According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin use is increasing across every sector of society – spanning across age groups, social classes, and ethnicities. The most noticeable increases have been in groups who, in the past, have typically had low instances of heroin use. Groups like women, those in a higher socio-economical status, and others have seen record numbers of heroin use. The unfortunate truth is that heroin addiction doesn’t discriminate. People from all walks of life battle heroin addiction every day, and some may believe that there is no hope of ever living without the addiction.
The number of overdose deaths related to heroin grew dramatically from 1999 to 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13,000 Americans died from a heroin overdose in 2020, and nearly 20% of all fatal opioid overdoses involved heroin.
Most people are aware of the opioid epidemic that has devastated many communities across the U.S., but not everyone understands heroin’s effect on a person’s mental and physical health, how addiction begins in the first place, or what the process of heroin detox looks like.
Anyone can develop a substance use disorder, especially with a highly addictive substance like heroin. The changes in brain function that can lead to addiction begin happening the first time a person uses an opioid drug.
Heroin and other opioids activate the brain’s reward centers, boosting feelings of pleasure and minimizing pain. When those pleasurable feelings wear off, the person craves the sensation again.
With continued heroin use, the brain’s ability to produce “feel good” endorphins naturally weakens. Eventually, the brain becomes fully dependent on opioids to produce dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Each person’s journey is different, but heroin addiction can happen quickly, especially for people with one or more risk factors for addiction.
Learn more about our heroin detox center or any of our detox programs by contacting our team at 866.704.7692 or completing our confidential online form.
Heroin is a powdered substance that is sniffed, injected, smoked, and mixed with other substances. The symptoms of heroin use vary somewhat depending on the method by which it is taken, the person’s general health and history of drug use, and whether other substances are also being used. However, the symptoms and side effects of using heroin can generally be divided into short- and long-term effects.
The short-term effect that drives people to use heroin regularly is the rush of euphoria they feel when the drug first enters their system. Other symptoms include:
“Nodding out” or being “on the nod” are terms that refer to the habit of nodding in and out of consciousness while under the influence of heroin. If you suspect someone you know is using heroin, nodding out is one of the most common and obvious warning signs to be aware of.
The long-term use of heroin can cause a number of physical and mental health complications, some of which may not be fully reversible even once the person stops using heroin. Some of these problems include:
The additives sometimes used to cut heroin can also lead to long-term health problems. They may clog blood vessels and permanently damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Sharing drug injection equipment increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
Cold turkey detoxing from any addictive substance is not recommended. The first and most important reason to seek medically supervised heroin detox at a qualified facility is that addicted people are already suffering; there is no need for them to suffer more or feel worse than they already do.
Detoxing is, at best, an uncomfortable experience. At its worst, detoxing can be an emotionally and physically painful experience. Every person seeking recovery from heroin addiction can benefit from the care provided by a comprehensive heroin treatment program.
Symptoms of detox include:
Relapse is the biggest danger of quitting heroin cold turkey. When a person goes through detox, their tolerance for heroin lowers, meaning they need less of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Once tolerance is lowered, the same dosage amount that provided a “high” before can become deadly.
Medically supervised detox provides patients with expert medical care, including medications and other therapies that will help ease withdrawal symptoms, including the cravings that can lead to relapse.
Medically supervised heroin detox offers many benefits to the person with a heroin use disorder and to the people who care about them. The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies and is affected by several factors, but a safe detoxing experience helps to build a positive foundation for long-term recovery.
Some of the benefits of supervised detox include:
Medically supervised heroin detox keeps patients safer and more comfortable. Participating in a detox program shows loved ones you are serious about changing your life and can relieve many of the stressors related to substance use disorders.
The detox process is different for every person. Age, general health, mental health, addiction history, and the length of time a person has been using heroin are all factors that affect withdrawal. However, for most people, the process is divided into acute and long-term phases.
The acute withdrawal stage can begin within hours of an individual’s last use and can last for up to ten days. Most of the flu-like and other physical symptoms of withdrawal are experienced during this stage. Medical care minimizes the discomfort of acute withdrawal and helps keep patients feeling positive about their decision to seek addiction treatment.
Long-term withdrawal is also known as protracted withdrawal. Most of the psychological and cognitive symptoms, like anxiety and impaired concentration, begin during this stage. Protracted withdrawal can last for several weeks, months, or even years, depending on individual factors.
Detoxing is only the first stage of recovery. A comprehensive program should provide a continuum of care that supports patients through every stage of their wellness journey. Most individuals begin participating in other therapies during the acute stage of detox or as soon as they are physically able.
Each person receives an individualized treatment program based on their specific physical and psychological needs. It is common for a treatment plan to combine several types of evidence-based and alternative therapies, such as:
Because protracted withdrawal symptoms can continue for an extended time, participation in relapse prevention classes, aftercare programs, and ongoing support groups is vital to maintaining long-term recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin use disorder, remember that you’re not alone. Recovery is possible with science-based treatments and ongoing support that celebrates your individuality. The decision to undergo medically supervised heroin detox could be the decision that saves your life.
Taking the first step towards recovery can be daunting, but knowing your options for care is paramount to your success. Fill out the form below and one of our team members will reach out to help you get started.