Heroin Addiction, Effects, & Withdrawal Symptoms - CWC Recovery
Heroin is an illicit substance that is synthesized from morphine. This drug is often used as an analgesic, for self-medication, and recreationally. Heroin is a depressant that cultivates a relaxed euphoria and the user will achieve the desired effect within seconds of the drug being injected. However, heroin can also be smoked or snorted. The high does not hit as quickly, by this specific method of use, but there is a lower chance of overdose. Heroin impacts the brain’s reward system, increasing the user’s tolerance over time.
The addictive properties of heroin mirror the addictive effects of a typical opioid. The user will eventually experience both physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Often times, the user may be able to hide his/her addiction for a brief period of time. However, there are many signs to look for if you suspect a friend or loved one may be addicted to heroin and require help from a heroin rehab near you.
Symptoms of Heroin Abuse
- Sudden behavioral changes
- Dry mouth
- Slurred speech
- Avoiding eye contact
- Wearing long pants/sleeves
- Apathy/ lost interest in goals and hobbies
- Shortness of breath
- Declining performance at work/school
- Constricted pupils
- Alertness followed by immediate sleepiness
- Frequent runny nose
- Weight Loss
- Skin infections, abscesses, cuts, scabs, and bruising
- Track marks
- Lying, stealing, reckless behavior
- Extreme mood swings
There are many immediate and short-term effects of heroin addiction as well as long-term health complications caused by heroin abuse. Dangerous health consequences such as heart problems, chronic pulmonary disease, blood-borne infections from IV use, blood clots, bacterial infections, seizures, liver disease, and even death are common amongst heroin users. Without help from medical professions at a heroin treatment center, addicts are at high risk of dying from an overdose.
What is Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin has a direct effect on an individual’s reward system and over time the user will inevitably develop a tolerance to the drug. Heroin addicts eventually require much higher doses of the drug to reach the same “high”. The brain’s chemistry changes as the user continues to use more and more heroin. Once the individual attempts to stop using heroin, withdrawal symptoms set in. Often times, many individuals struggle to quit using the drug in fear of experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms.
Most heroin addicts will begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms between 6 and 12 hours after their last dose of heroin. Withdrawal from heroin is similar to the withdrawal symptoms of prescription opioids. Because heroin has a shorter half-life than prescription opioids, withdrawal generally comes about much faster. Heroin and prescription opiate users describe withdrawal like a horrible case of the flu. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms and discomfort typically lasts a week, as the peak of the symptoms occurs during the second or third day.
Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Extreme Body Aches
- Restless Legs
- Extreme Sweating
- Depression/Uncontrollable Crying
- Abdominal Cramping
- Muscle Aches
- Mood Swings
- Loss of Appetite
- Intense Cravings
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
Depending on the severity and length of heroin use, addicts are likely to suffer post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). These symptoms include poor sleep, poor focus, increased anxiety, extreme depression, panic attacks, fatigue, restless legs, hypersensitivity, mood swings, and even memory loss. PAWS generally lasts anywhere from 18-24 months. Over time, as the individual remains drug-free, withdrawal symptoms will begin to diminish.
The length of heroin withdrawal depends on several factors such as:
- Amount of heroin abused
- Frequency of heroin abuse
- The method by which the heroin is abused (IV, snorting, smoking)
- The duration of time the user abuses heroin
- The presence of underlying medical/mental health issues
Generally, heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after the last dose. Pain, muscle aches, and anxiety will start to develop. These symptoms typically intensify over the first 48 hours. Other symptoms may include panic attacks, insomnia, shaking, vomiting, diarrhea.
By day three and day four, withdrawal symptoms begin to peak. Extreme abdominal cramping, cold sweats, shivers, nausea/vomiting, and fatigue are very common during this period.
After a week of experiencing acute withdrawal, extreme muscle aches, and nausea begin to taper off. Physically, heroin users will begin to feel more normal but still extremely emotionally and physically exhausted.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal may continue inconsistently linger for months after acute withdrawal. Neurological changes within the brain, from heroin abuse, cultivate these lingering withdrawal symptoms. Many common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, mood swings, and cravings.
A professional heroin detox program in South Florida provides a medically supervised and safe environment to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Complications from heroin withdrawal may require prompt medical attention. Individuals withdrawing from heroin can become severely dehydrated or even inhale stomach contents after vomiting and asphyxiate. Whether the patient’s life is at risk or not, withdrawal symptoms are better mitigated in a clinically supervised environment.
Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation often prescribe drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms. These specific medications can help with the recovery process by minimizing withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and encouraging the individual to focus on his/her recovery.
- Methadone – This medication is slow-acting, a low-strength opiate used to taper individuals off heroin while mitigating withdrawal symptoms.
- Buprenorphine – This is one of the most commonly prescribed medications used in treating heroin withdrawal. This specific medication reduces cravings as well as physical symptoms such as vomiting and muscle aches.
- Naltrexone – This drug blocks specific receptors in the brain that react to opioids – such as heroin. This drug is neither sedating nor addictive. Naltrexone is most effective for patients who have completed detox.
Detox centers are your first step in addressing your substance dependency and abuse. While the detoxification process can be unpleasant, it is a crucial step toward long-term sobriety. After detoxification, the staff at Comprehensive Wellness Centers’ holistic approach cultivates a program of action that will help monitor and support the body’s various processes as it rids itself of the drug, and continue to manage any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin Addiction Treatment in Palm Beach, FL
To further decrease the chance of relapse, Comprehensive Wellness Centers, in Palm Beach, Fl, may include medically assisted treatments (MAT) with medications such as Vivitrol. Vivitrol and other medications will help you fight the physical and mental signs of craving that can increase your risk of using substances. Our compassionate staff understands that the path to recovery is not an easy one. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers in South Florida, we focus on offering patients a personalized care plan that meets their individual needs. If you believe you or your loved one can benefit from Vivitrol as an opioid or alcohol addiction treatment and would like more information, contact our team at (855) 844-0675 or fill out the contact form we will contact you.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.