What Is Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin withdrawal is the period of sickness and discomfort that occurs when a person suffering from heroin dependence abruptly stops using the drug.
The prolonged use of heroin is likely to cause tolerance and dependence. Tolerance means a person will need to take more and more heroin to achieve the desired high. Dependence means a person will experience painful withdrawal when heroin use is stopped.
Dependence is likely to occur after a few weeks of heavy use as the body and brain grows accustomed to having heroin in the system.
Once a person stops using heroin, their body needs time to adjust and recover. It’s during this period of adjustment that a person experiences uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal may set in just hours after last use, and can be both physical and psychological.
Quitting heroin ‘cold turkey,’ or stopping use abruptly without the help of other medications, is extremely difficult for a person to do on their own. While it is possible, a person is likely to be more successful stopping use with the aid of professional support and medication.
Heroin withdrawal may lead to further heroin or other drug use if not properly treated or prepared for. It’s crucial to know the signs of withdrawal so a person can have what they need to make it through the initial step towards recovery.
Here are 5 signs of heroin withdrawal:
1. Intense Drug Cravings
Drug cravings are when a person desperately needs, or craves, heroin after they stop use, making it difficult to quit using heroin altogether.
Everything in a person’s brain may be urging them to go get high.
Withdrawal is uncomfortable, and the person likely knows heroin can help ease the symptoms. A person may have the lingering thought of doing more heroin to avoid further sickness and achieve immediate release from the pain and discomfort.
During this time, a person is likely to be agitated and may appear thoughtful or distracted. It’s likely that the idea of getting high is consuming their entire thought process, and they may be combative and hostile if they decide to give into cravings.
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2. Depression And Anxiety
There will likely be underlying feelings of depression and anxiety for a person suffering through heroin withdrawal.
Heroin affects the brain in ways that changes how a person feels. A person addicted to heroin is likely dependent on the drug to feel good and avoid feelings of depression, fear, and anxiety.
Once the drug is removed from the equation, a person will likely experience profound feelings of depression and anxiety.
3. Body Aches, Shaking, Clenching, And Sweating
More physical symptoms may occur as time goes on. A day or two into withdrawal, a person may begin to notice their body feels achy and stiff all over.
The slightest movement, like standing after sitting or reaching for something, may seem impossible or much harder than it should.
Body parts, like limbs or hands, may begin to shake involuntarily. A person may rock back and forth as muscles all over their body are likely to twitch and contract.
To relieve the shaking and muscles aches, a person may begin to clench their muscles, hands, or teeth. Clenching may help a person deal with the pain and soreness of muscles twitching and contracting.
A person is likely to exhaust a great deal of energy dealing with aches and pains, and profuse sweating may occur as a result.
There may also be abrupt changes in body temperature. A person may sweat and feel hot, but then feel their hot sweat turn cold, likely causing them to shake or quiver in discomfort.
4. Diarrhea, Nausea, And Vomiting
More physical symptoms are likely to persist, including awful diarrhea.
Heroin use likely slows down the intestinal tract and causes constipation. A person addicted to heroin is likely to feel constipated most days, and once they stop using heroin, their bowels are likely to move everything out.
The intense bouts of diarrhea are likely followed by nausea and vomiting. It may feel like a horrible case of the flu, but much worse. A person may continue to vomit until there is not much left to purge, and they may begin dry heaving, or trying to vomit with nothing coming out.
5. Sleeping Problems
Although a person is likely to be exhausted from the intense psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal, sleep may be hard to come by.
Insomnia, or trouble sleeping or staying asleep, is a typical symptom of heroin withdrawal.
Having a hard time sleeping offers little relief from the painful symptoms of withdrawal, and a person is likely to drift between half-sleep and being wide awake.
Sleep may be all a person wants to escape the pain of heroin withdrawal, but sleeping can be difficult and lay just out of reach. While laying awake, a person may have nagging thoughts of death as the only release from the insomnia caused by heroin withdrawal.
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Treating Heroin Withdrawal
While not life-threatening, spotting these 5 signs of heroin withdrawal can help a person with the first step towards healing and recovery.
The symptoms of heroin withdrawal are messy and painful, and entering an inpatient treatment center is likely the best course of action.
During the withdrawal process, inpatient treatment centers may offer a medically supervised detoxification, where professionals are likely to administer medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
Common medications used for heroin and other opioid withdrawal include methadone, buprenorphine, and clonidine. These medications are used to combat intense cravings and help alleviate the more painful symptoms of withdrawal.
Going through heroin withdrawal, and even a medically supervised detoxification, is not a cure for addiction, but simply the first step of recovery. Inpatient treatment centers are likely to offer the next crucial steps of recovery, including medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy.
Call now for more information on how to manage heroin withdrawal and prevent relapse in the future.