What Happens During Heroin Withdrawal?

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You’ve finally admitted to yourself you’re addicted to heroin. You’re tired of the lies, stealing, living on the streets, and the day-to-day struggle to get high. You’ve reached rock bottom and you know you need help, but you’re afraid to get it. You’ve seen the effects of heroin withdrawal portrayed on TV or in movies and you’re scared to do it yourself. Maybe you’ve gone through it before.

You’d be crazy not to be scared, but if you want to live and have a life, you can do this. Really.

If we told you that withdrawal from heroin is a cakewalk, you would know we were liars. It may be tough, but we can help you get through it to the other side and you don’t have to suffer alone through withdrawal or do it cold turkey. So what can you expect when you finally decide to detox from heroin?

What Is Heroin?

To understand the effects of withdrawal, we first have to understand what the drug is and what it does. Heroin is an opiate similar to prescription drugs like morphine, fentanyl, or oxycodone. Unlike those drugs, however, heroin is illegal for any use. People often turn to heroin because it’s cheaper than a lot of street drugs and it can be ingested in several ways, such as smoking, sniffing, or injection. The quickest acting method of dosing is an injection which creates a “rush” of extremely pleasant feelings that only lasts a couple of minutes, followed by a less intense high of four to five hours. You may recognize some of the symptoms of someone who has used heroin: drowsiness, apathy, and a lack of tension or anxiety. For some people, heroin makes them sick but generally, it has no after-effects.

What Does Heroin Do to You?

First of all, no matter what inspired you to start using heroin, it becomes a disease, not a choice. Why? You’re probably already aware that over time, you need more and more of the drug to get that same “high.” It also creates physical changes in your brain over time. More importantly, it changes the chemical composition of your brain by releasing chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria such as dopamine and endorphins. It doesn’t take long for your brain to associate those feelings with heroin rather than natural activities such as eating or exercise.

That’s when your addiction becomes a disease, not a choice.

How Do I Know I’m Addicted?

If you’re using heroin, you can pretty much assume you’re addicted, but for argument’s sake, some of the symptoms of dependency and addiction include building up a tolerance and needing more and more of the drug to try to recreate that initial high. Trying to cut back causes cravings. Continuing to use even though it causes problems in your life, like unemployment and homelessness, indicates addiction. There are varying degrees of dependence that will establish how severe your withdrawal symptoms are, but everyone can expect some withdrawal symptoms to some degree.

What Happens During Withdrawal?

You can expect withdrawal symptoms to begin somewhere between six and 12 hours after your last use of an opioid substance. One of the few good things we can say about heroin withdrawal is that it leaves the system faster than other opioids. But the good news stops there because heroin withdrawal feels like you have a really bad case of the flu. You can expect to experience nausea and vomiting, insomnia, diarrhea, sweating, and the loss of so much fluid in your body triggers a lot of muscle aches.

These symptoms can last for about a week but they are usually the worst on the second and third day of withdrawal, depending on how severe your addiction is to heroin and how long you’ve used it. The length of time you’ve used, the amount, and the method affect withdrawal rates as do any co-occurring mental or medical issues.

During the first one to two days, you can expect diarrhea, muscle aches or cramps, insomnia, and anxiety, or even panic attacks.

From the third day to the fifth day, this is your toughest time, and having medical assistance can help you get through it as well as counselors who can help calm you.

On days six and seven, your symptoms start to subside but your body has gone through a traumatic experience so expect to be exhausted. You may still experience nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping, and the very flu-like symptoms of sweating and shivers. Once you pass this mark, you start getting better.

After you go through acute withdrawal, you go into a stage known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS.) This is where you’ll experience long-term symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, or irritability but they will be much less severe. The worst may be over then, but you can expect to have some level of symptoms that last anywhere up to 24 months such as depression, panic attacks, mood swings, and even memory loss.

Withdrawal from heroin–or any addictive substance–is never easy. Acute withdrawal usually takes a week or more with symptoms like a really bad case of the flu. It usually peaks on the second and third day of withdrawal, depending on the severity of your heroin use and how long you have been abusing the drug. You can expect nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal and muscle cramps, and even anxiety or panic attacks. You may have some milder symptoms for up to 24 months but this is still better than the alternative. Here at Everlast Recovery Center, we will not only help you get through detox, but we’ll give you the tools to stay drug-free and fight those cravings for lasting recovery. Our facility in Riverside, California offers counseling and holistic therapy in a homelike setting. Let our compassionate and professional staff help you start a new life of sobriety. Call us today and learn how we can help at 866-DETOX-25, (866-338-6925).

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