What is heroin detoxification?

Recovery from active heroin addiction begins with detox. After a person has been using heroin for a period of time, their body gets accustom to the drug and learns to function with the drug regularly and repeatedly introduced to their system. However, once heroin is no longer entering the body a person will begin to suffer from withdrawal and then go into detox. Heroin Detox begins anywhere from 6-12 hours after the last use of heroin and can last for 3-4 days or even weeks depending on how heavy a user that person was. In order to detox from heroin the body goes through rigorous, uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal in order to clear the body of the drug. These side-effects are known as withdrawal symptoms. Going through heroin detoxification can make the person feel as if their body is tearing itself apart; this is the body’s way of demanding more heroin. It is crucial not to give into these demands. No matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant the detoxification is, it is only temporary and will be worth it in the end. Luckily, there is a vast amount of detox methods and professionals that can medically assist with the process.

Heroin Detox - Young woman with a long sleeve dress shirt over a white tank to with a wool cap over her head and ears screams with her hands help up to her head.

How does heroin detox effect the body?

The detoxification process has numerous effects on a person, both physically and mentally. Physically, it is common to experience discomfort, fatigue, sweating, vomiting, fever/chills, shaking, muscle spasms and other symptoms. Mentally, it is common to experience drug cravings, anxiety, depression, nervousness and hallucinations. While these are common symptoms it is important to understand that each individual can and will experience a range of symptoms that vary depending on that particular individual. The severity and duration of withdrawal will vary per person as well. Heroin detoxification on its own is not life-threatening. However, some of the symptoms presented from detox may cause complications that can lead to life-threatening situations. Because of this reason most people going through detox seek the help of a professional at a detox center.

What are the different methods for detoxing?

Numerous different methods exist to assist with the detox process. A few methods are described below:

Inpatient Heroin Detox Centers

Inpatient Detox allows the person to stay at a hospital or similar facility where the patient can be monitored by professional medical staff. While at an inpatient facility the patient will be able to have their withdrawal symptoms evaluated and managed by the staff. It is not uncommon for other drugs to be administered to the patient to ease the withdrawal phase. Drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine are administered to mildly mimic heroin to make the process easier and less uncomfortable. Inpatient detoxification centers are recommended for long-term or heavy users and is the most successful form of detox.

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Outpatient Heroin Detox

Outpatient detox is the process where an individual can go through the withdrawal and detox phase in the comfort of their own home with pharmaceutical assistance. Methadone, suboxone and other similar drugs are prescribed to assist with the symptoms.  Most of the time, these drugs are only given out in daily doses so that the person will be required to check in with a clinic or medical professional each day to get the prescription and also be looked over to assess the detoxification process. Outpatient detox is considered one of the hardest forms of detox considering that the individual needs to have self-control and stick to the program set out by their care team.

Rapid Detox

This form of detox that carries the risk of pulmonary edema or cardiac arrhythmias. Drugs such as naloxone or naltrexone effect the body by blocking heroin and can cause a sudden release of “fight or flight” chemicals. While these is a quick way to go through heroin detox it does, however, carry substantial risk.

Anesthesia-assisted Rapid Detox

This form of detox is similar to rapid detox except that patents go under general anesthesia and are given drugs to detox the body from heroin. It is not uncommon for other drugs to be administered as well to treat the various symptoms that can present during detoxification. This is the fastest way to eliminate traces of heroin from the body and takes 4-8 hours. Although this is the fastest and most comfortable way to go through heroin detox, it is also the most dangerous. This is a controversial and extremely risky form of detox. In one study they found that 8.6% of the patients of anesthesia-assisted rapid detox either experienced cardiac arrest or died.

Heroin Detox – What next?

After successfully going through heroin detoxification, the next step in the recovery process is to receive treatment to help that person rebuild their lives and learn to live without heroin. While detox can be frightening, uncomfortable and mentally taxing it is crucial to the recovery process to experience. Going through heroin withdrawal and detox has the possibility of showing the user exactly what they have been doing to their body and mind. Heroin detox is an extremely difficult thing to go through and it is highly recommended not to go through it alone. Hospitals, inpatient detox centers and outpatient medical assistance are just a few of the various options out there to assist with this phase of recovery. It is vital to know and understand that heroin users are not alone, help is out there.

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