Quitting heroin can be an extremely stressful and emotionally draining process. Because of this, many recovering addicts will try to make the process more comfortable anyway that they can. It’s unfortunately all too common for heroin addicts to attempt to detox from heroin at home, rather than at a treatment center, in an effort to make the process less stressful. The problem with this idea is that heroin is an extremely addictive drug with intense physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. There are a ton of benefits to using a medical detox facility for heroin withdrawals, and an equal amount of reasons why you shouldn’t try to detox from heroin at home.
For the vast majority of recovering heroin addicts, withdrawal comes with the strong desire to take more heroin. This desire is commonly referred to as cravings, and in the moment, they can be extremely hard to resist. Cravings are driven by two separate forces, one is the desire to re-experience the pleasure of the high created by heroin use, and the other is the desire to reduce the withdrawal symptoms experienced during abstinence from heroin. In addition to these two forces, there can also be psychological factors creating the cravings as well. This is especially true for addicts who are diagnosed with mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.
Regardless of what is causing your cravings, it’s important that detox takes place in an environment that is substance-free. This can greatly reduce the risk of relapse during detox.
Heroin is notorious for its uncomfortable, and down-right dangerous, withdrawal symptoms. While a medical detox center is able to mitigate and help dull the effects of heroin withdrawal symptoms, detoxing at home means facing the full front of these side-effects. Some people may still be tempted to “rough it out” on their own, but research has shown that patients that use medical detox for heroin are more likely to be successful in their long-term recovery goals. While some are more successful simply because they are more comfortable, medical detox centers also offer patients a number of programs to prepare them for their return to everyday life. This preparation goes a long way when combating future triggers and cravings.
Here are some common heroin withdrawal symptoms to expect when you start detox:
Detoxing from heroin can result in a lot of fluid loss. When you are withdrawing from heroin, you may notice that your body will start to overproduce bodily fluids. This includes excess sweating, tears, and a runny nose. This is largely your body’s attempt at restoring balance, but it does present a very real risk of dehydration, especially when you couple these symptoms with the vomiting and diarrhea commonly experienced by addicts during detox from heroin. It is recommended that recovering heroin addicts drink 2-3 liters of water per day.
Medically supervised detoxes make managing self-care, like fluid intake, much easier, as patients are supervised throughout the process. In addition to supervision, medications may be used to ease the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal, reducing the risk of health issues like dehydration.
One of the most common symptoms experienced during heroin detox is a fever. A fever is a raised body temperature, and while most of us have experienced a fever in our life, the fevers experienced during heroin can be especially dangerous. Generally speaking, a body temperature is considered a fever when it reaches a temperature somewhere between 99°F and 99.5°F. Fevers are just one of the many ways our body fights off infections and other types of illness. During detox a fever serves no purpose and is more likely to do harm to your body then good. If you’re body temperature reaches 103°F or more and does not subside with treatment, seek medical attention immediately. Especially if you have any medical conditions, such as HIV, diabetes, anemia, or heart issues.
Health risks are one of the main reasons recovering addicts choose to undergo heroin detox at medical detox centers. These specialized treatment centers are staffed by nurses and doctors who are trained to help minimize the risk of heroin withdrawal symptoms like fevers.
While your safety, health, and recovery should be your number one concern during heroin detox, the impact you will have on the people around is important as well. Heroin withdrawal can result in serious and unpredictable mood swings that are made even worse if you are experience insomnia, another symptom of heroin withdrawal. These symptoms can be intense during the initial stages of heroin detox, but over time they do subside. Thing will, inevitably, get better.
If you are trying to detox from heroin at home, this period of intense mood swings can put a lot of strain on your relationships with family and friends, which can, in turn, lead to relapse. If you are withdrawing from heroin in a treatment center, use the resources they offer you. Between therapy, medically assisted detox, and medical supervision, your withdrawal symptoms can be kept at bay throughout the detox process.