasms are mostly in the leg muscles, hence described as involuntary kicking movements.
  • Sweating and insomnia: The patient also sweats profusely and the sweat is often described as ‘cold sweat’. The patients also complain about the inability to sleep. They suffer from severe insomnia and are constantly up, though they do experience yawning at unusually frequent intervals.
  • Diarrhea and upset stomach: The patient suffers from diarrhea and may experience vomiting too. They may also feel dehydrated and may need full attention and need to be re-hydrated.
  • Cravings for Drugs and Relapse: The individual going through the withdrawal process could experience extreme urges to misuse the drug. They might also feel the need to continue doing the drug and might fall into relapse. Their attempts might get violent and hence proper help should be sought, especially from rehabilitation centers or from the MAT – Medically Assisted Treatment for opioid.

Caring for a person that is going through the process of withdrawal, tends to be an extremely difficult job, and mostly one might find themselves helpless in terms of watching their loved one suffer like this. It is hence advised that proper professional help is utilized in order to help the individual recover from the withdrawal process of heroin misuse. Professional assistance could be availed at various rehabilitation centers, and at the Medically Assisted Treatment – MAT providers for those who are addicted to heroin. There are other detox centers too, which one could seek help from, but it is not recommended as they use substitutes for heroin as a treatment method which takes longer for a person to recover and the chances of the individual to go back to misuse the drug are higher still.

The process of withdrawal usually takes up a period of ranging from a week to 2 weeks. It still needs to be taken care of, as they might want to re-use the drug. The individual may also suffer from depression which may further trigger the need to use the drug. Also, the individual needs to be monitored so that they don’t misuse any other substance to eliminate the need for heroin.

The Role of MAT in the Rehabilitation of a Heroin Addict Individual

MAT or Medically Assisted Treatment is a combination of drug and behavioral treatment techniques that helps an addict to recover and live their lives without drugs. The treatment was specially designed by understanding their needs and their conditions in order to best facilitate them and make the recovery and withdrawal process easier for them.

The MAT helps the patient recover from the hardships of withdrawal with ease, and comfort. The patient is in much more comfort and all his discomfort is taken care of with medical help. Also, the MAT uses drugs in their treatment to calm the patient and ease their detox process all the while keeping a firm check that the patient is not getting addicted to the drugs provided to ease his discomfort.

The patient is also treated with loads of behavioral therapy that helps them with their depression and helps them realize the discomfort that they are causing their loved ones and friends around them and how they can lead positive and contented life without the help of drugs and substance abuse.

Once the Detox or withdrawal process is complete it is necessary that some major changes are made in the individual’s life and that he is motivated in his life and strives towards a satisfied contended life. This could be done by behavioral therapy by professionals and by the help, support, and care of their families and friends.




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