What You Should Know About Quitting Heroin

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How to Stop Using Heroin

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug that is most commonly abused by injection. Over time, non-sterile needle use places users at risk for developing HIV, hepatitis and collapsed veins. Painful withdrawal symptoms can occur when you stop using heroin, which makes it very difficult to quit.


Heroin Addiction Treatment Center and Recovery Program Options

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to heroin, many different recovery options are available.

Each type of treatment can help someone stop using heroin. It all depends on what best suits your needs and situation.

Your addiction treatment team will help you create an aftercare plan to follow once you complete your initial rehabilitation program. Your aftercare plan is designed to help prevent relapse and to continue to build on the coping strategies you learned in rehab.

Aftercare can involve any of the above mentioned recovery programs, as well as “step-down” residences such as sober living homes, which allow you to live in a substance-free environment while acclimating to life in the real world, once treatment is completed.


Heroin Withdrawal Effects and Symptoms

Approximately 23% of heroin users develop a dependence,1 which means that they have trouble functioning without the drug in their system.2 Additionally, attempts at quitting heroin will result in undesirable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are unpleasant, and they can often lead to greater distress and impairment in the user’s life. Someone going through withdrawal may lack the ability to focus on anything else or the strength to leave the house.The unpleasant effects of some of these symptoms is one major factor contributing to immediate relapse after attempting to quit cold turkey.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tearing of the eyes.
  • Sweating.
  • Goose bumps.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure).
  • Spontaneous ejaculations. 3

Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin is a short-acting opioid, meaning that it is quickly cleared from the system, and its effects don’t’ last for very long. Because of this, withdrawal symptoms could appear as soon as 6-12 hours after the last dose of heroin. The severity of withdrawal, on average, will peak between 1 and 3 days. 3

Symptoms should begin to go away 5-7 days after the last dose, depending on:

  • Duration of addiction.
  • Amount of heroin used.
  • Your physiology.

Some of the less severe symptoms – including insomnia, anhedonia and anxiety – reportedly may last for weeks or months after quitting heroin. 3


Is It Dangerous to Quit Heroin Cold Turkey?

Although heroin withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, it can be extremely unpleasant to quit cold turkey. People who try to quit using heroin on their own may relapse to prevent withdrawal symptoms. This only serves to temporarily postpone the inevitable onset of withdrawal, and only make it harder to get clean in the long run. A real danger seen in some cases of heroin withdrawal is the increased risk of depression and suicide. One article asserted that those who abuse heroin are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-using peers.4 For all of these reasons, it may be advisable to consider medically supervised detox if you’re thinking of quitting heroin cold turkey.


How to Help an Addict Quit

Overcome Heroin Addiction

If you’re ready to get help for your heroin addiction or get treatment for a loved one, call 1-888-319-2606

Who Answers? to speak to a treatment support specialist.

If you want to help someone struggling with heroin addiction to get clean, you may be wondering how to approach the addict. Instead of confronting the addict, a gentler approach will often be more effective in getting him or her into treatment.

Below are some ways in which you should not approach the heroin addict in your life: 5

  • Don’t put them down. Heroin addicts tend to have a lot of shame, and speaking to them in a demeaning way will only multiply that shame.
  • <Don’t have a meaningful conversation about addiction while he or she is high. He or she may not remember the conversation and won’t be able to coherently discuss treatment.
  • Avoid anger. This will only push your loved one further away from you and decrease the chances that he or she will listen to your suggestions.
  • Avoid blaming your loved one for his or her heroin addiction. Instead, face it from a cooperative standpoint against the addiction itself.

Below are some ways in which you should approach the heroin addict: 5

  • Try to talk to your loved one when he or she is already trying to “kick the habit”. This signifies that he or she has already acknowledged the heroin addiction and is ready to quit.
  • Focus on their positive qualities. If you’re upset by the things your loved one does or says while high, remind yourself of the reasons why you love him or her.
  • Speak to your loved one in a kind and nonjudgmental way. This makes it less likely that they will become defensive and push you away.
  • Suggest that they get into treatment. If the discussion goes well, you may encourage your loved one to attend heroin addiction rehab.

The bottom line is that you must not alienate your loved one by blaming him or her. The best way to foster a loving and trusting connection is to approach the situation in a collaborative and nonjudgmental fashion. Remember that addiction can happen to anyone. Confronting someone in an angry fashion will only push him or her away.


Tips for Quitting Heroin

young man deciding whether to delete heroin dealer's number from smartphone

Due to factors such as increased risk of suicidal thought as well as the general discomfort of withdrawal potentially undermining sobriety attempts, detoxing at home is not recommended for many heroin abusers. Educate yourself on the different treatment options and choose one that best suits your needs and situation.

Before you enter a recovery center, you can take a few steps to make your recovery easier and more likely to succeed.

  • Delete your dealer’s number. This will be a temptation when you get out of rehab. Disconnect yourself from dealers and friends who use heroin.
  • Change your phone number. This way, your dealer or old using friends can’t contact you once you complete your initial treatment program.
  • Throw out anything that reminds you of using. Get rid of all heroin and paraphernalia in your house.
  • Get support. Create an encouraging and positive support group that will help you throughout your recovery process.

All of these things will help to prepare you for your battle against heroin addiction and your transition back into your everyday life.


Frequently Asked Questions About Quitting Heroin

Should I Use Kratom to Ease Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Kratom has many harmful effects and is highly addictive.


Many heroin users have deemed the herb Kratom to be a safe alternative medication for the treatment of heroin withdrawal. But it is far from safe. While it is technically legal in the United States, it is on the DEA’s list for items of concern.

Studies have shown that Kratom can have numerous harmful effects such as:

  • Pulmonary edema.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Jaundice of the liver.
  • Death, in some cases.6,7,8

Further, it is highly addictive; in one study, more than 50% of regular Kratom users developed dependence. 9 Many withdrawal symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, anger, sadness, restlessness and Kratom cravings, were noted. 9

It’s not advisable to use Kratom to ease heroin withdrawal symptoms, as you may experience life-threatening effects or develop an addiction.


Get Help Finding a Rehab Program

Recovery from heroin addiction is possible. Call 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? to speak to a treatment support representative about rehab centers in your area. Our trained advisors can also answer any questions you have about insurance and paying for treatment.

Sources

[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014) Drug Facts: Heroin. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: Definition of dependence. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/8-definition-dependence

[3]. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

[4]. Darke, S., & Ross, J. (2002). Suicide among heroin users: Rates, risk factors and methods. Addiction, 97(11), 1383-1394. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2002.00214.x

[5]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Intervention Summary – Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://legacy.nreppadmin.net/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=378

[6]. Neerman, M., Frost, R., & Deking, J. (2012). A Drug Fatality Involving Kratom. J Forensic Sci Journal of Forensic Sciences, 58(1). doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12009

[7]. Pathak, V., Hahn, C., Cabellon, M., & Aris, R. (2014). Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome Secondary To The Use Of Herbal Drug Kratom. American Thoracic Society Journals.

[8]. Kapp, F., Maurer, H., Auwärter, V., Winkelmann, M., & Hermanns-Clausen, M. (2011). Intrahepatic Cholestasis Following Abuse of Powdered Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa). Journal of Medical Toxicology J. Med. Toxicol., 7(3), 227-231.

[9]. Singh, D., Müller, C., & Vicknasingam, B. (2014). Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) dependence, withdrawal symptoms and craving in regular users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 139(1), 132-137. doi:doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.03.017

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Last updated on December 7, 2018
2018-12-07T20:38:46+00:00