How to Handle Heroin Withdrawal (plus 5 helpful tips)

Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive drug processed from morphine, which is naturally derived from the seeds of poppy plants. Heroin addiction has increased over time and it is imperative that the issue be addressed immediately and users aided in the process of recovery. However, heroin withdrawal is difficult to undergo, making the drug quite hard to quit. People must be informed about the impacts of heroin on their health and the need to get sober, in addition to what to expect from withdrawal and the tools they can utilize during treatment.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin Withdrawal symptoms timelineCurbing heroin addiction is not an easy task. Rates of relapse are relatively high as users are often ill-equipped to deal with the uncomfortable phases of withdrawal. Frequently they are trying to quit on their own without knowing what lies ahead. Withdrawal from heroin addiction is fast acting and may begin within hours the drug was last used. More extreme symptoms usually peak between a day or two and takes about a week to gradually subside. Florida House believes there needs to be a greater awareness of the signs of withdrawal to better cope and they include:

  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”)
  • Uncontrollable leg movements (“kicking the habit”)

Withdrawal varies individual to individual and is dependent on the amount of substances taken. Some may experience lasting signs of withdrawal for several months after having taken the drug. Others may develop heroin use disorder due to continued use of the drug. Heroin use disorder is a chronic disease where those struggling with heroin addiction fall into a long-term pattern of relapse. They have an uncontrollable craving for the drug and will obtain it by any means necessary. It becomes the singular purpose of their lives and demonstrates the necessity to quit immediately before waiting for withdrawal to worsen. No matter how one administers heroin, the drug remains extremely addictive. Injection and smoking, however, get it faster to the brain than other methods and so heroin use disorder is more common if the drugs are used in that way.

Heroin is an opiate drug as it is derived from morphine which comes from the seeds of poppy plants. When used it suppresses blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, and the regulation of body temperature due to its tendency to depress the central nervous system. It gives individuals a feeling of euphoria upon binding to opioid receptors in the brain. Increased doses of heroin leads to greater feelings of pleasure, hence the prevalence of heroin addiction where addicts are constantly trying to replicate their highs. When withdrawal takes place, the effects of heroin are completely reversed. The user can experience depression, rapid heart rate, and anxiety. There may even be respiratory complications if one chose to smoke it. But after months or years have gone by without doses of heroin, the withdrawal begins to fade significantly.

5 Ways to Deal with Heroin Addiction

  1. Attend a medical detox program: This is perhaps one of the best ways to deal with withdrawal. Find a detox program that lasts for around a week and offers supervision and medical aid to deal with heroin addiction 24/7. Some places offer medications that can help to minimize the cravings for drugs and emotional support to ensure you are not a danger to yourself or anyone around you. Lofexidine is FDA approved and a non-opioid medicine created to reduce the intensity of opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine and methadone bind to the same receptors in the brain as heroin, but the bond is weaker and so cravings are lessened. Naltrexone, on the other hand, blocks those receptors and restricts the effects of opioids. Florida House utilizes many of these methods, in addition to others, to provide a medical detox catered to your individual needs.
  2. How to combat heroin withdrawal with exercisePhysical fitness: Exercise allows for the release of endorphins to the brain that can restore a chemical balance to the body that was previously upset by the drug. It alleviates stress, anxiety, tension, and restlessness, which are all symptoms of withdrawal, and thus induces better sleep for the user. Sleep is integral to maintaining emotional health and to help the body recover from injuries due to drug use. Proper rest allows for better cognitive functioning, which makes for improved maintenance of moods and cravings. Keeping an active lifestyle also contributes to greater body positivity that will boost self-esteem. In an article in the International Journal on Drug Policy, research found that many people struggling with heroin addiction find exercise enjoyable and that it can also reverse the cardiovascular damage caused by the drug.
  3. Remain hydrated: A feeling of dehydration is common amongst people experiencing withdrawal. Often times, thirst is mistaken for drug cravings and so making sure that you drink enough water will help to reduce such slight misunderstandings that could cause a relapse into heroin addiction.
  4. Eat properly: Having a balanced and nutritious diet is a major aspect of drug recovery. Proteins, essential vitamins, and nutrients replenish the body and repair brain health so that both can function regularly again. Today’s Dietician found in a series of studies that almost fifty percent of people observed who were dealing with addiction have some type of vitamin or iron deficiency. More often than not, drug use is unaccompanied by other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Engaging in more beneficial habits can prevent you from reliving your past and triggering those feelings of being unwell. Eating cleanly has also been shown to improve mood and reduce instances of irritability, depression, anxiety, and frustration. Having a positive outlook is key to treatment.
  5. Maintain healthy communication: It is important to remember that you are not the only one dealing with heroin addiction. Addiction, recovery, and treatment involves all of your family and friends. They are the people that care the most about you in the entire world and want nothing more than to see you overcome your addiction. Rehabilitation would not be complete without having open and constant channels of discussion with not only them but counselors and therapists as well. Speaking by itself is a form of treatment because it allows you to verbalize everything you are feeling and experiencing during withdrawal. You can get second opinions and establish ways of dealing with emotions through talking. However, you must never prolong toxic relationships with individuals that may have triggered your drug use in the first place or impede your progress.

Getting Treatment for Heroin

While the withdrawal symptoms of quitting heroin are difficult, Florida House knows that sobriety is not only entirely possible, it has been accomplished by many others before you. Treatment and support are readily available at all our locations and with proven detox programs. If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, please speak with a member of our team of highly trained and compassionate individuals at (844) 299-0618 for further help.

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