At Denver Recovery Center, we are committed to helping our clients find their new beginnings. We understand that many people addicted to a substance such as heroin may be scared to start treatment. This might sound odd for someone unfamiliar with the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms experienced when a person is addicted to heroin.
If you have an addiction, you have probably experienced withdrawal whenever you haven’t had access to the drug, tried to stop on your own, were in a situation that prevented you from taking heroin, or have been in a detox facility before.
It’s common knowledge that withdrawal is an unpleasant, sometimes painful experience. Ask any heavy coffee drinker what missing their morning java is like, and you’ll hear about terrible headaches and lousy concentration. Fear of withdrawal is a much more profound force for anyone with an addiction to a drug like heroin. Yet, there are ways of managing heroin withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin Drug Use Stems From Poppy Plant
Heroin has its roots in morphine, which is naturally occurring in some opium poppy plants indigenous to southern areas of Asia, Colombia, and Mexico. In its black tar form, it is mixed with water and injected intravenously. As a brown or white powder, it is cut with diphenhydramine (which is commonly found in children’s allergy medicine) and snorted. You may recall there were many restrictions put on sales for these items in the past 15 years.
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid, and it might be interesting to know the word “opioid” wasn’t even a term before the 1950s.
What Are the Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?
Before jumping into the treatments for heroin withdrawal, it is important to know the multiple heroin withdrawal symptoms. Let’s start with those who took smaller doses of heroin less frequently.
Their withdrawal symptoms likely include
- nausea and cramps
- sweats and chills
- runny nose
For those who took larger doses of heroin often, the withdrawal symptoms are more severe. They frequently experience the above symptoms, as well as the following:
- poor concentration
The withdrawal symptoms most people fear are those that come from chronic use of heroin. People in this category can anticipate withdrawal symptoms like
- high blood pressure
- muscle spasms
- intense cravings
Regarding withdrawal cravings, this symptom can be so intense during withdrawal that people are strongly at risk of relapsing to heroin use. The intent might not even be to experience the drug’s high, but simply to stop the cravings, which are very gripping.
The most dangerous withdrawal symptoms aren’t the physical symptoms, but the psychological ones. Heroin withdrawal often creates severe depression. That puts a person at much greater risk of suicide.
For the best medical, emotional, and psychological support, an inpatient detox center is highly recommended so a person can safely be monitored with blood pressure checks during this stage. They can begin to gain their physical strength and build a healthy diet, as well as be made comfortable by some medications and IV treatments to ease their withdrawal discomfort.
Time at a drug detox center is a starting point to build strength and move up to substance use treatment programs and support.
Why Treat Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms With Medication?
Unlike with most addictions, some medications help heroin users deal with their withdrawal symptoms during and after detox.
This term is called medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and you will commonly hear it referred to in a drug detox center or rehab treatment facility.
Sometimes people get confused and mistake MAT as replacing an illegal drug for a legal substitute. But the truth is that medications used in MAT treatment are evidence-based to block the ability to achieve a high while reducing the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
Fear, discomfort, and pain from these withdrawal symptoms are a large part of why a patient returns to heroin use.
During detox, medications may be used that achieve a different high or a much-reduced high. These may be used short-term to move to a different medication for treatment and recovery. That type of medication is more suitable for long-term use if needed and will not produce a high.
MAT therapy is successful in helping a patient wean off their dependency on heroin while a medical professional monitors their intake and slowly reduces the dosage.
Let’s first examine what medications are used specifically, and then share why they are used.
Common Prescriptions for MAT Treatment
Depending on what stage of treatment a patient is in — detox, treatment, or recovery — different medications may be prescribed.
- Methadone is an opioid that activates the same parts of the brain as heroin. Since people use this drug orally, it doesn’t produce the same kind of high. Medical professionals use it as a method of detox and as a long-term step-down approach.
- Buprenorphine is also an opioid that helps diminish withdrawal symptoms. Its main advantage from a treatment standpoint is that it offers little in the way of a high.
- A third drug, naltrexone, is one that individuals only use after completing detox. It works by preventing opioids from affecting the brain and reducing cravings.
Why MAT Helps With Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin’s effects are quickly felt as it binds to pain and pleasure receptors in the brain and the rest of the central nervous system, including the brain functions and spinal cord. When people feel what is commonly called “the rush” from the drug, they are experiencing what occurs as the heroin converts to morphine within the brain and binds itself to opioid receptors.
The rush intensity is based on how much heroin a person takes and how rapidly the drug enters the brain and binds to receptors.
A person will initially notice:
- dry mouth
- warm flushing of the skin
- heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- nausea and vomiting
- severe itching
- clouded mental functioning
- going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious
The intention for MAT treatment is to take the medication as a tool to stop, or block, heroin from binding to opioid receptors. No rush occurs or, if any, at a highly diminished level.
In the addiction treatment field, these tools are immensely helpful for both the patient and the treatment team. They are medically proven effective tools to help with addiction, but that covers just one part of the many goals of treatment toward recovery.
MAT allows the patient’s symptoms to be managed at a level where they can focus on their psychological decision-making skills for the future and work through emotions they may have experienced in the past that contributed to them turning to drugs in the first place.
At Denver Recovery, we use these tools to maintain our holistic program structure, which also includes physical well-being that has likely been on the back burner. Positive nutrition goals, ways to incorporate exercise for body strength, meditation, and establishing a positive, structured routine are all tools a patient will draw from after they leave treatment.
Treating Heroin Addiction With Rehab
Everyone’s struggle with addiction is unique. With all the different circumstances and factors that contribute to addiction, it may seem impossible to find a heroin addiction treatment program that suits you. Denver Recovery Center is ready to be that place for you.
We offer a unique approach to addiction treatment that combines holistic methods with evidence-based treatment options. Treatment specialists at Denver Recovery Center will work with you to craft the perfect treatment program that suits your needs.
Treatment Program Options at Denver Recovery Center
Regardless of which treatment program option your intake team recommends, you’ll participate in group therapy. It’s an essential part of the recovery process. However, it’s also important to make sure that you choose the correct addiction treatment program for your needs. We offer the following programs at Denver Recovery Center:
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Men’s and women’s rehab programs
Therapy During Rehab Will Help Uncover Reasons for Substance Use
If you simply stop using a substance without acknowledging the reasons behind the addiction, you may only achieve short-term relief. Eventually, your same behaviors could return, and you are no further along in understanding the “why” behind your substance use. It is important to uncover how your life was structured and how your behaviors were affecting your decisions along with any other disorders that might be present.
When you have two disorders at the same time, such as anxiety and alcohol, or alcohol and heroin, each disorder must be effectively treated separately to achieve full recovery.
During your rehab experience, you will attend several types of therapy. Some of the most common options for therapy are family therapy, individual counseling, outdoor therapy, and holistic therapy. Our master’s-level therapists will decide which combination will work best for you.
Personality and lifestyle at least partially influence heroin addiction, like all addictions. Successfully managing the withdrawal symptoms and their aftermath also calls for standard therapies, such as
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
This specialized therapy was designed to help you change your thought patterns, which will in turn change the way you perceive and react to the world around you.
This relatively new therapy stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. It focuses on three phases to determine a target memory in the fourth phase.
The desensitization phase involves focusing on a target event’s specific images or related thoughts and emotions while engaging in specific eye movements, taps, or tones. After each set, the therapist asks you to clear your mind and notice what thoughts or emotions develop. Depending on what you report, a new focus of attention may be used.
Eventually, the emotional charge from the targeted event loses its power and is no longer overwhelming.
- Family therapy
This important element allows your support team at home to be involved with your treatment for heroin addiction. They can see you working to actively address an issue that has long affected more than one person in the family and provides tools for a good support system during recovery.
- 12-Step programs
The 12 steps refer to a planned program with action steps along the way. These guiding principles should be followed in programs for treatment. If followed correctly and in order, they should guide you through the very difficult process of breaking free from addiction.
They will remain an important part of your recovery program after treatment to keep you focused on the goals set during rehab. Revisiting them often helps reduce the chances of relapse.
These therapies often provide crucial emotional and mental support that helps those in withdrawal weather the symptoms. That support is also key to helping people make healthy choices that support their long-term recovery.
- Those in recovery will learn to create a supportive environment from people with like-minded goals and the structure to keep focused on recovery.
- They will gain insight to recognize triggers for their addiction long before a potential relapse and approach the triggers appropriately, as learned in treatment.
Find Your New Beginning Without Heroin at Denver Recovery
Denver Recovery provides intensive outpatient rehab programs as well as a partial hospitalization program. Our professional staff has expertise in treating heroin addiction.
Don’t let heroin or fear of withdrawal decide what kind of life you’ll live. With a combination of help from the right medications and our holistic, evidence-based rehab program, you can reclaim your life and your health. Give us a call at (844) 602-3175 and learn how we can help.
- How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?
How often heroin is used and at what dosage level has the biggest impact on how long heroin withdrawal symptoms will take to be relieved. Withdrawal symptoms will begin about 8 to 10 hours after the last dose. A person will experience the most uncomfortable period about 48 to 72 hours later and then symptoms will begin to subside after 4 to 10 days. However, a person with chronic use at higher doses will take longer for the physical symptoms and can experience psychological effects even longer.
- What Does Heroin Withdrawal Feel Like?
- Intense cravings (approaching desperate)
- Flu-like symptoms (diarrhea, sweating, and chills)
- Achiness or pain in bones
- Jerking limbs
- How Do You Get Help With Heroin Withdrawal?
If you are addicted to heroin or your loved one is struggling, it is important to reach out to your primary care doctor if you have one. They may be able to refer you to a program. You can also research substance use treatment centers yourself. You should make sure they have an accredited program and check out different services offered. Education on the treatment levels offered after detox is also important. If the location is detox only, they should be able to provide you with a vetted list of programs to continue with therapy afterward.