Addiction is a chronic, progressive illness that can be fatal if left untreated. Most individuals that suffer from addiction and substance use disorder know they are in need of help and that their lives are out of control and fairly unmanageable way before they ever begin searching for help. One of the reasons that people delay or put off getting help to overcome their addiction is fear. Fear that they don’t know what recovery looks like. Fear of living without drugs and alcohol because the substances do something for them that they don’t believe they can live without. Fear of how others will see them because of their addiction and fear of the stigma of addiction. This is especially true for heroin addiction.
For many people that suffering from heroin addiction or addiction, dependency, or misuse of dangerous opioids and opioid prescription medication, there is also the overriding fear of withdrawal. Opioids are powerful narcotics that when, once addicted to or having created a physical dependency on, cause painful physical withdrawal symptoms and mental and emotional discomfort. The fear of withdrawals and the fear of detox can keep people using drugs and misusing substances like heroin and other opioids for many years.
However, there is hope. Millions of people have been addicted to and dependent on heroin or other opioids and have overcome their addiction. They have gotten through the withdrawal symptoms, the post-acute withdrawal symptoms, and gone on to live freedom of heroin and opioids and beautiful lives of recovery. This can be done through appropriate medical and clinical oversight and support, effective FDA-approved medications used to treat heroin addiction and opioid addiction, and important peer and recovery support.
So, what can you expect when you enter detox for heroin addiction? What can you expect if you need to detox from opioids? Let’s take a look.
Why heroin and opioids cause such discomfort during withdrawal
The use of heroin and other opioids create a physician dependence hence the need for medical-supervised detox from heroin addiction. Examples of opioids are Oxycodone (Percocet or OxyContin), Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Morphine, Meperidine (Demerol), Codeine, Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and Fentanyl. Prolonged use of these substances, and sometimes even short-term use, can create a physical dependence on them, meaning that the person using heroin or opioids will need to continue using them to prevent withdrawal. Over time, more of the drugs are needed to produce the same effect as the user creates a tolerance to the substance. These narcotics produce mental relaxation, pain relief, and feelings of euphoria. As the person uses the drugs, their brain becomes used to the increased substances and changes its baseline as the drugs bind to the brain’s opioid receptors. Heroin and other opioids act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including depressing breathing by changing neurochemical activity in the brain stem, reinforcing drug taking behavior by altering activity in the limbic system (which controls emotions), and block pain messages transmitted through the spinal cord.
When heroin or other opioid use is stopped, and the user’s brain and body recognize it is not receiving the drug, the consequences of physical dependency begin in the form of withdrawal symptoms. This can happen as quickly as a couple hours after last use. Heroin withdrawal symptoms or opioid withdrawal can vary in severity and intensity, depending on the average amount of drugs the users typically takes, the potency of the substances, time that individual has been using substances, and frequency of drugs the person has used previously.
Typical symptoms of heroin withdrawal or opioid withdrawal can include:
- Sweating (hot and cold sweats)
- Bone pain
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal cramping
- Frequent yawning
Many individuals that have gone through heroin withdrawal describe it as having the worst flu they’ve ever experienced times 1000. Typical withdrawal from heroin or opioids lasts 4-5 days in terms of the acute withdrawal symptoms, however many individuals experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms that can last weeks or months after stopping use of misuse of drugs.
Examples of post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can include:
- Prolonged insomnia
- Low energy and fatigue
- Mood swings
- Irritability and hostility
- Lack of libido
- Inexplicable chronic pain
- Difficulty focusing, paying attention, or thought clarity
It is little wonder that heroin addicts or people addicted or dependent on heroin and other opioids fear withdrawal and withdrawal symptoms. However, as mentioned above, detox from heroin and other opioids, is available and the use of medical and clinical support and advances in medications have made heroin detox and opioid detox much more comfortable than in years past.
The truth is, there is no “magic bullet” or “magic pill” that will make someone’s withdrawal symptoms magically disappear, other than continued use of heroin or opioids. Getting through withdrawals for heroin and opioids is difficult, but it can be done and it’s not nearly as scary or terrifying as most believe it will be, especially when done in a facility where detox will be medically monitored by doctors and nursing staff.
The expectations of someone detoxing from heroin or opioids is that they initially should be met with respect, kindness, compassion, and understanding. They should understand that they will be entering a clean facility, in a calming environment, and be tended to by a staff that understands what they are going through and is there to support them. They can expect to begin feeling physically uncomfortable and emotionally deregulated. This is entirely normal. At Innovo Detox, they will initially meet with our admissions and intake staff, who will have them fill out necessary paperwork and move on to meet with our medical staff, who will identify their medical needs, create their medical titration protocol, and begin medication withdrawal management. They will receive all necessary withdrawal medications and comfort medications to make them feel as good as possible physically. They will also be supported by our clinical staff for any clinical needs, as well as our recovery support staff. During their detox, they will go through some physical discomfort and be able to engage in activities to support them in feeling better, whether that is support through meeting with their therapist or during group, watching TV in their bedroom, relaxing in our calming patient lounge that includes TV, books, and a fireplace, or socializing with other patients in our game room patient lounge, outside, or in the cafeteria. They will be permitted to smoke and spend time with the other patients in the secluded outdoor patient area. And our chef and kitchen staff will prepare and ready all manners of meals, snacks, and refreshments that meet all their nutritional needs and help them build up strength.
Medications to aid with withdrawal and Detox for Heroin
Medications will be administered and monitored by our Medical Director and psychiatrist and nursing staff. In addition to all necessary and available over-the-counter medications, our staff utilizes FDA-approved medications to help with heroin addiction withdrawal and opioid withdrawal symptoms that include:
We want you to know we understand the fear of withdrawal you may have regarding heroin addiction and opioid addiction. We know it isn’t easy. We know it can be painful, scary, and uncomfortable. However, we also want you to know that it is possible. Many of us have gone through it. We see patients dealing with it every day at Innovo. Please know, getting through heroin withdrawal and detoxing from opioids is possible, and there is a beautiful life of freedom in recovery waiting for you on the other side!
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania. Helping clients from Delaware County, Chester County, Dauphin County, Montgomery County and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.