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How to stop taking heroin

Are you or a loved one using heroin? Do you exhibit the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction? The good news is: You can stop using heroin and recover for good.

Stopping heroin is not merely a question of detoxing your body from its metabolites. It is a long term process which takes determination and patience. More here on protocol and recommendations for how to stop taking heroin. Then, we invite your questions and comments about heroin withdrawal or its side effects and treatment at the end.

Can I just stop taking heroin?

Unfortunately, quitting heroin cold turkey does not always positively help long term recovery and abstinence. It is not a question of self control or willpower. Drastic dose reduction is very difficult when the body has developed dependence to heroin over time, and manifests specific [uncomfortable] symptoms if it doesn’t receive its dose. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms varies by individual but extreme discomfort is common. And to avoid withdrawal, some people relapse into heroin use, especially outside of medical settings.

This is why the best way to stop taking heroin is WITH MEDICAL SUPERVISION. You may be prescribed medications during heroin detox, or asked to gradually decrease dosage in or to taper the withdrawal. Make sure you consult a medical professional beforehand in order to increase your chances of recovery.

What happens when you stop taking heroin?

If you’ve been using heroin daily for a couple of weeks or more, your body is functioning normally under the presence of the drug. In other words, you’ve become physically dependent on heroin and have adapted to its central nervous system depressant effects.

What happens when you stop taking heroin is that you go through a period of withdrawal and experience a variety of predictable symptoms, some of which are very difficult. During this time, the body is seeking homeostasis after a period of “speeding up” certain functions and system. How long does it take to detox from heroin? It takes time to resolve these symptoms. Acute symptoms peak around 72 hours after your dose but can persist for 7-10 days after you stop taking heroin. Protracted withdrawal symptoms related to mood and sleep disorders can persist for weeks or months later.

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Side effects stop taking heroin

Stopping heroin comes with side effects. If you are ready to undertake this step, you can anticipate the following side effects to occur:

  • abdominal cramps
  • body pains
  • cold sweats and chills
  • constipation
  • cravings
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • disturbed sleep
  • fever
  • nausea
  • painful erection
  • sweating
  • tearing
  • vomiting

You can expect these symptoms to manifest few hours after your last dose, and peak around 42-72 hours later. The intensity and duration of these symptoms will depend on your dosing history and the type of user you used to be. The heavier the use, the longer and more intense the symptoms.

Stop taking heroin suddenly

Due to its highly addictive properties, suddenly stopping heroin can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and provoke relapse. Instead, plan your stopping thoroughly. Talk to a medical professional, or check in at an addiction treatment facility and let be supervised. This will significantly increase the chances of successful recovery.

Stop taking heroin cold turkey

While it is possible to go cold turkey off heroin and reduce the detox time, it is unnecessary and not what doctors recommend. Quitting heroin suddenly can cause serious withdrawal symptoms and it’s highly likely that you relapse if using this method. There are various other ways to stop taking heroin aimed at minimizing the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

How do I stop taking heroin safely?

The safest way to stop taking heroin is under medical supervision. The following people can help treat you directly or refer you to assessments and services in your area:

  1. An addiction specialist (MD)
  2. A clinical social worker
  3. A licensed clinical psychologist
  4. A medical doctor
  5. A psychiatrist

To begin, anyone coming off heroin requires a set of physical and mental assessment(s). You have to determine you level of physical dependency and the possibility of addiction. This stage requires medical assistance because remaining objective is critical at this point. Assessments also direct future treatment recommendations based on best practices.

Once you determine your level of dependency, work out with the doctor what is the safest way to stop taking heroin. If the doctor recommends checking in at a detox clinic or another facility, follow the suggestions. Medical detox clinics offer 24-7 supportive care in a safe environment. In some cases doctors, recommend a method called tapering which is the gradual reduction of your heroin doses. In other cases, heroin withdrawal will be triggered through prescription medications and then symptoms will be treated as they occur.

Once heroin is our of your system, you may be referred to longer term inpatient or outpatient rehab. The goal of these treatments are to address psychological issues of dependence, or co-occuring mental health issues which compel heroin use. Detox is only the FIRST STEP to getting better. Psychological, behavioral, and opiate substitution therapies can be combined to help you lead a life free of heroin.

How to stop taking heroin questions

Do you still have questions about stopping heroin? Please write to us in the comment section below. We will try to respond to all legitimate queries as soon as possible.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal From Specific Substances
NIH: What are long term effects of heroin use
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Research Report Series on Heroin
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Resurgence of Heroin Use

Photo credit: frank fani

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11 Responses to “How to stop taking heroin
Partner
5:37 am June 5th, 2015

I’ve been engaged to my fiancée of 11 years, who is definitely in every way an addict. He has been prescribed to OxyContin since a hospital visit, and while he kept it hidden from me for a long time, I noticed he would become very angry for little reason, although these outbursts were few and far between. We had happy years together in a long distance relationship and we were ready to get a place together until he needed a new primary physician. Heroin came into the picture and immediately anyone who loved him found themselves broke within a year. A while ago he had been mugging and robbing for cash–this is so different from the happy, normal times we had. I’ve repeatedly asked him to detox, but he seems hell bent on outpatient therapy. While we still have some happy moments, I have not visited for almost a year and I’m literally terrified of phone calls expecting to be hit up for $ again. I had noticed he avoids everyone but me unless $ is involved nowadays when he used to be a socialite.

Is there any way to let him know that detox =/= cold turkey or death, or what to do? I want to save our relationship as I feel myself becoming more distant and less eager to talk to him these days. We are literally seen as one person until heroin came into the picture, and he’s otherwise perfect and a very sweet person. He’s adamant about not being an impatient as he believes it’s “being tied up to a table with no one caring for you.”, and I’m only praying he does his outpt therapy ok. I do attend Nar-Anon 3 times a week if I can, but any words would be appreciated.

Nahla
9:40 pm October 7th, 2015

I am asking for my brother he got arrested 5 days ago and so he didn’t take any of his drugs during this period. I am wondering is this ok and eventually he will stop or this is dangerous on his life

2:08 pm November 4th, 2015

Hi Nahla. By now he has went through the acute phase of withdrawal and heroin is completely out of his body. He will be clean for the time he stays in prison, but it’s not uncommon for people to go right back to using once they come out. So, I suggest you have a treatment plan for when he gets out.

Paula
4:27 am February 5th, 2016

Ive been using for nearly a year now and have relapsed three times. Ive even committed silly crimes to get myself jailed, i dont know which way to go from here im physically and mentally ill ive done cold turkey but im wondering weather slowly reducing would be better for me

stef
10:28 am February 6th, 2016

How can you safely detox off Heroin and treat withdrawal symptoms with NON addictive and opiate free medications?

Thank you in advance
P.S. I eagerly await your response.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
10:31 pm February 8th, 2016

Hi, Stef. If you have questions about addiction treatment and your options, call our free hotline to speak with a trusted treatment provider.

Michael
6:52 pm February 18th, 2016

Hi i have the will of quitting using heroin as i am injecting it for 3 years now, i find it hard for me to get the help i need and ended up turning my back on prayers. Since i started using heroin i find hard for my life to succeed as i am not trust worthy anymore and sometimes i sleep on the street and sometimes i am back at home but i can’t stay much longer than before. I have two lovely younger children’s aged 3yrs and 5yrs and willing to succeed them and give them the best education although me and their mother does get together before. I am willing to quit and i need help and don’t know where to turn too. Help i am at South Africa and i am looking forward to get my life back, i manage to stay away from my addicted friends and sometimes work but the problem i don’t last cause i would steal from the to maintain my addiction. Now i want to put a stop to this addiction life. May God help me get restored.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:53 pm February 26th, 2016

Hi, Michael. I did some research I did some research on treatment centers based in South Africa. Here’s my list:
1. Riverview Manor: http://www.riverviewmanor.co.za/
2. SANCA National: http://sancanational.org/
3. Oasis: http://oasiscentre.co.za/
You can do the same by searching using these keywords: site:.org drug addiction treatment in South Africa

Daniel
9:54 pm August 28th, 2016

I’ve been doing heroin for tha past 3 months I stopped cold turkey for 4 days n relapsed n been doing it ever since for tha past 3 months can I use percocets and tramodol kolnipin n xanax to help make tha withdrawls not do bad

I'm on my 3...
11:23 pm September 6th, 2016

Please help I’m on my 3 rd day of quiting cold turkey the withdrawals are not so bad but the cravings are terrible I don’t think I’m going to make it. What do I do? If I do mess up will I have to start all over?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:45 pm September 23rd, 2016

Hi. Why don’t you call the number you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

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