Detox from heroin

Detox from heroin can be assisted by anesthesia, buprenorphine, clonidine, or opiate replacement therapies. A review of heroin detox protocol here.

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Ready for heroin detox?

Are you using heroin and want to take the steps to quit heroin and recover for good? If so, you may want to go through a clinical detox process.  Signs of heroin withdrawal may not be life threatening, but can be VERY uncomfortable.

So how to treat heroin withdrawal and what happens exactly when you detox from heroin?  Heroin symptoms: how long?  And can you detox from heroin at home? We review here, and invite your questions about heroin detox at the end.

Detox from heroin symptoms

Detoxing from heroin will be uncomfortable. Your body goes through a lot of stress while heroin leaves the central nervous system. Below are some acute heroin detox symptoms you may experience during withdrawal. While experiencing heroin detox, expect to feel some symptoms for a while. It can take a long time for your body to repair itself. Detox from heroin symptoms include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • diluted pupils
  • disturbed sleep
  • drug cravings
  • chills
  • cold sweats
  • constipation
  • fever
  • nausea
  • pain and cramps throughout the body
  • priapism
  • seating
  • tearing
  • vomiting

Keep in mind that another detox from heroin symptom includes altered mood. You may go through depression and have a difficult time sleeping and/or regulating your sleep patterns as you get off heroin.

Detoxing from heroin time

How long does it take to detox from heroin? It depends upon the treatment method that you choose. Rapid detox happens over the course of a few hours while medication maintenance can last for several weeks or months after your loast dose of heroin. However, be advised that it does take a long time to fully detox from Heroin. You can get the opiate out of the body fairly quickly, but your body will take a great deal longer to heal from chronic heroin use. Acute heroin detox can be followed by protracted withdrawal symptoms which require a longer time for normal body function and regulation to return. While detoxing from heroin time is lengthy, you can do a lot to treat your withdrawal symptoms using complementary treatments. For example, acupuncture, acupressure and staple therapy have been said to relieve heroinwithdrawal symptoms temporarily. Whichever therapy you choose, taking the time to fully detox from heroin cankeep you from abusing heroin again.

Heroin detox treatment

Heroin detox treatment is a process during which you rid your body of opiates. The point is to clear the central nervous system’s opioid receptors so that your body can begin to repair itself. A few of the most well-known and clinically used heroin detox treatments include:

Anesthesia assisted heroin detox treatment – During this procedure, you are put under general anesthesia for about 6 hours and treated with medications like naloxone and clonidine to clear out the opiate receptors in the brain and central nervous system. Other non-opiate medication can also be used simultaneously to treat withdrawal symptoms. Also known as “rapid opiate detox”, the process takes about 3-4 days, after which you are referred to relapse prevention therapy. While ultra-rapid detox has been popular over the last 15 years, researchers are finding that this treatment does not provide any added benefit for detoxing from heroin; patients still exhibit painful detox symptoms after initial treatment with anesthesia. You will continue along with naloxone maintenance after initial dosing.

Buprenorphine assisted heroin detox treatment – During this type of heroin detox treatment, you will be medicated on buprenorphine to help address cravings for heroin. Buprenorphine works by occupying opioid receptors in the brain without inducing a high. As an opioid partial agonist, buprenorphine’s agonist effects increase linearly with increasing doses. At moderate doses, effects reach a plateau and no longer continue to increase with further increases in dose — the “ceiling effect.” Thus, buprenorphine carries a lower risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects compared to full opioid agonists like heroin. While on buprenorphine during heroin detox treatment, withdrawal symptoms do not occur. You may be asked to continue twice weekly with behavioral therapy while using this method of heroin detox treatment.

Clonidine assisted heroin detox treatment – Clonidine is helpful during heroin detox treatment because it blocks the adrenergic discharge produced by withdrawal. Clonidine can thus reduce symptoms of heroin withdrawal during detox by 50-75%. other medications may be used to help address heroin withdrawal and maintenance of pharmaceutical treatments continues alongside psychotherapy during detox.

Opiate substitution therapy – During this heroin detox treatment, different opiates are used to help disrupt physical dependency on heroin in the body. Methadone maintenance is a popular program used during heroin detox. Seeking out long term inpatient or outpatient treatment is common, although some view methadone maintenance as exchanging one drug addiction for another. Still, positive outcomes have been exhibited in heroin addicts using opiate substitution therapies. Follow up therapy after initial detox is always recommended for heroin addicts.

Self-detox from heroin

Can or should you detox from heroin by yourself? It’s possible. In fact, regular heroin users usually go through their own detox process every now and then. They do this because they run down on supplies or aren’t going to be able to get heroin right away. Addicts also manage withdrawal symptoms by reducing doses; you won’t get high but you also won’t feel withdrawal symptoms that comes with quitting heroin totally.

In sum, you can take care of and treat heroin withdrawal symptoms alone if you wish. Self-managed care can help ease discomfort. But while there are ways you can detox from heroin by using methadone or home remedies, it may be better to seek medical help. If you want to increase your chances of staying clean and avoid relapse, it would be better to detox in a clinic or to do so in a rehab facility, or be in contact with an outpatient program that can help after the initial detox procedure. Plus, clinical detox can help provide you with medications that can make the detox process from heroin much more humane.

Detox heroin questions

Do you still have questions about heroin detox? Do you have experience detoxing from heroin? If so please ask any questions or share any experience you may have with heroin detox. We would love to hear from you. And we will answer any questions you may have personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: About Buprenorphine Therapy
Oregon State Protocol for Opiate Withdrawal
National Institute of Drug Abuse: Ultra Rapid Opiate Detox
NCBI: Outpatient Heroin Detoxification with Acupuncture and Staplepuncture  
Drug abuse: Heroin 
NCBI: Acupuncture and Heroin Detoxification
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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