Compass Detox, a State-of-the-art Drug & Alcohol Detox Facility in South Florida

Heroin Detox at Compass Detox in Florida

Compass Detox offers 24/7 care to individuals admitted to our treatment facilities for heroin detox. Prior to admission, you and your loved ones may have lots of questions about what to expect during this process. Heroin and other opiate substance are highly addictive and very dangerous. Dependence and an increased tolerance on these substances can be a recipe for disaster. Do not risk an overdose for one more day. Get the best heroin detox treatment in South Florida.

What is Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin’s severe withdrawal symptoms make detoxing from a heroin addiction difficult. Treating heroin addiction typically requires a combination of therapy and medications to help manage symptoms of heroin withdrawal and cravings.

You will begin experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms between 6 and 12 hours after the last heroin dose. Withdrawal from heroin may resemble withdrawal from prescription opioids. Because heroin leaves the system faster than painkillers do, withdrawal symptoms come on more quickly.

During heroin detox, withdrawal often feels like a horrible case of the flu. The worst pain and discomfort lasts about a week — about as long as a bad flu — with withdrawal symptoms peaking during the second or third day.

Depending on the level and length of use, those recovering from heroin are likely to suffer post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS for short. These symptoms include poor sleep, poor concentration, increased anxiety, depression, panic attacks, fatigue, hypersensitivity, irritability, mood swings, restlessness, and memory loss. PAWS can last anywhere from 18-24 months. However, as time goes by, and you remain drug-free, the symptoms will slowly begin to diminish until they disappear altogether.

Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle aches

Treatment During Heroin Withdrawal

woman talking with therapist in heroin detoxBecause of the severity of heroin withdrawal symptoms, almost every study and professional will strongly suggest that someone suffering from heroin addiction does not undertake the recovery process on their own. Entering a treatment facility is almost always the absolute best option for success.

A variety of effective treatments are available for heroin addiction, including both behavioral and medical. Both approaches help bring back a normal life.

Although behavioral and medical treatments can be extremely useful when utilized alone, research shows that for many people, integrating both types of treatments is the most effective approach. An effective heroin detox and addiction treatment facility will have both of these approaches with ample supports built-in as well.

The length of withdrawal from heroin depends on several factors; some of the most important factors being:

  • The length of time heroin was abused
  • The amount of heroin taken each time
  • Frequency of use
  • The method of taking heroin
  • The presence of underlying medical or mental health issues

Medical Heroin Detox

Scientific research has established that medical treatment of “opioid use disorder” increases retention in treatment programs and decreases drug use, infectious disease transmission, and criminal activity.

When people are addicted to opioids, like heroin, first quit, they undergo withdrawal symptoms (see above), which may be severe. Medications can be helpful in this heroin detoxification stage to ease cravings and other physical symptoms that can often prompt a person to relapse. Medications developed to treat opioid use disorders work through the same opioid receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to produce the harmful behaviors that characterize a substance use disorder.

Three types of medications used for heroin detox include (1) agonists, which activate opioid receptors; (2) partial agonists, which also activate opioid receptors but produce a smaller response; and (3) antagonists, which block the receptor and interfere with the rewarding effects of opioids. A particular medication is used based on a patient’s specific medical needs and other factors.

Effective heroin detox medications include:

Methadone (Dolophine or Methadose) which is a slow-acting opioid agonist. Methadone is taken orally so that it reaches the brain slowly, dampening the “high” that occurs with other routes of administration while preventing withdrawal symptoms. Methadone has been used since the 1960s to treat heroin use disorder and is still an excellent treatment option, particularly for patients who do not respond well to other medications. Methadone is only available through approved outpatient treatment programs, where it is dispensed to patients on a daily basis.

Buprenorphine (Subutex) is a partial opioid agonist. Buprenorphine relieves drug cravings without producing the “high” or dangerous side effects of other opioids. Suboxone is a novel formulation of buprenorphine that is taken orally or sublingually (under the tongue) and contains naloxone (an opioid antagonist) to prevent attempts to get high by injecting the medication. If a person with a heroin use disorder were to inject Suboxone, the naloxone would induce withdrawal symptoms, which are averted when taken orally as prescribed.

The FDA approved buprenorphine in 2002, making it the first medication eligible to be prescribed by certified physicians through the Drug Addiction Treatment Act. This approval eliminates the need to visit specialized treatment clinics, thereby expanding access to treatment for many who need it. Additionally, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in July 2016, temporarily expand prescribing eligibility to qualifying nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine-based drugs for medication-assisted treatment through October 1, 2021.

In February 2013, the FDA approved two generic forms of Suboxone, making this heroin addiction treatment option more affordable. The FDA approved a 6-month subdermal buprenorphine implant in May 2016 and a once-monthly buprenorphine injection in November 2017, which eliminates the treatment barrier of daily dosing.

Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is an opioid antagonist. Naltrexone blocks the action of opioids is not addictive or sedating, and does not result in physical dependence; however, patients often have trouble complying with the treatment, and this has limited its effectiveness.

In 2010, the injectable long-acting formulation of naltrexone (Vivitrol) received FDA approval for a new indication for the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence following opioid detoxification. Administered once a month, Vivitrol may improve compliance by eliminating the need for daily dosing.

Heroin Withdrawal FAQs

Heroin Withdrawal – What happens

When someone has been using heroin for an extended period of time, the body becomes used to it being around. When use is suddenly stopped, the body, which has been operating with a certain amount of it expected to be given, starts to realize the imbalance and sends out warning signals that something is amiss.

These warning signs manifest in different forms, and for opiates they are usually in the form of nausea, abdominal cramps, tearing, runny nose, sweats, chills, yawning, and aches, very similar to what someone would expect with a flu or stomach illness.

How long does heroin withdrawal last?

The duration that heroin withdrawal will last will depend on how long someone has used, what opiate they use, and how frequently they use it. For example, methadone, a maintenance drug for opiate addiction, has a very long half-life, so withdrawal will start later and last somewhat longer.

Heroin is a short-acting opiate, which means that withdrawal can start anywhere from 8-24 hours from the last dose. Once started, the duration in most cases will be between 4 and 10 days, with the hardest days being days 2 and 3.

What are the symptoms of heroin withdrawal?

The most commonly reported symptoms in the first day or two are muscle aches and insomnia. Anxiety levels will be higher in someone during the first few days of withdrawal and detox, both because the brain is noticing a missing component of its normal chemical balance and due to the psychological addiction that the person has developed and the knowledge that they have not consumed any drug in what to them would be a long time.

By day 2 and 3, shaking, diarrhea, sweats, and nausea/vomiting will occur. Patients are recommended to drink a lot of water during this time, as they will be losing fluids to the withdrawal. This also tends to be the period when the cravings will be the most intense, and the principal reason why someone going through withdrawal will relapse.

The opiate system controls pleasure in the body, so the absence may lead to the inability to feel pleasure and dark thoughts. It is these symptoms that can best be managed by a heroin detox center like Compass Detox. It’s important to look for a detox center that offers both professional staff and proper patient education that this is part of the normal process due to a brain imbalance and not a problem with the person themselves.

After days 3-4, the most commonly reported symptoms are mainly just fatigue and muscle aches. A person may feel run-down since their body has just been through an intense readjustment. It is during this time that behavior changes can start to be put into place to change the likelihood that someone will have an urge to use it again. This can range from therapy to hobby investment to the development of a social support symptom.

How can you tell if someone is withdrawing from heroin?

From a third-person perspective, the most common symptoms someone would notice in a person going through is erratic behavior. They will often come off as irritable or possibly down and depressed. They might endorse a faster heart rate, and slight tremors may be visible. It will look very similar to someone catching the flu. Sweats and abdominal/muscle cramps will also be very obvious. It is important to inquire about their mental state, as they may look to someone for support during this time.

Can you die from heroin withdrawal?

It is generally accepted that, while very unpleasant, heroin withdrawal itself is not something that can cause death. What’s important to mention, however, is that there are several things that need to be monitored in moderate-severe withdrawal.

Firstly, the fluids lost to the process can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body that can be easily managed by trained staff but would be unapparent to people attempting to withdraw from home. The consequences of leaving these untreated have some rare but serious effects that can have an effect on people, especially those with other health conditions.

The second condition that comes along with heroin withdrawal is a dark mental state. Those undergoing withdrawal have brain chemistry similar to a deep depression, and it is best for this to be monitored by mental health professionals. So, while the process itself is not fatal, like alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal can be, it comes with several side effects that can have a serious consequence if not managed appropriately.

What stops heroin withdrawal?

The only thing that truly stops heroin withdrawal is abstinence. After about ten days, most cases of what is termed acute withdrawal (shakes, sweating, nausea, etc.) are resolved. Muscle aches can persist for up to a few months. The most difficult part of heroin withdrawal is, in fact, maintenance of abstinence once a patient has stopped. The cravings for a drug that involves the reward center of the brain are directly wired into the driving forces our brain has to motivate us. In order to change this craving, a person must slowly change their brain circuits to crave more natural motivations. This often requires a shift in focus, location, and relationships.

Two common reasons people relapse are that they return to a place where they’ve used, or they return to a group they used with. This starts to activate the dormant parts of the brain that usually would drive them to use. Counseling is very helpful in these adjustments and provides a new community to rely on. There are a few medical options for those who need additional help with abstinence.

The long-term options are Suboxone, which is a partial opiate that can reduce cravings, methadone, which is a long-acting opiate that is administered by professionals, and naltrexone, which completely blocks the reward circuit. For additional information on these pathways, it is important to consult a physician and to be honest about goals and motivations to stay clean.

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