Are you struggling to withdraw from heroin? This is a powerful opioid made from morphine, and its effects can be hard to eliminate from your system. Whether you’re just beginning your heroin withdrawal or you’ve been working at it for years, it’s important to know what to expect. This way, you can anticipate and manage your symptoms and lower your risk of relapse.
In today’s guide, we’re sharing the ins and outs of this process, as well as how you can find help to support you along this journey.
The Basics of Heroin Withdrawal
Before we dive into the specific aspects of heroin withdrawal, let’s start by covering the basics. What is this process and what does it feel like?
Put simply, withdrawal occurs when someone who previously engaged in heroin abuse stops using the drug. During this time, their body must react to functioning without the substance. This can trigger physical, emotional, and behavioral effects that are uncomfortable and difficult to experience.
In most cases, the withdrawal will peak in severity and discomfort in the first few days. Then, it should slowly taper off. While it might seem impossible to stay the course while you’re in the middle of the process, it is possible to make it through healthily and happily to the other side.
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Especially if you’ve been addicted to heroin for an extended period of time, this process can catalyze an experience that’s both challenging and confusing. You may not know that the pain you’re feeling is caused by withdrawal, or if that’s the reason you’re acting so defiant.
This is why it’s important to be well-versed in the different symptoms you may encounter. Some of the most common ones include:
- Muscle pains and aches
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
- Depression, paranoia, or anxiety
At the same time you’re going through these symptoms, you may also develop a strong craving for heroin. This is especially common if you’re near certain cues that remind your brain it’s time to use. For instance, certain people, sights, smells, and even emotions can serve as cues.
While these symptoms can feel brutal when you’re in the middle of them, the good news is they don’t last forever. Most people tend to find that they peak around 48 to 72 hours after they’ve taken their last dose of heroin. Pain-wise, the symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Ways to Cope
When you’re in the throes of heroin withdrawal, you might not be able to see the way out. This journey can feel discouraging and exceedingly difficult, but the good news is that you don’t have to face it alone.
There are many different kinds of treatment programs designed to help individuals successfully complete their heroin treatment and emerge stronger and more capable than ever before. We can help you connect with some of the best heroin addiction recovery centers in your area.
If you try to face this experience on your own, you may find that it’s hard to stay motivated. Receiving support and encouragement from experienced counselors, mentors, and peers who have stood in your shoes helps you remain connected and encourages you to stick to your recovery plan.
As you go through these programs, you’ll find many different tools and techniques to help you cope with your symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ones.
As you go through withdrawal, it’s important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a common side effect of this process and can leave you feeling lethargic. Your body needs water to heal properly, so make this a central part of your new routine.
In the beginning, you may mistake feelings of hunger or thirst for heroin cravings. By filling your body with healthy and nutritious foods, you can help keep those symptoms at bay. Prioritize whole foods, lean meats, and grains that will leave you feeling satisfied but not uncomfortably stuffed.
During this time, what you keep out of your body is just as important as what you put into it. While you’re withdrawing from heroin, try to stay away from any substance that could trigger feelings of anxiety or discomfort, such as:
- Refined sugars
- Oils and saturated fats
- Processed foods
You may also find it helpful to take supplements to restore and replenish any vitamins and minerals that you’ve lost during addiction and withdrawal. Researchers have found that people who abuse opioids tend to be deficient in certain nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- B Vitamins
Speak to your physician before incorporating supplements into your routine. You may be able to restore your nutrition levels by focusing on improving your diet and eliminating harmful substances from it.
At the same time, it’s also important to move your body gently and regularly. Light cardio, yoga, or simply a walk around the block are great ways to get your blood pumping. Engaging in self-care habits like these can help you think more about your wellness and make it a key element of your day.
Not only does exercise keep you in good shape, but it also helps naturally relieve feelings of tension and stress that you might experience while you’re withdrawing from heroin. In addition to physical exercise, try these deep breathing exercises to help control feelings of stress and anxiety.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep gives your body time to heal, repair, and restore itself. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re bound to become worn down and overwhelmed. This can trigger the urge to use heroin, as it offers a brief reprieve from that type of stress.
Remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ll need to be intentional and consistent each step of the way. This includes the approach you take to sleep. Put your electronic devices away, turn off the television, and create a wind-down routine that you look forward to.
This can send the signal to your brain and body that it’s time to rest. Try taking a warm bath, reading a book in bed, or listening to relaxing music if you find it difficult to “turn off” the day.
Not only do you feel better when you sleep well, but it also helps you control and regulate your emotions. It’s easier to focus, think clearly, and control your mood when you don’t feel exhausted.
Ask About Medications
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that are interfering with your day-to-day life, talk to your physician about over-the-counter medications that could help. For instance, you may be able to take one to help with general pain or gastrointestinal problems.
In some cases, individuals with a heroin addiction may enter into a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program on their path to recovery. Your treatment center will be able to create a customized plan to help you work through this stage, which may or may not include the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Join a Support Group
Often, talking about your issues helps them feel less scary and overbearing. This is the intent of a support group! There are many different types of treatment programs that include elements of peer therapy.
This involves meeting with a group of people who have been in the same situation that you’re in, or have recently completed the program and are there to lend a supportive ear. It will typically be led by a mediator who is trained to lead healthy, productive conversations.
During these meetings, you’ll learn tips and techniques to help you overcome withdrawal symptoms and manage your cravings. This type of support can help you prevent relapse and overdose and gives you inspiration for your future. It’s important to surround yourself with positive influences who support your desire to get clean and are there to help you work through the stages of recovery.
A Word Against Cold Turkey
When you first begin your heroin treatment, you might think that quitting the substance cold turkey is the best way to go. The truth is that this process needs to be performed methodically and carefully and under direct medical supervision. Abruptly quitting on your own can be dangerous. In some cases, it could even be life-threatening.
Instead of tackling this important step on your own, we recommend participating in a medical detox program. These programs are structured to provide you with all of the resources you need to detox safely and comfortably.
Find Support for Heroin Withdrawal
Breaking away from the chains of heroin is a courageous and commendable step. What comes next is also critical. The heroin withdrawal and detox phases can be difficult to work through, but it is possible to achieve them with the right resources by your side.
As you work through the stages and begin experiencing symptoms, the tips above can help you cope. While there are many ways to self-soothe, it’s best to complete these steps with peers, medical professionals, and treatment center staff who know how to support your progress.
To find a treatment center near you, start here!