Since the days of the Civil War when heroin was left at the bedsides of wounded and recovering soldiers, Americans have experienced a tumultuous relationship with this opioid. Heroin withdrawal symptoms have been documented since this first introduction and continues to the present day. The drug, in fact, has a storied history in the medical field, as it was used as a commonly prescribed analgesic for decades.

In fact, in the 1800s, Bayer developed cough medicine for children with heroin as the main ingredient. This specific opioid was used to treat pain and respiratory ailments up until the 1920s when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned it. Since then, the desire to keep using heroin has not subsided, rather quite the opposite. 

In the United States today, tens of thousands die annually of an opioid overdose, many of which include overdoses caused by heroin. Heroin is extremely addictive and is roughly 50 times more potent than its derivative, morphine. The nearly one million people abusing heroin did not set out to become heroin addicts, rather were first introduced to opioids via their healthcare providers. Whether they had broken bones or a surgical procedure, opioids like oxycodone and hydromorphone were commonly prescribed as pain management in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The enormity of the opioid epidemic we are seeing today is deeply rooted in the marketing ploys of major pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson who pushed products like OxyContin on prescribers, claiming that less than 1% of those prescribed them would become addicted to it. So, how does this relate to heroin addiction?

Well, fast forward to 2019. The number of people continually abusing prescription drugs keeps rising, but so does that number of people abusing heroin. This is because, as prescription drugs become more expensive and harder to obtain, those hooked on them are turning to heroin. They can get the exact same high off heroin as prescription opioids, sometimes even better. Plus, it’s cheaper and easier to score. When a person who is dependent on heroin is unable to get it, take it in the same amount that he or she normally does, or stops taking it altogether, all pleasurable feelings go right out the window as withdrawal symptoms set in and begin to wreak havoc on his or her physical and psychological wellbeing. At this point, heroin addicts find themselves either scrambling to get a hold of heroin (or something comparable) or suffering from severe distress caused by withdrawal. 

What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal is notorious for being extremely painful. The upset it can cause can be so disruptive that people go back to using to just to get rid of the hurt. This cycle of using and withdrawing is indicative of dependence. When someone is dependent on heroin, it means that his or her body cannot function without it. Dependence is the perfect example of how insidious the disease of addiction is, as it offers only two options to users: 1) keep using and avoid withdrawal symptoms, or 2) stop using and go into heroin withdrawal, which can be tremendously painful. 

Those who stop using for whatever reason will begin a heroin detox. At this time, withdrawal symptoms will ebb and flow, serving as an opioid-fueled roller coaster ride that most want off of. The physical withdrawal symptoms that those addicted to heroin can experience during heroin detox can include:

  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Sweats
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches

Heroin detox is often compared to having an extreme case of the flu. The first few days of heroin detox are when people can experience the highest intensity of these symptoms and as time goes on, they tend to taper off. Psychological symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal create a different sense of distress for a user and can include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Crying jags

Unlike the physical withdrawal symptoms of heroin detox, the psychological ones may not taper off as easily. Instead, it is possible for people to continue to experience withdrawal symptoms like depression or anxiety for a much longer period of time. In some instances, recovering heroin users can develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. Those who have PAWS are having continued symptoms associated with psychological withdrawal symptoms that are persistent, do not fade away over time, and require continued care. 

How Can I Stop Using Heroin?

If you are addicted to heroin, you know that if you stop using, you will go into withdrawal. You may have even gotten a taste of what withdrawal might be like (and you may never want to feel that way again). You may even be feeling trapped in your heroin addiction because the thought of detoxing is more upsetting than continuing to use. But, you do not need to detox on your own, nor does it need to be as painful as you might think.

If you enroll in heroin detox, you will be in the company of healthcare professionals who can help you get through your withdrawal symptoms in a much less upsetting manner. Depending on what your needs are, you may be able to participate in medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which utilizes lesser-strength opioids like Suboxone or methadone to help people wean off of heroin and other opioids, making withdrawal symptoms less severe. MAT can also help in curbing cravings for continued use, which can help keep you in detox and recovery longer. 

Heroin addiction is nothing to turn a blind eye to. Every single time you use could easily be your last. This opioid is so potent and dangerous that it can take your life from you in more ways than one. Not only can it cause a fatal overdose, but it can also destroy your career, family, finances, etc., leaving you with absolutely nothing. The devastation that is associated with heroin addiction does not have to happen to you. You can reach out and get help right now to stop using heroin as safely and as comfortably as possible. 

If you need help, contact Divine Detox today. Our admissions team is here for you 24/7 and all calls are kept confidential.