The Heroin Detox Process
Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug. Once you become dependent, it is extremely hard to stop using. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t quit. With a well thought out detox plan, you can become free of heroin within a few weeks. But, before going into the heroin detox process, let’s learn about this widely used drug so it will be easier to understand the detox process.
What is heroin?
Heroin is an opiate drug that comes from the pods of the opium poppy. There is a resin in the pods that, when scoured with a razor, seeps out of the pod and dries over a period of days. This dried resin is the most potent compound of opium. This resin is refined to make morphine and other forms of heroin. Heroin can be injected, snorted or smoked.
Why is heroin so addictive?
Heroin is an incredibly addictive drug. Heroin produces intense feelings of pleasure. When taken, heroin binds with the opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. This causes the receptors to trigger a potent release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is what creates the feeling of pleasure. These pleasurable feelings are what make heroin so addictive. Once your brain becomes accustomed to this euphoric rush of dopamine, you will become addicted.
How long does heroin stay in your system?
Heroin has a relatively short half-life of 30 minutes. A half-life is the length of time for the concentration of the drug in your body to decrease by 50 percent. This means that a half-hour after taking the drug, its concentration in your body should decrease by half. However, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are other factors that come into play. These include your metabolism, the quantity of heroin you have taken, your body mass, and the state of your hydration. In general, heroin’s effects can last up to five hours after the last dose.
What makes heroin so dangerous?
Heroin depresses the nervous system, causing the addict to feel drowsy. At high doses, heroin can drastically slow the heart rate and respiration –causing the user to fall unconscious or even die. Besides the dangers of an overdose, users can experience other serious health problems. Including;
- Chronic heart and lung problems,
- Deterioration in cognitive skills (such as memory and decision-making)
- Frequent illness and infection
- Permanent chemical imbalances in the brain
- Infections and abscesses at the site of injections
- Exposure to blood-borne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
How can you detect heroin in the body?
Detox centers can test a patient’s urine, blood, saliva, and hair follicles to detect the presence of heroin in his or her body. Urine tests are most common. They can detect heroin in the body for up to two days. Advanced urine testing methods can detect it up to seven days. Hair follicle tests can detect it for up to three months.
How to detox from heroin?
The process of heroin detox is not an easy one, but it can be done successfully with professional help. It goes through several difficult steps that require willpower, patience, and self-discipline on the part of the patient. Here are the steps in the heroin detox process:
Stop using heroin
Once a heroin addict checks into a rehabilitation facility, he or she will stop using the drug. This is not an easy thing for the patient because the patient will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as four hours after quitting. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on how dependent a person has become.
- Mild symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, watering eyes, runny nose, sweats, chills, frequent yawning, and muscle and bone aches.
- Moderate symptoms include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, goosebumps, trouble concentrating, and fatigue.
- Severe symptoms include intense drug craving, anxiety, depression, rapid heart rate, hypertension, impaired respiration, muscle spasms, difficulty feeling pleasure, and insomnia.
These symptoms start within four to 12 hours after the last dose heroin. Symptoms reach their peak in two to three days, and, depending on the severity of the addiction, last five to 10 days. While heroin withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening themselves, they can cause psychological problems, such as depression and suicidal feelings.
Beginning the detox process
Detoxing from heroin will start before the drug completely leaves your system, which is about five to seven days after the last dose. During the process, medications, such as Suboxone and methadone, can be used to wean the patient off of the drug. Therapy should also be used to help the patient’s body and brain to recover from the drug’s effects. The patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and breathing are monitored continuously to keep him or her safe. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the detox process can last from a week to several months – long after every trace of the substance has disappeared from the system.
Replenishing lost nutrients is vital to a successful detoxification
An essential part of the detox process is to replenish the nutrients that the patient’s body was deprived of while he or she was a drug addict. The patient is given foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Since a heroin addict often suffers from constipation and digestive system problems, he or she is given a high-fiber diet that includes whole grains and leafy vegetables.
Medications used in the heroin detox process
The medications used to detox patients from heroin include Suboxone and methadone. The purpose of these medications is to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, lessen the pain and discomfort, and to wean the patient off of the drug. Both Suboxone and methadone are tapered medicines, which means they are administered in gradually decreasing quantities until the patient makes a full recovery.
- Methadone is an opioid drug that treats severe pain but can also treat opioid addictions. Patients take methadone as a tablet, liquid or injection in gradually decreasing doses to wean the patient off heroin.
- Suboxone is a drug that contains a partial opioid agonist called buprenorphine and an opioid antagonist called naloxone. Buprenorphine behaves like heroin and other opioids and its job is to provide just enough of the drug to stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors to prevent a drug craving, but not enough to continue the addiction. Naloxone blocks the effects of the drug and prevents an accidental or intentional overdose. Suboxone is the more popular drug for the treatment of opiate addiction because it is safer and more effective.
Why should you go to a rehab center to detox from heroin?
Going to a rehab center that has a medically monitored detoxification program is the safest way to treat a heroin addiction. It’s best to find a detox program at a reputable drug rehab facility with a professional medical staff that you can rely on. We do not recommend detoxing at home or by yourself. You won’t receive the necessary care or emergency help. At SOBA New Jersey, our team of medical professionals monitor the entire detox process, ensuring you get the care you deserve.
What happens after heroin detox?
Do not assume a successful detox will prevent your body from craving heroin. Heroin detox is not a cure for heroin addiction. Addiction can re-wire brain functions to make an addict seek the drug above everything else. View detox as only the first step in the recovery process. You will need to undergo additional rehabilitation to discover and address the underlying causes of your addiction, prevent relapse, and live a successful life in recovery.