How Do You Detox from Heroin Safely?
Heroin is one of the most popular illegal drugs on the market today. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 650,000 people in the United States admitted to using heroin in 2012. This number is currently increasing. Heroin is not a particularly dangerous drug to detox from, so doing it safely is not hard if you have some guidance. In fact, you are more likely to die if you remain on heroin than when you are detoxing from it. In order to safely detox from heroin, you need to know what exactly heroin addiction is, what the withdrawal symptoms are, and how to detox at home or in a rehab safely.
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What is Heroin?
Most people who use heroin will agree that it is highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms keep them from being able to get off it. It produces feelings of euphoria and satisfaction, which makes it extremely attractive. What it is doing to produce these feelings is what makes the withdrawal so different.
Heroin creates feelings of pleasure by activating mu-opioid receptors in the brain. Heroin binds to the pleasure centers of the brain causing them to flood your system with dopamine. Unfortunately, the receptors become damaged by the heroin and the body becomes unable to feel pleasure normally.
During Heroin Detox
During heroin detox the heroin leaves the body. This leaves the opioid receptors empty and no longer producing the amounts of dopamine that the drugs once caused them to produce. According to the National Library of Medicine, this causes:
- runny nose
- excessive tearing
- excessive perspiration
- extreme anxiety
- extreme cramping
- muscle aches
- mood swings
- other somatic and psychiatric symptoms
Although they might not seem like much, keep in mind all of these symptoms might be experienced to extremes. These symptoms might be uncomfortable and difficult to deal with, but they are not particularly harmful. The overall withdrawal effect is what makes heroin so difficult to stop using.
Advanced symptoms of heroin withdrawal include loss of pleasure in life and other circumstances, boredom, and sometimes suicidal ideation. These symptoms are the only symptoms of heroin withdrawal that are life threatening. This is less a part of heroin detox and more a symptom of long term heroin use.
Detoxing from Heroin Safely at Home
It is possible to safely detox from heroin at home since the withdrawal symptoms are not life threatening. Some people prefer a home detox because it is less expensive and it provides a degree of confidentiality not available at some rehabs. The key to home detox is preparation. A few things that you can do to prepare for heroin detox at home are:
- Write down your reasons for quitting. This becomes very important as the symptoms reach their peak. Remembering why you are going through it helps to keep you motivated.
- Have a family member or friend who knows what is going on with you. Not only can they keep you motivated, they can help when the withdrawal gets bad.
- Reach out to your support network. When you have support quitting heroin is easier and they can help distract you from the symptoms.
- Make sure you do not have to go out. You will be down for approximately two weeks while you detox. It is important to not have to go out while you are detoxing. Not only is it dangerous to drive while in detox, you also probably will not feel up to it.
- Stock up on healthy foods, medicines to treat the symptoms of withdrawal, and anything else that you like to make you feel better. This includes: blankets, healthy fruits and vegetables, medicines such as anti-diarrheal medication and anti-nausea medicines, and other vitamins and nutrients. Do not forget lots of fluids as well.
- Make sure that you get rid of all of your triggers and other reminders. These can cause you to relapse.
Once you have prepared your home for detox, you can start by just stopping heroin. Detox is unpleasant but ultimately it is worth it to get off the heroin.
Detoxing from Heroin at a Rehab
Detoxing from heroin in rehab is much easier than detoxing at home. In rehab, you will be provided for and given the medications that will make the withdrawal easier. They might even give you benzodiazepines for anxiety and other prescription medication for the other symptoms. Another benefit of going into rehab for detoxing is that your meals, counseling, and 24/7 care is available. This reduces the need to anticipate what you might want during it. The major benefit of detoxing in a rehab is that you are less likely to relapse once the withdrawal gets bad. The trade off for this is it is less confidential and sometimes extremely expensive.
Detoxing from Heroin in Outpatient Rehab
Outpatient rehab is similar to inpatient rehab in that you are under a doctor’s care for the majority of the detox process but instead of being in a hospital, you visit a doctor daily, weekly, or monthly. The advantage of this is that you are at home instead of a hospital, which means you can continue to work or go to school. The disadvantage is that you are still around your triggers.
Regardless of the way that you detox, it is important to remember why you are doing it. During detox this is difficult to keep in mind. Heroin detox is extremely unpleasant but not particularly dangerous. As long as you prepare, either by creating a good home environment or checking into an inpatient or outpatient rehab, it is possible to detox form heroin safely.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What is the Scope of Heroin Use in the United States?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What Effects Does Heroin Have on the Body?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.