Heroin: Detoxing Safely

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs around. Tolerance and dependence set in relatively quickly. Once a person is addicted to heroin, giving up the habit is extremely difficult. This is not just of its addictive effects but due to the severity of its withdrawal symptoms which are both physical and psychological. The severity of these side effects have resulted in many people relapsing before completing detoxification. However, prolonged use of heroin is highly dangerous and it can result in many health complications including brain damage. Due to the stakes involved, it is important to use the right methods when trying to detox from heroin.


What Is Detoxification/Detox?

Detoxification is the process during which the body rids itself of the drug and related substances in the period after the last dose of the drug is taken. What makes detoxification a challenge are the accompanying withdrawal symptoms. Since the brain and body have adapted their functions to accommodate the presence of the heroin, they will need to readjust once the drug is no longer present. The level of dependency on the drug determines how strong the withdrawal symptoms are.


What To Expect

Regardless of the method you chose to detoxify, you should expect to experience withdrawal symptoms. There are methods that may ease some of the symptoms but there is no safe detox method that will be pain free. Typically, withdrawal symptoms set in within 12 hours after the last drug use and last anywhere from 3 days to one week. Some of the withdrawal symptoms you can expect include:

  • Running stomach
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleeplessness
  • Excessive sweating and tearing
  • Depression
  • Intense cravings etc.

The withdrawal symptoms of heroin are some of the most uncomfortable but it is important to remember that they are rarely life threatening.


Safe Detox

While there are many different ways of detoxing from heroin, the safest way to detoxify from heroin is under medical supervision. This may sometime be a necessity if the user has been addicted to the drug for a very long time or if the person has other health conditions.

Detoxing in an inpatient rehab facility has better chances of success. In this environment, the addict will be under supervision at all times. The medical personnel may also provide medication to ease some of the symptoms.

In medically supervised detoxification, the patient usually receives decreasing amounts of another drug that is similar to the heroin. This helps to reduce the ‘shock’ that the body would experience if the supply of the drug was suddenly cut off.


Other Methods

There are other ways of quitting heroin that have been tested with varying results and most are yet to be proven to be safe. Quitting cold turkey involves a sudden cut off from the drug. Those who choose this method tend to feel the withdrawal symptoms much more acutely. This method has been shown to be highly unsuccessful in both the short and long term.

Rapid detoxification is conducted in intensive care units and is done while the patient is under general anesthesia. Opiate blockers are used to speed up the detoxification process and the patient is usually discharged in under two days. The downside are the dangers of general anesthesia, the risk of suffering complications due to unreported issues and the costs involved.

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