Heroin is a potent drug whose use continues to grow. In 2016, nearly 950,000 Americans reported using heroin1. That number has been rising since 2007, with significant increases seen in the 18-25-year-old age bracket. With more people using the drug, it’s essential to understand how heroin affects the body and the signs of heroin withdrawal. This can help people with loved ones who are seeking treatment for their substance abuse disorder.
How Does Heroin Affect the Body?
Heroin belongs to the opioid drug class. It is made from morphine. It can be in the form of a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance that is referred to as black tar heroin.2
People can inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin to achieve a high. Like many other drugs, heroin impacts the brain’s reward system. It gives a feeling of a high that, over time, people need more of the drug to get the same effect. This is how someone can become addicted to heroin.
When people use heroin they can experience short-term effects like:
- Dry Mouth
- Flushed Skin
Long-term effects of heroin use include:
- Collapsed Veins
- Liver and Kidney Disease
- Heart Infections
These effects can lead to serious health problems. Some studies also show that heroin use can lead to a loss of white matter in the brain. This can affect decision-making, response time, and behavior2.
Common Signs of Heroin Withdrawal
When someone stops taking the drug, withdrawal symptoms can set in. These symptoms can be painful and intense. Withdrawal symptoms can be felt as soon as 6-12 hours after the last dose.
While heroin withdrawal symptoms can be similar to the withdrawal effects of prescription painkillers, they are more intense.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms include: 2
- Severe heroin cravings
- Severe muscle and bone pain
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Problems sleeping
- Uncontrollable leg movements
Symptoms like these can last for up to one week, with the worst symptoms peaking in the third to fourth day. But, they can last longer depending on how severe the heroin addiction was as well as other factors like:
- How long someone has used heroin
- The amount of heroin taken each time
- The drug-taking method
- The presence of any other medical or mental health issues
Some people who have stopped using heroin may also go through post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). People can experience poor sleep and concentration and increased depression, panic attacks, mood swings, memory loss, and more. 3 The symptoms will slowly subside as time passes and the drug is no longer in a person’s system.
Detox is the first step for someone battling a heroin addiction. Medically supervised heroin detox is usually the best course of action. In this type of detox, a medical professional can carefully monitor the patient as they go through the withdrawal symptoms. Although these symptoms are not usually life-threatening, they can become intense and may require some medical intervention. A doctor may prescribe medication to help ease some of the pain.
With a medically supervised detox, the patient will not be tempted to use heroin to numb their pain. They will have to battle their addiction head-on. Each person’s detox will be different because each addiction is different. The treatment will be tailored to the patient to get the best outcome possible.
Detox is done in collaboration with other treatments to help people overcome their heroin addiction. These treatments can include:
- Group and Individual Therapy
- Lifestyle Changes
- Nutritional Plan
While these can all be done as an outpatient, it is recommended that people seek treatment as patients inside a facility. This helps them to weed out any outside influences that could tempt them to use again. As they receive treatment, they learn how to live in the outside world without using heroin. They also learn how to find new interests and meet new people with no connection to their substance abuse disorder.
Seeking Help for a Heroin Addiction at Clear Life Recovery
At Clear Life Recovery, we help people fight their heroin addiction with a comprehensive treatment plan. We tailor each plan to the needs of each patient. From heroin detox to therapy sessions, our professional and experienced team is there to guide patients each step of the way.
For more information on heroin withdrawal symptoms and to learn more about treatment programs at Clear Life Recovery, contact us online or give us a call today. We’re here to help you or a loved one start on a path to sobriety.