Coming off heroin can be particularly challenging when compared to other drugs of abuse. The main reason for this is because the heroin withdrawal symptoms are typically very intense and produce an absolute state of misery for several days. While typically lasting only a couple of days, heroin withdrawal can stretch out to cover an entire week, and can be so intense that it resembles a near lethal case of the flu.
Symptoms of Coming Off Heroin Use
Some people believe that coming off of heroin is dangerous due to these uncomfortable symptoms, but basically there is no real danger in doing so. It just happens to be very miserable and completely uncomfortable. Every pore in the addict’s body may be screaming out for more heroin, and the agony of it all is that sleep becomes nearly impossible. Other symptoms include an upset stomach, anxiety, tremors, and body aches. The pupils may dilate and the skin may display gooseflesh. Even though the addict may feel as if they are dying, there is very little danger from a medical standpoint when it comes to heroin addiction detox. One of the only real concerns might be dehydration or malnourishment if the addict is struggling with keeping food and water down.
Any addict who has experienced this cold turkey knows that just about anything is a better alternative. One such alternative is to go to a heroin detox rehab where they can detox the addict in a controlled medical setting. Most drug rehabs use heroin detox drugs called Subutex or Suboxone, a synthetic opiate, in order to control the heroin withdrawals. Clients can then be tapered off of these medications in a matter of days and be completely opiate free, without having gone through any massive withdrawal symptoms. The heroin treatment center will also give other medications to directly address the specific withdrawal symptoms, such as giving medicines to calm the stomach or pain medication for body aches and pains.
Relapse into Heroin Addiction
Some drug addicts who make it through this heroin detoxification process end up leaving treatment, only to relapse shortly thereafter. After repeated attempts at coming off of heroin, they may eventually decide that they need more help in staying off the drug, and resort to drug maintenance therapy. In this case, the addict would use medication such as Suboxone or Methadone on a regular basis in order to avoid their drug of choice. Both medications contain opiates, but Suboxone is only a partial opiate while Methadone is a full opiate. This means that people who are using Suboxone for long term maintenance have a lower potential to abuse the medication, whereas Methadone can definitely be abused and can even lead to overdose.
The Key to Getting off of Heroin
Regardless of whether or not drug therapy is used for ongoing maintenance, the key to coming off heroin is in the ongoing treatment process for the recovering addict. Anyone can detox from heroin and string together a few days of sobriety–the real challenge lies in achieving a few years or a lifetime of recovery from this powerfully addictive drug. Those who take an active role in their own recovery and put a positive plan into action after they are fully detoxed are much more likely to succeed in the long run. In other words, staying off heroin becomes a full time job for the recovering addict, but one that is well worth the investment. Hopefully, researchers will be able to come up with studies that will further facilitate and make one’s recovery more permanent in the near future.