Heroin Detox

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As the opioid epidemic in the US continues, heroin addiction remains its key component. While not as prevalent as before, heroin is still a highly addictive and potentially lethal substance. Heroin detox Florida programs have long had to treat heroin’s substantial withdrawal symptoms and detrimental effects on users’ health. Heroin has a unique withdrawal phase, and we at Archstone Behavioral Health understand this well. Our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs cater to this fact to facilitate the best possible recovery outcomes.

If you or your loved ones are in need of such services, or information on heroin detox, please read on.

An introduction to heroin

Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine. It comes in two primary forms; that of a white or brown powder, or that of a sticky, black, tar-like substance. Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted, and this variety of consumption methods opens up the potential for polydrug use and overdose.

Like other opioids requiring drug detox Florida, heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors and nervous system. This function creates intense feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and pain relief. In turn, these intense feelings increase the risk of dependence and tolerance, which lead to addiction. Seeking increasingly pleasurable feelings also often causes overdose.

Since it derives from morphine, heroin did have some medical uses in the US during the early 1900s. It was soon discovered, however, that it was far too addictive to justify such uses. Today it is a Schedule I substance, making its possession, use, and distribution illegal under federal law. The DEA notes that this classification denotes heroin has:

  • High potential for abuse,
  • No currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and
  • A lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision

Despite this, heroin detox Florida programs remain a necessity as heroin still sees illicit use. Despite its many detrimental effects on health, the drug has intense euphoric effects that fuel dependence. In addition, intense withdrawal symptoms make quitting particularly challenging and may cause users to overdose.

What makes heroin withdrawal different from other substances?

Of course, withdrawal from different substances will differ by default. However, heroin withdrawal is particularly different in one key regard; intensity and severity of withdrawal symptoms.

During any substance detox, the body will try to normalize its functions in the absence of a previously consumed substance. This is dubbed homeostasis, and the process will be inherently uncomfortable as the body adjusts. Depending on the substance, different withdrawal symptoms will manifest during this phase. Largely, the following factors will differ across substances:

  • Exact symptoms
  • Symptom severity
  • Symptom onset and duration

In the case of heroin, this phase is notably difficult. As an opioid, heroin disrupts brain chemistry and supplies it with artificial dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals control feelings of euphoria, and heroin disrupts their supply to induce euphoria and block feelings of pain. When an individual quits using it, therefore, euphoric feelings are abruptly replaced with pain signals.

An illustration of brain synapses in blue hues.
Heroin use hijacks the brain’s chemistry, making withdrawal painful and often unbearable.

Such symptoms as constant feelings of pain will often make withdrawal unbearable. The individual finds it hard to adjust and cope, and will therefore often relapse. It’s this reality of heroin withdrawal that makes heroin detox Florida programs so vital to ensuring a successful recovery.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms

Heroin use and withdrawal both come with an array of symptoms beyond pain specifically. If you’re suspecting heroin use from your loved ones, the following lists may offer some help.

Initially, short-term effects of heroin use may include:

  • Rapid heartbeat or increased blood pressure
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Elevated body temperature or sweating
  • Sleep irregularities or disturbances such as insomnia
  • Unusually heightened reflexes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Goosebumps
  • Muscle spasms, cramps, or pain
  • Bone pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Long-term effects of heroin use may instead have such symptoms escalate. Most notably, long-term heroin use can cause psychological symptoms and deterioration in overall physical health. Such symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Persisting and more severe sleep disturbances
  • Continued fatigue
  • General dysphoria
  • Drug cravings and a preoccupation with drug use
  • Apathy and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Decreased attention, impaired concentration, and difficulty making decisions

As with all substances, exact withdrawal symptoms will vary across individuals. Such factors as age, sex, body mass, medical history, overall health, co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders, and others will often affect them. Nonetheless, heroin comes with notable and severe symptoms which only exacerbate the natural challenges of withdrawal.

A depressed man lying on a wooden table.
As with most substances, heroin use can often impact the individual’s mental health; anxiety and depression are common symptoms.

Detoxing on one’s own

Having highlighted the above, it should be clear why heroin detox Florida programs are often highly necessary. Addiction to heroin can do more than interfere with everyday life; it can psychologically and physically harm the individual and even threaten their life.

Unfortunately, many heroin users may fear the detox process and instead opt to self-detox. They typically attempt this by quitting cold turkey, without medical supervision or medical assistance. Such attempts are often both fruitless and dangerous, however, which we must strongly stress.

The main reasons why DIY detox typically fails and entails risks are the following:

  • Symptom severity and relapse. As highlighted above, heroin withdrawal symptoms are often severe and can be unbearable. Faced with such symptoms, many individuals may relapse and return to heroin use. Some studies quantify relapse rates for this phase alone at 60% or more.
  • The risk of overdose. Upon a relapse, or if the individual attempts to taper their heroin use, the risk of overdose increases. That’s because the individual will often use heroin to combat painful symptoms, not just to seek euphoria. Using heroin in response to painful symptoms makes it more likely that the individual increases the dose beyond what their body can take.
  • Mental health impact. Lastly, this distressing phase can have a serious impact on mental health. Anxiety and depression can spike, especially if they existed prior to heroin use. As such, the risks of social isolation, self-harm, or accidental harm through accidents or impaired judgment all increase.

Finally, the above aside, a non-clinical environment is always not ideal for detox. Where a heroin detox Florida program would keep the individual safe and monitored, detoxing on one’s own leaves the door open for outside influences like peer pressure.

A syringe and pills on a black surface.
Polydrug use, where an individual combines heroin with other substances, can also make detox extremely difficult.

Heroin withdrawal timeline

To illustrate the hardships of DIY withdrawal, and also to give you an outline of what a detox program would cater to, here we can briefly outline the typical heroin withdrawal timeline.

  • Within the first 24 hours since the last dose, the initial withdrawal symptoms tend to emerge. Their nature and severity vary, but they will often have the individual seek their next dose.
  • Within 24-36 hours, withdrawal symptoms intensify as the body craves the substance. This is the phase where most individuals relapse in response to symptoms, and the one on which detox programs focus the most.
  • During days 4-6, the body has flushed out heroin. At this point, the initial symptoms tend to subside, but new ones may emerge. Psychological symptoms may peak during this phase, and symptoms related to other conditions may flare up.
  • From the 7th day onward, the body begins to achieve homeostasis. Psychological symptoms tend to persist, however, and the individual may still struggle to recover.

As you can see, medical supervision, pharmacotherapy, and counseling are all highly valuable throughout the process of detox. Without them, many individuals cannot handle withdrawal and relapse or get in harm’s way. Psychological symptoms alone can cause a relapse even after a successful detox, as well, which professional support would help prevent.

The process of heroin detox

With the above timeline in mind, here we can outline the process of heroin detox under professional care. If you opt for a heroin detox Florida program like ours, the following timeline and progression are what you should expect.

#1 Medical assessment

Before any detox or treatment process can begin, healthcare professionals must thoroughly assess the individual. This is to ensure that all of the patient’s needs are best catered to, and all circumstances are taken into account.

A close-up of a doctor looking through papers on a desk.
Every detox program must be uniquely tailored to the individual patient, in line with their medical history.

A medical assessment will delve into the following:

  • Physical health, including long-term effects of heroin use on it
  • Mental health, including preexisting or co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Medical history, such as past or current medication use and other conditions
  • Heroin addiction history, including duration, severity, and symptoms
  • History of polydrug use, highlighting potential non-heroin addictions in need of simultaneous treatment

These are all crucial factors, of course, which will inform an array of treatment approaches. Those include:

  • Exact medications, including means of administration
  • Other necessary therapeutic practices
  • Treatment focus, scope, and duration

With the assessment in order, the individual may proceed to an appropriate, tailored MAT program.

#2 Pharmacotherapy and withdrawal management

MAT will then begin with pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in a safe clinical environment. Healthcare professionals will monitor the individual during this process, provide clinical care as needed, and treat underlying or co-occurring disorders and conditions.

Unlike MAT for other substances like benzodiazepines, heroin detox Florida programs cannot feature substance tapering. Instead, they leave the body to flush out the substance at once, and the program focuses on treating withdrawal symptoms to ensure a successful initial recovery.

#3 Monitoring and counseling

During and after initial detox, treatment providers will continue to monitor the patient to tailor the program to their needs. Counseling is integral to this early stage, as heroin withdrawal can be particularly challenging for most individuals.

This phase will primarily focus on individual therapy, uprooting the deeper causes of addiction and comforting the patient. Group therapy and socialization can begin in subsequent programs, once the patient has achieved complete detoxification.

A crop of a psychologist and patient during a psychotherapy session.
Psychotherapy throughout detox is crucial, as it uproots the deeper causes of addiction and allows the individual to achieve recovery.

#4 Establishing support networks

Finally, treatment providers will begin to establish support networks as early as during MAT. They will first work on building up the patient’s self-efficacy and helping them achieve self-reliance, and establish trusting relations. Then, as the patient progresses to subsequent programs, they will maintain open communication channels, encourage continued group therapy sessions, and urge the patient to join aftercare programs.

Heroin MAT medications timeline

Having discussed pharmacotherapy, we should also briefly outline the timeline of MAT medications. We have often seen reservations about seeking help because of such concerns, so here we’d like to offer you some peace of mind.

For standalone heroin treatment, independent of other existing addictions, the following 3 are medications heroin detox Florida programs typically use:

  • Methadone, which is a long-acting opioid medication. Methadone is typically administered in clinical environments, requiring daily visits. Depending on the individual’s response to medication and general progress, methadone treatment duration can vary significantly. It may range between a few months to several years, in severe cases. Should the patient continuously not respond to medication, healthcare providers will explore another route.
  • Buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine can be prescribed and taken at home, making it more convenient for many patients. Just like methadone treatment, however, buprenorphine treatment can vary in duration. It will typically last several months, depending on the individual’s response and progress.
  • Naltrexone, which is an opioid antagonist. Unlike the other two, which primarily manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, naltrexone blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids. This makes it more suitable for cases where relapse is a concern, as it will block euphoric effects if the individual does use again. Like buprenorphine, it can also be prescribed and taken at home. Naltrexone treatment duration will also vary, and can extend to several years depending on the case.
A close-up of a medical professional presenting two pills, one in each hand.
There are a few different medications fit for MAT for heroin use, each with its own characteristics.

Treating heroin withdrawal

Finally, to offer you a clearer overview of heroin withdrawal treatment and general addiction treatment, here we should note that pharmacotherapy is not the only means of treating heroin addiction. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that combining pharmacotherapy with psychotherapy has far better results than pharmacotherapy alone. This fact is what heroin detox Florida programs strongly rely on to achieve the best recovery outcomes possible.

In brief, heroin MAT detox and subsequent treatment rely on three treatment pillars:

  • Medications for Opioid Use Disorders (OUDs). Addiction treatment often requires medication, as outlined so far. Medications specific to opioids need to be administered across different phases, from MAT to post-rehab, as needed.
  • Behavioral therapy. Addiction comes with a significant impact on mental health, and behavioral therapy is best rooted to remedy that. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI) are best suited to heroin addiction. These, and other types of psychotherapy depending on the case, will be employed throughout the rehabilitation process as well.
  • Support network-building. For self-efficacy during treatment and as a substantive relapse prevention practice, addiction treatment must also focus on building support networks around the patient. The first MAT stage will set the foundations for support networks. They will then be expanded through group therapy, family counseling, and other means during outpatient programs, and cement a robust post-rehab aftercare program.
A psychologist and a happy patient during a psychotherapy session.
Post-treatment, counseling, and group therapy will still be encouraged as a means of ensuring well-being and avoiding relapse.

Archstone Behavioral Health is here for you

In summary, heroin addiction substantially impacts the individual’s health and well-being. As a component of the ongoing opioid epidemic, heroin is highly addictive and comes with a high risk of overdose. Withdrawal symptoms are also typically severe and painful, making most DIY detox attempts unsuccessful and often risky.

At Archstone Behavioral Health, we offer programs for heroin detox Florida trusts, and have treated heroin addiction manifold. We strongly grasp its unique challenges, and our rehab center coms fully equipped to meet them. If you or your loved ones are struggling with heroin addiction, we are confident we can offer a pleasant and memorable journey to recovery. If you would like to know more, explore your options, or ask any questions about the process, please feel free to contact us today via email or call us at 561.867.8445.

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