Detoxing from heroin at home

Detoxing from heroin does not need to be severe or uncomfortable. But you increase your risk of relapse when you detox from heroin on your own. More on the protocols used during clinical heroin detox, as well as time, symptoms, and their treatment here.

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Are you or a loved one ready for recovery from heroin addiction? Are you ready to begin the journey towards being clean? Recovery requires one step at a time, the first one being a thorough detox process.

What does the treatment entail? How long does it take to detox from heroin? What happens during and after the detox stage? And can you detox from heroin at home? Read more in this article to find out the answers to these questions. Then, feel free to ask additional one questions in the comments section below.

Detoxing from heroin addiction

Every case of drug addiction that is accompanied by drug dependence starts with detox. In this stage, the toxins from the drug leave the body and, as a result, withdrawal symptoms occur. When detoxing from heroin, these symptoms can be pretty uncomfortable. BUT heroin detox symptoms are treatable.

While medication-based therapies constitute an essential part of the whole detox treatment process, behavioral therapy that follows is not to be disregarded. During this period which can last as long as needed, patients may continue taking medications if/as prescribed by their physician. Behavioral therapies include individual and group counseling, contingency, cognitive-behavioral and are crucial to addressing underlying addiction issues.

Medications used during detox from heroin

First, detox from heroin includes the use of opiate substitution medications. Those used during heroin detox include methadone, naloxone, and buprenorphine. These opioids interact with the same receptors heroin does, yet they are less harmful. The purpose of taking these medications is to ease cravings for heroin and to delay withdrawal symptoms, thus avoiding a possible relapse.

Second, medications can be used during heroin detox to address specific symptoms as they occur. One medication that helps reduces the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms include clonidine. Antidepressants may also be prescribed during or after detox.

Detox from heroin time

So, just how long does it take to detox from heroin? Cleansing the body from heroin can happen pretty quickly. When you go cold turkey off heroin, symptoms tend to peak about 72 hours after last dose but resolve within 7-10 days. Still, it may take a longer period for the body to get used to the absence of heroin and fully recover from protracted withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Detoxification can also be completed within hours if the individual is administered an opioid receptor antagonist such as naltrexone, in conjunction with anesthesia or sedation. However this method is much more expensive and can be dangerous, hence not recommended.

Generally, the time it takes to rid the body of heroin will depend a great deal on the method chosen. The most common treatment i.e. methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), is usually combined with behavioral treatment and can last for months, sometimes years, after acute detox. Since methadone creates physical dependency, it is necessary that the daily dose is gradually decreased over a course of time. While short term methadone therapy is also available and prescribed for a quick heroin detox, long term methadone therapy has shown better results.

Detoxing from heroin symptoms

While the symptoms of heroin detox are not lethal, they can be quite unpleasant and can trigger a relapse. That is why it is crucial to endure this period if one is determined to quit abusing the drug. The withdrawal symptoms that can accompany heroin detox include:

  • anxiety
  • abdominal cramps
  • bone and muscle pain
  • chills
  • constipation
  • cravings
  • diarrhea
  • disturbed sleep
  • enlarged pupils
  • fast pulse
  • high body temperature
  • high blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • fever
  • nausea
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • tearing
  • vomiting

In few instances such as severe vomiting or diarrhea, an individual is likely to experience dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. In such cases, it is advised to take fluids containing electrolytes, or, if the individuals cannot keep the fluids down, IV therapy will be required. Moreover, cardiovascular diseases can get worse during heroin detox, especially if the individual experiences high blood pressure or sweating. Moreover, anxious people should be wary of panic attacks, while those who have been diagnosed with chronic pain should be prepared that the intensity of pain could be increased during detox.

Should you detox from heroin at home?

While it’s possible to detox from heroin at home, it is not advised. The success rates to stay clean in the long run are lower than with medically assisted detox. Additionally, quitting heroin abruptly (cold turkey) will cause intense withdrawal symptoms, thus increasing the possibility for a relapse. ALWAYS GET MEDICAL APPROVAL BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO DETOX FROM HEROIN ON YOUR OWN. Some cases of poor general health, co-occurring disorders, or pre-existing medical conditions will require clinical detox under medical supervision.

If detoxing at home, it is advised to gradually cut down on the heroin dosage rather than entirely, so as to decrease the chances of relapse. However, given the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms as well as the complications that may occur, it is highly recommended that individuals undergoing detox seek medical supervision, especially because aftercare is required if one wants to achieve lasting results.

Detoxing from heroin on your own

We hope to have addressed your main concerns in this article. But if we have not answered your question(s) about heroin detox or you would like to share your experience, please use the comment section below to do so. We will try to get back to you in a personalized and timely fashion.

References: NIDA: Drug Files on Heroin
NIH: Medical Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction
NCBI: Opiate withdrawal: inpatient versus outpatient programmes and preferred versus random assignment to treatment.
NCBI: Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal From Specific Substances
The Alabama Department of Mental Health: Substance Abuse – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs: Acute treatment of withdrawal


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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