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Heroin detox

Do you feel ready to get help for heroin dependence? Detoxification is just step one in heroin addiction treatment. However, detox is a crucial point of the journey towards addiction recovery. Here, we review the methods and protocols of heroin detoxification. Then, we invite your questions and comments at the end.

Heroin detox methods

A combination of medications and behavioral therapies help heroin users return to stable and productive lives. But first, users will have to go through withdrawal. So what methods are used during heroin detox?  Basically, heroin detox can occur in inpatient or outpatient settings.  You can even detox from heroin at home.  Heroin detox methods include the following:

  • opiate substitution therapy
  • over-the-counter medications which address withdrawal symptoms as they occur
  • prescription medications which address withdrawal symptoms as they occur
  • cold turkey heroin detox
  • tapered heroin detox

Heroin withdrawal usually peaks within 24-72 hours after the last administered dose and may last up to a week. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin are physically and mentally exhausting and can affect your physical and mental well-being. However, going cold turkey off heroin IS NOT recommended because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, health complications, and the greater chance for relapsing. Instead, the most safe method used during heroin detox is a medically assisted, supervised withdrawal.  During this time, medications can address the severity of the symptoms, especially discomfort and cravings.

Heroin detox protocol

The best way to get through heroin detox and reduce the risk of relapse is under medical supervision. Detox clinics and treatment centers can monitor your state around-the-clock and address physical and psychological symptoms as they occur. In fact, you can expect drug cravings, nausea, cramps, and depression along with other side effects during heroin heroin detox.

Medical professionals can to help you during this period by recommending prescription drugs. Buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone, and/or naloxone can all be useful, and they work by binding to the same brain cells as heroin, or by blocking opioid receptors. Additionally, clonidine may be prescribed to address severe nausea or intestinal problems.

Although your body will get clean from heroin over the course of several hours, opiate substitution therapy can last for months or years after initial detox. It takes a long time to fully detox form heroin because the body needs time to heal from the chronic use of heroin.
Behavioral therapy can address the psychological aspects of addiction after acute withdrawal. During therapy, you learn to recognize triggers,  cravings and avoid future addictive behavior through cognitive awareness. Psychiatrists can treat mental health issues if they arise, they can also prescribe antidepressants and help you deal with depression.

Heroin detox considerations

Want to know which method of heroin detox will suit you best? There is no “one fits all” type of detox, so it’s best to consult your doctor and find a method that is comfortable and suitable for your personal needs. Here are some pointers on what doctors generally recommend for each type of detox setting:

1. Detox clinic with medical supervision

Detoxification is a process in which your body gets rid of heroin. After the opioid receptors in the central nervous system are clear, your body can start to physically stabilize. Clinical detox can provide you with medical supervision and medications to make the process more bearable. Doctors suggest this kind of treatment as a firm base to start treatment; success rates are greater during medical supervision than with the other methods of detox therapy.

2.  Cold turkey detox

Going cold turkey off heroin is not recommended. Instead, doctors suggest tapering and replacement therapy in order to lower the dosage over a period of time. For long term users, quitting heroin all at once can be fatal because the body can’t withstand the heroin withdrawal stress.  For less heavy users, withdrawal usually lasts about a week, but serious and severe withdrawal symptoms are still possible. In addition, quitting heroin cold turkey increases chances of relapse.

3. Heroin detox at home

If you are highly motivated and have a strong support system, it is possible to detox from heroin at home, simply by lowering doses and gradually tapering off of the drug. Lowered doses may not make you feel high, but they can prevent withdrawal symptoms that follow heroin insufficiency in your system. Still, to increase your chances in addressing addiction you should seek medical help. Whether it is a detox clinic, a rehab facility, or an outpatient program, medical supervision can increase the likelihood to stay clean and avoid relapse.

Heroin detoxification questions

Do you have any questions regarding heroin detox? Or, you would like to share some personal experiences? We invite you to post your comments in the section below. We’ll send feedback and reply with personal and prompt answers.

Reference Sources: DrugAbuse: Heroin
MentalHealth: Heroin
Alabama.gov; Department of Mental Health: Opioid Replacement Treatment
WhiteHouse: Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

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