Heroin Detox And Recovery – What You Should Know
Heroin is a dangerously addictive drug that has impacted thousands of people in the US every year. The CDC released preliminary statistics that suggest that drug overdose deaths have hit the highest number ever this year.
Heroin is one of the chief offenders, as it’s an easy-to-acquire drug that caters to opioid and opiate users. Knowing how to help someone with heroin detox can be an important way of helping a friend or loved one change their lives.
Overcoming heroin addiction is something that most of these individuals struggle with throughout their lives. The drug is insidious, causing people to change their very behaviors to access the substance. But what is this deadly substance that has affected so many people over the years? How can a person who wants to recover do so safely and effectively?
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid that’s derived from morphine. As with most other opioids, it can be used as a painkiller. The human brain transmits signals (including those for pain) through a series of nerves.
In between those nerve endings, chemicals known as neurotransmitters pass the information along the chain. Opioids interact with these nerve junctions by competing with the neurotransmitters. Since there are only a limited number of sites for those transmitters to bind to, opioids serve to reduce pain by giving them fewer places to carry the “pain” information to the brain.
This effect causes pain to be significantly diminished, and if it were the only thing opioids do, we’d be glad to use them. Unfortunately, they also come with insidious side effects.
Opioids also bind to specific receptor sites in the brain that cause it to produce dopamine. Scientists refer to dopamine as the “feel-good” chemical. When it’s released into the brain, a person gets this feeling of euphoria.
Usually, when someone is involved in an activity they like, the brain’s reward is dopamine. Heroin causes the brain to flood with dopamine, bypassing any other driving force for the accomplishment. Unfortunately, doing this also forces the brain to need more dopamine to get that “feel-good” feeling.
Regular activities can’t match the rush from heroin, and so the person starts seeking it out, losing interest in all other actions or pastimes. In this way, a person becomes dependent on the substance, needing it to function.
Heroin is one of the easiest opioids for illicit manufacture. As a result, several competing illegal distributors of the drug have started making their own versions.
Termed dope, or smack on the streets, it comes in various colors, from pure white to black and sticky, like tar. Most are in the range of pink to brown powder that’s bitter to the taste. The massive supply means that prices of the substance remain low.
When Is Someone Addicted to Heroin?
Dependency is a state of needing the drug to function normally, as mentioned before. However, addiction is a brain disease that stems from dependence.
When someone is addicted, they will risk their lives to get the substance, as they see it as necessary for their lives. Someone becomes addicted to heroin when they start neglecting their lives and ignoring the laws in place against acquiring the drug.
Addiction has several symptoms that may prompt someone to realize that their loved one suffers from this problem. Among the most common ones are:
- Extended periods of agitation followed by long periods of lethargy/drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Change in wardrobe. Heroin users may start wearing long sleeves and long pants to hide needle tracks
- Memory problems
- Sudden and inexplicable weight loss
- Decline in cognitive ability and performance in work/school
- Issues with money management and being able to afford basic necessities
- Risky or dangerous behavior in pursuit of the substance
Addiction is different for everyone. Not everyone demonstrates all the signs of heroin addiction mentioned here. Many dependent individuals might remain able to deal with their lives for some time before addiction takes over.
It’s always dangerous for someone using the substance because there’s no telling when dependence slips into addiction. Luckily, there is help for those who may be caught up on the drug.
Heroin Detox Facilities
Quitting heroin takes a lot of willpower, but it’s not impossible. Overcoming addiction starts with making the conscious decision to change. In some cases, friends and loved ones of an addicted person may have an intervention, hoping to get them to go to rehab.
In other cases, the person realizes that they need help and seek it out willingly. Heroin rehab facilities offer support and guidance for individuals who want to leave their habit behind.
Because addiction is a problem that affects each person separately, rehabilitation centers usually plan out each patient’s treatment specifically for them. This individual approach is crucial to overcoming this problem.
Initial visits to a rehab facility like The Discovery House starts with an appraisal of the patient’s medical history. Interns will ask a few questions to establish a baseline for their treatment.
Psychologists may also be part of this initial meeting to discover more about the recovering person to put together appropriate therapies to help them overcome their addiction. The long-term treatment plan usually comes after the first significant hurdle in overcoming addiction.
How to Detox from Heroin
Detoxification (simply called detox) is the method rehab facilities use to help wean patients from a substance. Detox removes the substance from their bloodstream, allowing them to break physical dependence on it.
Anyone addicted to a substance knows that if they stop using it, they will go into withdrawal. Withdrawal is the body’s way of preventing a person from leaving an addictive substance behind.
The body starts throwing up roadblocks in the form of symptoms that make it uncomfortable for the person to quit. The best way to deal with these symptoms is to wean the person off their dependency slowly.
Heroin Detox Timeline
In most cases, users start feeling withdrawal symptoms within six to twelve hours of their last dose. Heroin withdrawal is similar to the withdrawal symptoms that individuals who are addicted to prescription painkillers experience.
Unfortunately, the body gets rid of heroin much faster than painkillers, so the onset of symptoms happens much more rapidly. Heroin withdrawal may feel like a bad case of flu and lasts for about as long as a week.
However, the runny nose is just one of the issues that an individual who tries to break their dependency encounters. Among the other, more pressing symptoms of withdrawal are:
- Abdominal cramps
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
The length of someone’s withdrawal may differ, depending on how long the person has been using, how much of the substance the person usually consumes, and other factors. Usually, within the first two days, withdrawal symptoms will set in with muscle aches causing pain.
Days Three to five see abdominal cramps and muscle spasms add to the pan, along with a heavy urge to find more heroin. This period is the height of withdrawal, where the recovering persons should be supervised, so they don’t fall prey to their urges.
Days six to seven usually see physical symptoms dissipate significantly. Detoxification ends at this point since the person no longer has a physical dependence on the substance.
Detoxing off Heroin at Home vs. At a Facility
While detox can be done in a facility, some individuals prefer to do so at home. Home withdrawal can be an ordeal to go through because of all the symptoms associated with the process. However, detox is necessary for someone to be able to continue their treatment.
Some individuals addicted to the substance see withdrawal as a way to break themselves of the bad habit, even if they aren’t considering options for recovery. Home withdrawal can be dealt with through some over-the-counter medicine and other home remedies.
However, while these treatments provide an option for individuals to go through withdrawal, it does nothing for their psychological urges.
The most challenging part of heroin withdrawal at home is dealing with the urge to use the substance. As mentioned before, the height of withdrawal symptoms usually happens between the third and fifth day of the process.
In a facility, staff can monitor the recovering person to ensure that they don’t set out to find more of the substance to “take the edge off” their withdrawal symptoms. At home, this is left to members of the recovering person’s family or friends.
Even so, there’s no way to isolate the person completely. Since addiction makes the person risk their lives to get at the substance, it could be a serious challenge to keep them away from it.
There is also the added issue of medical complications. If someone is going through withdrawal, the symptoms may not get too bad. However, there’s no telling when a person’s state will take a turn for the worse.
In such cases, calling an ambulance to the person’s home might help. Rehab facilities have medical personnel and trained staff on hand in case issues like this arise.
Because of the constant availability of staff as well as constant monitoring of the patient’s vitals, the facility can usually prevent bad reactions to withdrawal and detoxification. Detoxing in a rehab facility is far safer and more effective than trying to do so at home.
Treatment Options for Heroin Detox
A recovering person who finishes detox still needs to look at long-term options for their recovery. In many cases, rehab facilities offer opportunities for long-term treatment for their patients.
An inpatient facility offers a place for a recovering person to stay while overcoming their addiction. Inpatient facilities are strictly maintained so that no outside substances come in. In an inpatient facility, the patient can focus on their recovery entirely.
There are no outside influences, and even visits are strictly timed and monitored. In some cases, individuals may opt for inpatient facilities because they feel they would be unable to quit if surrounded by their regular environment. Inpatient facilities also offer counseling and therapy sessions that help recovering persons avoid their urges in the future.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used in many of these facilities as a way to help a recovering person spot the negative thoughts that lead to their behaviors and modify them before they lead to relapse.
Outpatient facilities are vastly different from inpatient ones. In an outpatient facility, the onus is on the recovering person to make it to scheduled therapy sessions and meetings.
They don’t stay at the facility but should be able to reach it easily so that they don’t miss their treatment appointments. Outpatient facilities offer a lot more freedom to recovering persons, but it also puts a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
The draw to use is much stronger when faced with everyday life. However, the positive side is that a person can maintain much of their lives unchanged while attending an outpatient facility.
While the physical symptoms of heroin addiction may fade within a week, the psychological dependency may stick around for some time. Dealing with this usually requires having a solid support network.
California’s rehab centers are unique in the community they create. With so many recovering people in the state, and easy availability to rehabilitation centers, it’s one of the best places in the country for someone to seek out long-term treatment.
Support networks and programs help link those trying to kick their habits together, creating a solid network that recovering individuals can rely on.
Heroin Detox in Orange County
There’s no shortage of facilities to choose from for recovery. However, a suitable facility focuses on helping the individual. The Discovery House is one such facility. Our personalized care regimens combine with skilled staff and state-of-the-art treatment options to give a holistic recovery approach.
If you’re thinking about recovery and want a system that works, consider giving The Discovery House a call. Let’s help you overcome your addiction the right way.