What Is Detox From Heroin Really Like?

Heroin is a highly addictive substance that gains control mentally in a way not many other drugs do. For that reason, people struggling with heroin addiction need to seek specialized treatment for drug addiction if they are to overcome it. The reason heroin addiction is more complex to treat than other substances is that it not only takes control mentally but physically also. It is the combination of mental and physical dependence that cause the distressing withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxing from the drug and also increase the likelihood of relapse.

The whole issue of heroin detox has been clouded by how it’s represented in movies and mainstream media. The images of someone in deep physical pain and distress alone in a dank, dark room is something that deters many people suffering from addiction issues from taking the crucial first step towards recovery that detox represents. Nevertheless, prolonged heroin abuse can cause some serious health complications, some of which can be life-threatening and so early intervention with drug rehab 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.


Withdrawal takes 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 symptoms as they present during the detox process.

The 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.
  • 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 and paranoia may surface together with feelings of guilt and shame. 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.

There is no doubt about the fact that withdrawing from a substance as addictive as heroin is extremely challenging and this is where personalized drug addiction treatment can be very beneficial.

Heroin addiction is lonely for patients; they often are unable to see a clear path to recovery. The knowledge that detox is a challenging process can make people very reluctant to take that step, although programs at qualified drug rehabs are the best environments to ensure discomfort is minimized. Having someone on-hand who is qualified and trained to deal with the sometimes severe symptoms of withdrawal provides huge support to a patient seeking drug addiction treatment.

In addition, formalized and supervised detox and drug rehab treatment centers provide personalized detox plans so that individual needs and requirements are met, with active therapies like CBT and counseling underpinning the progress made during and after detoxification. Although it is more difficult to treat heroin addiction than it may be other substances, this does not mean it is impossible. A comprehensive treatment program that addresses both the physical and mental aspects of heroin addiction is the most direct path towards a healthy life in recovery.

Equine Therapy

How Equine-Assisted Therapy Benefits Treatment for Heroin Addiction

As we have become better informed about the area of addiction, more therapy options have become available to patients seeking heroin addiction treatment. Some of these therapies are known as experiential, which are a range of interventions designed to focus patients on actual involvement, engagement, and interaction with different types of experiences as part of addiction treatment. One of these experiential therapies is known as equine-assisted and involves working with horses in a therapeutic setting.

What Is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is enormously valuable in promoting emotional growth because horses are incredibly intuitive, instinctive creatures capable of detecting a person’s mood. Not only do they sense what someone is thinking and feeling but they respond accordingly. This is extremely beneficial to people with addiction as they may have lost touch with their own emotions. Horses promote patients’ self-awareness to such a degree that they learn to better understand how to control the way they feel.

The benefits of equine-assisted therapy cannot be underestimated as for many patients undergoing this form of experiential treatment; it proves to be life-changing. Working with horses is usually incorporated into a wider, more holistic treatment program and has proven to be particularly effective with people who have had difficulty in sticking to a heroin rehab program. Because heroin is so highly addictive, many people who have abused the drug for prolonged periods of time can be particularly resistant to treatment.

Equine therapy allows them another route that is less challenging for them to engage with.

How Does Equine Therapy Work?

Every heroin addiction treatment program should be devised on a patient-by-patient basis because everyone has individual needs and requirements. Because heroin addiction develops on both a physical and mental level, there are two ‘layers’ to the symptoms experienced. This can make detox and rehab particularly challenging, especially if there is a history of long-term heroin abuse and often, patients drop out of programs feeling unable to meet the challenges ahead of them.

Equine therapy provides an alternative that is not a standalone solution but can add significantly to the efficacy of a treatment program overall. The way working with horses helps people with heroin addiction is that they are encouraged to develop a relationship with the animal while taking care of its basic needs. Horses are herd animals with complex social structures and so they can be territorial. Although in dogs this can sometimes result in aggression, a horse has a more intuitive response to external stimuli and can quickly sense what the intentions are of someone approaching them.

Herd Mentality

For example, in the wild horses roam together in packs led by alpha males. When another horse is introduced to the pack, the alpha male will immediately sense if they are a threat or if they are submissive and respond accordingly.

However, in a similar way to dogs, horses can develop deep attachments with the people who care for them and this is one of the important takeaways for people in equine-therapy. In the initial days of engaging with a horse, patients learn how to approach the animal based on what response they want to elicit from the horse. They will have learned through trial and error that feeling fear or tensing up can be sensed quickly by the horse and they can respond by being jittery and nervous because they are uncertain as to what will happen next. This teaches patients how to modify their behavior in order to get a different response and ultimately, this is a skill that becomes invaluable in recovery.

Why Is Equine-Assisted Therapy So Effective?

In a rehab setting, working with horses gives people with addiction issues a new focus and also the opportunity to care for and nurture another living creature. Placing someone else before themselves is something that many addicts have lost the ability to do and so they can relearn how to transfer their focus from themselves to others by caring for the daily needs of a horse. Because they are big animals, they require considerable care and so there’s a big element of discipline and hard work involved but the rewards are enormous. The feeling of being appreciated by an animal as majestic as a horse can be an enormous boost to someone’s feelings of achievement and self-worth.

Heroin Withdrawal

What Helps with Heroin Withdrawal?

Level of Dependency Dictates Severity of  Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Although there are different routes an individual may have taken to get there, once addicted to heroin the risk to life is homologous.  There is no difference in the deadly effects to the user who got there due to legitimately prescribed pain medications that turned into an opioid dependency, or the street user whose recreational drug use escalated to junkie status.   Regardless of the origin of one’s heroin addiction, the bottom line is the same:  heroin kills.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that in the last decade heroin use has doubled.  In 2013, an estimated 8,200 people lost their lives due to a heroin overdose, and those numbers have continued to climb ever since.  Heroin abuse and overdose, including opioids in general, including fentanyl, has ballooned, becoming a national epidemic.

Once an addict reaches the point where they realize they will surely die unless they get help, the door has opened to recovery.  However, the knowledge that he or she will have to endure the daunting difficulties of withdrawal and detox may pose such a deterrent to receiving treatment that they may not pursue it at all.  Misinformation and fear combine to give the addict another reason to just remain in their deadly habit, which is why clear information about the heroin withdrawal process is so important.

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 (in the case of alcohol withdrawal specifically).  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 severe symptoms include depression, hypertension, rapid heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and intense craving.  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.

For someone who hasn’t abused heroin in high doses over a long period of time, the withdrawal symptoms can be managed with some outpatient support.  Mild to moderate heroin withdrawal symptoms include nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, sweats, fatigue, trouble concentrating, agitation, tremors, and muscle aches.  Symptoms generally begin within 8 hours of the last dosing of heroin and peak at 48-72 hours.

After the acute phase of withdrawal ends, some may experience post-acute symptoms, such as foggy thinking, difficulties managing stress, sleep disturbances, memory problems, concentration problems, mood swings, and occasional cravings.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Accountability to self. 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 distracted. 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.
  • Some people might benefit from the supportive environment of an Narcotics Anonymous or non 12-step program, garnering strength from the members and making new sober friends as well.
  • 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.

Ranch Creek Recovery for Quality Heroin Addiction Treatment

Ranch Creek Recovery is a private recovery facility located in a beautiful estate.  The calm serenity of the hillsides offer the perfect environment for recovery.  Ranch Creek Recovery offers both residential and intensive outpatient services to treat heroin addiction, with round-the-clock staffing to aid and assist in detox and withdrawal.  Our holistic approach addresses the unique needs of each client with a wide range of therapeutic options to enhance recovery.  In addition, our amino acid therapy helps the individual in heroin withdrawal by easing the symptoms of cramping, joint pains, headaches, nausea, diarrhea and cravings.  Contact us today at (877) 997-8931 .


Heroin Addiction in Orange County

Heroin Addiction Spike in Orange County, CA

A Surge in Heroin Addiction in Orange County, CA Sounds Alarm

Orange County, California is a beautiful metropolitan suburban enclave in Southern California.  The OC, as it is affectionately referred to, has always enjoyed a positive reputation—after all, it is the home of Disneyland, the happiest place on earth—featuring beautiful coastal communities and rolling foothills.  Affluence abounds in Orange County, and conservative values still generally prevail.  Parents still take the family to church on Sundays and about 70,000 OC kids attend pricey private schools.  Why then are heroin-related overdoses and deaths spiking in Orange County?

According to data from the Orange County Coroner’s office, fatal overdoses spiked to about 400 in 2015, a six percent jump from 2014, and a 63% increase since 2005.  The majority of these overdose deaths, 286, involved opioids such as heroin, Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin.

The epidemic is not just sweeping Orange County, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is claiming 78 lives a day across the United States.  In California, out of its 58 counties Orange County has the 17th highest rate of drug and heroin overdoses statewide.

Factors that May Contribute to the Rising Heroin Addiction in Orange County

While heroin was once considered the drug of the lower socioeconomic strata, afflicting poor minorities primarily, it is now permeating the population across income, race, gender, or geographic location.  Even small rural communities have seen an enormous impact of heroin on their youth.  The term “suburban junkies” has been coined to refer to the dramatic shift from urban-based addicts to those who reside in the toney communities like Orange County.

Some of the factors that may be contributing to the dramatic increase of heroin addiction in Orange County include:


In many cases of opioid addiction and death, heroin was not the first drug of choice.  In this affluent county, teens and young adults have been recreationally abusing prescription opioids, paying upwards of $30 per pill, in their quest to achieve a high.  What often transpires is the desire to continue to relive that high, and through ready availability of cash or accessing the pills in parents’ medicine cabinets, they eventually develop a tolerance and become dependent on the drugs.

However, at some point in time, the cost becomes prohibitive and the young person, mostly white males, who is now addicted seeks a cheaper and more readily available substitute in heroin.  Because today’s heroin is more pure, and has also been cut with fentanyl in many cases, accidental overdose can occur.  Heroin addiction in Orange County is becoming rising problems in many affluent communities across the region.

The Drug Trade Contributing to Heroin Addiction in Orange county

The close proximity of Orange County to the Mexican border, where the majority of the heroin being distributed across the country comes in, keeps the costs down for local users.  Also, the type of heroin called black tar, coming in from Xalisco, Mexico, is extremely potent.

A trend has developed where fentanyl is being sold under the guise of heroin or in fentanyl-laced heroin, unbeknownst to users, contributing to many accidental overdose deaths.  Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is about 50 times more potent than heroin.  Drug cartels in Mexico have been ramping up production of this deadly drug in recent years.

Prescription Pain Medications

Over-prescribing of pain medications like OxyContin has also been identified as a precursor to someone developing a heroin habit.  Recent legal action against certain doctors, referred to as “pill mills,” has sent a powerful message to the medical community about over-prescribing these dangerous and addictive medications.  Even though legitimately prescribed for pain following injury or surgery, it is now becoming apparent how addictive these drugs are and a return to former methods of pain management are evolving.

Dr. Padma Gulur, a pain specialist at U.C. Irvine, has established a coalition of hospitals, health insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and public health agencies to collect drug overdose data and then encourage physicians to scale back on prescribing opioids.  In an interview this year with KNBC news correspondent Vikki Vargas, Gulur stated, “We prescribe these medications, but don’t have adequate safeguards in place to ensure that excess medications don’t flood our community.”

Naloxone Needed

Naloxone, known under the brand name of Narcan, is an antidote to heroin overdose that can be sprayed into the nose or injected into arm or leg muscles to stimulate breathing that has stopped during an overdose.  Naloxone is becoming more readily accessible to law enforcement, first responders, and hospitals potentially saving many lives that would otherwise have been lost to a heroin or opioid overdose.

“Naloxone saves lives; it just does,” Dr. Gulur stated.  “Looking at the data from the coroner’s office, these are preventable deaths.”

The cost of naloxone is skyrocketing, however, creating difficulty for communities to provide this important life-saving intervention harder to finance.  Nevertheless, in the past few years more than 30 states have established policies designed to increase access to naloxone.  In 2014, the U.S. Attorney General urged law enforcement agencies nationwide to train personnel to administer naloxone.  Naloxone is not the answer to the heroin epidemic, but until more education and awareness is available regarding the dangers of opioids, it will save lives.

Ranch Creek Recovery Treats Heroin Addiction

Because of its proximity to Orange County, California, Ranch Creek Recovery is an excellent option for receiving quality treatment for a heroin or prescription pain medication dependency.  Ranch Creek Recovery offers a holistic inpatient treatment program that is tailored to the individual and encompasses all aspects of well-being.  Located in the serene hills of Temecula, Ranch Creek Recovery provides just enough distance from Orange County to allow for treatment without the potential triggers or temptations of home.  Call us for more information about our innovative treatment program at
(877) 997-8931