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Pain Free Heroin Withdrawal: Is It Even Possible?

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Heroin is a highly addictive drug with the potential to ruin a user’s health and life. Quitting the drug is the first step toward recovery, but many people keep using it to avoid the many painful and distressing symptoms of withdrawal. Today, though, new approaches to heroin withdrawal can make the process less painful than ever.

What Causes Withdrawal Symptoms?

Heroin is an opiate, one of a group of drugs that act on the pleasure centers of the brain. It’s a central nervous system depressant, so it slows reactions and promotes feelings of calm and relaxation.

Over time, the brain and body develop a tolerance to the drug, so that it doesn’t provide the same feelings at the usual dosage. At the same time, heroin changes the chemistry of the brain and in the cells of the body.

When a heroin user quits the drug, the body and brain have to adjust to its absence. Within hours of taking the last dose, withdrawal begins, with symptoms that include:

Pain Free Heroin Withdrawal

Medications can eliminate heroin withdrawal symptoms so you can focus on your recovery.

  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Mood changes
  • Suicidal thoughts

Withdrawal symptoms usually peak within three or four days of stopping heroin, and subside in a week or so. But for some users, symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years after quitting the drug – a condition called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS.

The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be severe, and for some, even life threatening.  That’s why addiction professionals warn against trying to quit heroin “cold turkey” without medical supervision.

Dedicated detox centers and rehab programs can offer options that may significantly reduce the pain and discomfort of typical heroin withdrawal.

Medication Reduces Withdrawal Symptoms

Medications that mimic the effects of heroin can help ease users off the drug gradually. This approach helps to eliminate both the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Medications often prescribed for withdrawal include buprenorphine, which targets the same receptors in the brain as heroin but doesn’t produce the drug’s “high,” and Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and another medication, naloxone.

Many people who use heroin take methadone in order to recover from heroin use. This medication also acts on the brain in ways similar to heroin, so that withdrawal symptoms don’t appear. Methadone users may continue taking the medication for indefinite periods, or taper the dose down slowly to avoid the many painful and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.

Death Rates Rise in Prisons Due to Heroin Withdrawal

“Rapid” and “Ultra-Rapid” Detox

A relatively new strategy to help people avoid the pain and discomfort of withdrawal is a procedure known as “rapid detox.” Offered by some detox centers and inpatient rehab programs, this process aims to bypass withdrawal completely – but it can be risky and expensive.

Rapid, or accelerated detox is performed under anesthesia in a hospital intensive care unit and takes less than a day. While sedated, a patient is given intravenous injections of buprenorphine and other medications, along with other drugs to reduce physical symptoms of withdrawal such as muscle pain and nausea.

With no complications, the patient is usually released within 48 hours and can start working toward recovery in rehab. Rapid detox isn’t for everyone, though. Because of its intensity, people with ongoing health conditions can face life-threatening complications.

Stepped Rapid Detox: A Safer Option

A variation of rapid detox is “stepped rapid detox.” Under medical supervision, small doses of naloxone and naltrexone, medications that block all opioid receptors in the brain, are given every hour or so.  Patients stay awake and if withdrawal symptoms appear,  they can take buprenorphine to eliminate them.

Heroin has potent effects on the brain and body, as shown by the pain and other discomforts of withdrawal. But medical approaches for detox and withdrawal offer ways to make that process as pain free as possible.

Are you struggling with an addiction to heroin – and looking for ways to stop?  We’re here to help. Call us at 800-662-8079 for the answers you need right now.

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