How To Detox Safely From Heroin

Heroin addiction alters the way the brain functions, creates tolerance and dependence to the drug. It is one of the most dangerous opiates as it can induce extreme highs in the user, frequently exposing the individual to high-risk situations, causing considerable damage to their physical health, mental stability and social relationships. When constantly abused or overdosed over a long length of time, heroin could lead to fatal consequences, including stroke, heart attack, depression and even death.

Detoxification or withdrawal is the recovery process that involves ridding the body of the accumulated chemicals deposited by drugs and which cause imbalance in the perception and cognitive ability of the individual. The detoxification process is also useful to stop or drastically minimize the unpleasant effects of the withdrawal symptoms during recovery.

Properly Managing The Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms occur because heroin, being a depressant of the central nervous system, is no longer available to alter the way the brain functions. It therefore takes a while before the brain can stop sending ‘speed up’ signals to the other body systems. Once the body chemistry achieves homeostasis or relative stability, then these symptoms resolve and the detox process is complete.

Once detoxification begins, the first withdrawal symptoms appear within 12 hours of using heroin. Among other side effects, the patient will occasionally experience insomnia, nausea, agitation, anxiety, sweating, and a runny nose. The first symptoms usually last from 3 to 7 days, and gets worse around the third day after the last use.

The next phase of symptoms, which often lasts from 2 to 3 days, are more intense; but the patient should at this point have developed better coping abilities after successfully going through the first withdrawal effects. At this stage, the patient may experience abdominal pains, shivering, goose bumps, vomiting, and persistent anxious behaviours.

Because of the severe effects these symptoms could have on the body’s system, it is very important that the patient’s immune system is fortified with regular healthy meals and drinks to prevent dehydration, as well as good mental health and thought process.

In broad terms, patients can choose from two detoxification options, depending on the peculiarity or severity of the addiction.

Medical Detoxification

This is a medically supervised detoxification process that involves gradual administration of decreasing doses of non-harmful replacement drugs to prevent withdrawal. It is recommended for patients that have been addicted for a longer time and are more likely to suffer intense withdrawal symptoms.

Rapid Detoxification

The treatment takes place while the patient is induced into sleep under general anaesthesia. The patient is then given intravenous injection of medications called opiate blockers such as naltrexone, naloxone, and nalmephine, which lessen the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

Safe Medications

Methadone is the fastest and safest method to detoxify the body of opiate, but should be used under medical supervision by a doctor in a rehab centre.

Methadone can slow down the cravings for the drug in the patient from the regular dose to zero and spread over an estimated period of 21 days. It can decrease the withdrawal to about a week and works well with Buprenorphine to lessen the urge for the drug without triggering the artificial feeling of euphoria or other dangerous effects of heroin. The drug, Naltrexone works faster by blocking endorphin receptors that produce the effects of the opiate. However, it has painful side effects. The recovery process using safe medications still involves uncomfortable withdrawal periods.

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