A business man sits with his head in his hand, wondering why heroin is so addictive.

Heroin Addiction, Withdrawal, and Detox: Everything You Need To Know

Have you ever experienced the pull of the ocean tide? Its strength and persistence is deceiving, causing the most skilled swimmers to underestimate its overpowering grip that can result in a suffocating pull, and sometimes even death. For those who have felt its power, they are left with the haunting memory of how helpless they felt when caught in its tow, trying with all their might to break free from its grip, but eventually losing strength and simply giving up – allowing the tide to run its course.

Heroin addiction is remarkably similar to the ocean tide, gripping its victims with relentless fervor and forcing them upon a course that they never believed they’d experience. But, how long does it take to get addicted to heroin? The onset of heroin addiction can occur through a number of means, but the result is always the same: feeling lost, alone and overwhelmed.

Why is Heroin So Addictive?

Heroin is a debilitating drug, impacting various organs within the human body and rewiring the manner in which the brain responds to both pleasure and pain. In particular, heroin binds to specific receptors within the brain, causing a flood of dopamine to be released when the drug is introduced into the human body.

This “feel good” chemical is typically responsible for regulating pain and feelings of general well-being. However, when heroin is ingested, it creates an artificial release of dopamine, causing an addict to not only experience this false flood of feel good chemicals, but to also quickly become addicted to that deceptive experience.

Here are some facts regarding the physical toll heroin addiction has on the human body and how the disease has impacted society:

  • Heroin is chemically related and interacts with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
  • Heroin can depress breathing by changing neurochemical activity in the brain stem, where automatic body functions, such as breathing and heart rate, are controlled.
  • It is estimated that 23% of people who use heroin become addicted.
  • The number of people reporting current heroin use tripled between 2007 and 2014.
  • Heroin overdose deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.

How Long Does It Take to Become Addicted to Heroin?

There is no exact science to detect the time frame of heroin addiction onset. The fact is that some people can become addicted in a very short time frame and others may be able to avoid serious addiction issues for some time. While full-blown addiction can vary in the amount of time it takes to develop, the effects of heroin use can be seen after the first use and become exacerbated as time wears on.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin:

  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Analgesia
  • Slowed breathing
  • Irregular heart rate

Long-Term Effects of Heroin:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Infections of the lignin and valves of the heart
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

All the effects of heroin use have potential long-lasting impacts on an addict’s physical health and mental wellbeing. While some may not experience all the symptoms associated with addiction, the damage being done within an addict’s body is well documented among all medical professionals.

How to Quit Your Heroin Addiction

Taking back control of your life and conquering your heroin addiction begins when you admit that a problem actually exists. Finding the courage to face your addiction and ask for the appropriate social and medical assistance to safely detox from the drug can require various interventions.

In particular, finding out if medical supervision and clinical detoxification is necessary for you to safely begin rehabilitation. Stopping your heroin addiction is best achieved with a comprehensive diagnostic assessment from a clinically qualified professional. It’s very important to research different treatment facilities to identify which one best suits your needs and will aid in your recovery journey. This is also an essential first step in the process of quitting your heroin addiction.

These initial steps can set the tone for your entire recovery process, so making sure that the addiction treatment center you select is clinically sound and socially verified is critical.

Detoxing From Heroin

The negative perception of detox in movies and mainstream media has deterred many people suffering from addiction from taking the crucial first step towards recovery. The images of someone in deep physical pain and distress suffering alone in a dank, dark room has made many people think they’re better off without heroin detox. The truth of the matter is prolonged heroin abuse can cause serious health complications, some of which can be life-threatening.

That’s why early intervention with a full detox and treatment program is always going to yield a faster and more effective recovery. The facts are quite different from the perception and in an attempt to dispel some myths about heroin detox, we are going to take a closer look at exactly what’s involved.

What Heroin Withdrawal Looks Like

Withdrawing from any drug that the body has become dependent on is difficult and unpleasant at the very least, and could be fatal if not managed properly. Heroin withdrawal will vary depending on how dependent the brain has become to the drug, so the duration and severity of heroin use dictates the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised withdrawal is warranted for long-term users, as severe physical and psychological symptoms may become life threatening.  Those who may attempt to go through withdrawals on their own may quickly relapse at the onset of such serious symptoms, so a supervised withdrawal is imperative for the entrenched addict.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

The heroin withdrawal symptoms take place in the immediate hours after abstinence and the symptoms presented can range in severity. Unaided heroin detox is never recommended as it is impossible to say how any individual will respond to suddenly not using. There should be some kind of medical assistance close at hand to treat withdrawal symptoms as they present during the detox process.

Some signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings for the substance that can become an obsession due to the two layers of addiction associated with heroin.
  • Profuse sweating that is not explained by physical activity or environment, with periods of chills and feeling very cold. These extreme changes in body temperature are caused by physical dependency and it is the body’s craving for heroin that creates this feverish condition.
  • Deep and sometimes intense muscle and bone pain with varying degrees of intensity. Some patients report a feeling of becoming really heavy and sluggish both mentally and physically.
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Cramping in the legs and arms and occasionally the lower back. The physical sensation is a constant need to stretch to relieve the cramping sensations, which can be so severe that patients can lash and kick out during this phase of withdrawal.
  • Becoming emotionally overwhelmed is a withdrawal symptom of heroin which is entirely normal when the body is being cleansed of the drug.
  • Hypertension and rapid heart rate.

Perhaps one of the most distressing withdrawal symptoms from heroin are the thoughts that can go through a patient’s mind while in detox. Irrational fears, anxiety, and paranoia may surface together with feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. Negative thought processes may become so extreme as to make the patient feel as though they are no longer able to cope. Mood swings become more extreme and frequent and sometimes this can trigger other underlying mental health conditions such as personality disorder or schizophrenia.

Help For Heroin Withdrawal

The mindset that the addict takes at the outset of the decision to stop using heroin will heavily dictate the withdrawal experience.  Once it is determined whether medically-supervised detox is indicated or not, it is important to not expect the worst, as this causes tension in the body and only escalates the withdrawal symptoms.  Here are some things that will help with heroin withdrawal:

  • Seek Professional Help and Support: It is highly recommended for someone in the early phase of recovery to be admitted to a quality rehabilitation program where intensive therapy can solidify sobriety. Discontinuing the use of heroin is simply the beginning of the process of living a clean and sober life. The support and companionship found in a high quality addiction treatment program is invaluable to a long-term recovery.
  • Restore Physical Health: Heroin addiction typically leads to a physically depleted body, and a quality rehab addresses this by providing a menu of nutrient rich foods.  To restore health, a diet rich in lean proteins (fish, chicken, turkey), vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and lots of hydration will benefit recovery.  In addition, nutritional supplements like B complex, vitamin C, and magnesium are recommended.
  • Keep Yourself Accountable: Write a letter to yourself describing the reasons why you have decided to get clean, including goals and aspirations for the future. When cravings hit, continually revisit what you wrote and recommit to sobriety.
  • Stay Busy: Going through withdrawals is an unpleasant experience, so keeping yourself distracted will help you avoid dwelling on every little sensation your body experiences during the process. Watch comedies, take walks, read something inspiring and motivational, and visit with non-using family and friends to help pass the time.
  • Ask About Anti-Craving Medications: Medically supervised withdrawals may include anti-craving medications such as buprenorphine, naloxone, or naltrexone. These opioid antagonists help block the opioid receptors and help to maintain abstinence.

Holistic Heroin Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

Regardless of where your heroin addiction has landed you, you can stop your addiction and get your entire life back on track. There is no doubt about the fact that withdrawing from a substance as addictive as heroin is extremely challenging, but with the right treatment facility and clinical staff, all things are possible.

At Ranch Creek Recovery, your successful recovery and sober re-entry into society are our main priority. The heroin abuse treatment program at our non-12 step rehab recovery center includes all-encompassing methodologies of medical and physical treatment, psychology, holistic and experiential therapies, and preparation to forge the drug free future you desire.

Don’t let heroin claim your life or hurt those you love any longer. Learn more about Ranch Creek Recovery’s heroin addiction treatment program and contact us today with any questions.

CALL NOW: (877) 293-8607

Resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioids. Accessed November 5, 2018. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Today’s Heroin Epidemic. Accessed November 5, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html.