What is Heroin Withdrawal and Why Does it Happen?
For most people, heroin is known for being at the top of the list of most addictive substances and they are aware that users experience intense physical withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using and develop a heroin dependence. The withdrawal symptoms of other drugs like cocaine or meth are considered mental symptoms that arise out of the psychological craving to experience the effects of the drug again.
The scientific process occurring in the brain during opioid addiction that produces physical withdrawal symptoms is complex but this simplified breakdown should give you a clearer understanding:
- A part of the brain called the locus coeruleus (LC) produces a chemical called noradrenaline
- Opioid molecules in heroin link to opioid receptors in the LC, suppressing the release of noradrenaline
- The LC increases the production of noradrenaline to compensate for repeated exposure to heroin and the resulting suppression,
- This is why tolerance builds — more noradrenaline is produced, and more heroin is taken to suppress
- When heroin is no longer present to suppress, the LC releases noradrenaline in the excessive amounts it was “trained” to produce
- High levels of noradrenaline trigger physical withdrawal symptoms
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Those that struggle with the substance abuse of heroin can begin to feel the symptoms of withdrawal within just a few hours after their last dose, which is a huge contributing factor as to why heroin is so addictive. These painful symptoms include:
- Severe muscle aches and bone pain
- Severe abdominal cramping
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Cold flashes
- Uncontrollable leg movements
Many individuals develop a heroin addiction and continue to use the drug just so they don’t feel these painful opioid withdrawal symptoms and are not even feeling the pleasurable effects of the drug any longer.
What Is Heroin Detox Like?
Medically assisted detox from heroin is the best and safest way to begin addiction recovery and go through the withdrawal symptoms of heroin and attempt to get clean. The facilities that offer a heroin addiction detox program are staffed and equipped with ways to lessen the intensity and length of the withdrawal process, and also provide 24-hour monitoring to ensure your safety and well-being throughout the detox. Medications to help with the abdominal cramping and vomiting, as well as the muscle aches and bone pain experienced, can be administered to alleviate what is considered the most painful symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?
The heroin withdrawal timeline varies depending on the length of drug abuse and the amount an individual would use at one time but most users follow a general timeline of withdrawal:
First day/6-24 hrs since the last dose (SLD): symptoms appear and gradually increase in severity.
Day 2-3/24-36 hrs SLD: symptoms peak the worst of the pain and discomfort is felt during this time. Most users relapse during this time period without medical assistance, unable to manage the pain on their own.
Day 4-7/after 36 hrs SLD: symptoms begin to alleviate, lessening until they are manageable or go away by day 7. Most people have fully recovered aside from feeling weak or tired by day 10.
Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?
The process of heroin withdrawal is considered dangerous without the assistance of medical professionals due to the stress that high amounts of noradrenaline put on your cardiovascular system. Additionally, the amount of vomiting and perspiration the body undergoes presents the risk of a dangerous level of dehydration. Individuals going through withdrawal have also been known to aspirate on their throw-up, too weak to sit up or position themselves safely to prevent this.
Safe Heroin Detox at The Detox Center of LA
The Detox Center of LA is a facility that focuses on and specializes in initial detox, addiction treatments, and supportive residential treatment programs. The treatment center is specifically staffed, trained, and equipped to successfully bring individuals through the initial detox process as comfortably as they can so they can begin an inpatient program consisting of residential substance use disorder treatment and create the best chance for themselves at a life without drugs and long-term recovery.
In our care, you can expect personalized recovery programs and access to 24/7 onsite nursing and a 24/7 on-call MD available to administer medication during detox and anticipate any complications that may arise during detox.
After detox, which usually lasts 5-10 days, you will undergo 20-30 days of intensive and personalized drug addiction treatment therapy in residential care that includes individual therapy with a focus on behavioral therapy and the dual diagnosis of underlying mental health issues that are often associated with substance abuse disorders and addiction such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Upon completion of your residential program, you’ll work with your case manager if plans are to be made to continue treatment at a partner facility within the same network that offers outpatient rehab, a partial hospitalization program, or intensive outpatient programs. Your case manager will also discuss Aftercare with you, a post-rehab process where you develop a system of support and accountability to facilitate relapse prevention. Our goal is to provide you with all of the tools, skills, and resources you need to begin a healthy lifestyle free from drug use.
The Detox Center of LA’s business hours are 24/7. Call at any time and we will be available. You did the hardest part and took the first step — deciding to get help. Let us support you through the next steps of detox and recovery.