Heroin withdrawal is known to be very painful and uncomfortable and is possibly the biggest obstacle a person will face on their road to recovery.
While some people choose to go through detox and opiate withdrawal on their own, there are professional treatments available to make withdrawal easier, more comfortable, and lower the risks for relapse.
Learn more about heroin withdrawal.
Treatment Options For Heroin Withdrawal
Any heroin withdrawal treatment program begins with medical detox and will usually continue with medication-assisted treatment for a period of time.
Medical Detox Programs
Medical detox for heroin generally consists of giving a person a different form of opioid and gradually weaning them off it, usually in an inpatient setting.
This allows the drug to safely leave the body and at a comfortable rate so the person does not suffer through a painful withdrawal period.
Medication-Assisted Treatment With Methadone
Methadone was one of the original treatments for heroin addiction in the 1960s and is still one of the most popular treatments for it today. It also has one of the highest success rates of any one heroin treatment.
The biggest con with methadone is that it can also be addictive over time. Some people worry that people with a heroin addiction are simply trading one addiction for another with use of methadone.
However, it is a proven effective method for treating heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-Assisted Treatment With Buprenorphine (Suboxone)
Buprenorphine has gained popularity as a methadone alternative because it has shown to be almost as successful without being as addictive or having the abusive properties of methadone.
This drug, called an opioid agonist, works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain that would ordinarily be triggered by heroin, and also helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Medication-Assisted Treatment With Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
Naltrexone also works by blocking receptors in the brain that normally respond to heroin. However, this particular drug does not treat withdrawal symptoms.
Naltrexone is best used further along in the treatment process as protection against relapse and is not considered effective during the initial period of heavy withdrawal symptoms.
Treating Different Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal can cause many uncomfortable symptoms for the person going through it. Fortunately, there are natural treatments and over-the-counter medications that are effective against these withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, the process of going through heroin withdrawal can cause extreme anxiety to the point where a person may even have panic attacks.
In these instances, your health care provider may need to prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
One common medication used during opioid withdrawal treatment is clonidine. This medication slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure and can have a sedative effect on people who take it, helping them to relax during stressful periods.
Clonidine is also effective in treating other symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including insomnia, sweating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Addressing Stomach Issues From Heroin Withdrawal
Withdrawal from heroin can cause uncomfortable stomach cramping and abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. A good idea at this point is to stick with bland foods or try foods with probiotics such as yogurt.
It is safe to use certain over-the-counter medications during this time, such as Pepto-Bismol or Imodium, for opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Medications For Muscle And Bone Pain
One of the more uncomfortable symptoms of physical dependence experienced with heroin withdrawal are muscle aches and body aches.
One natural solution to this is a hot bath, which can also help to soothe anxiety. It is also safe to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at this time, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Supplements For Malnutrition
It is not uncommon for someone who has been using heroin for an extended period of time to be extremely malnourished. Addiction tends to take over a person’s life, causing them to neglect taking care of themselves.
During detoxification, it is imperative to get one’s health back on track, as malnutrition can inhibit a person’s ability to fight illness or infection.
In addition to professional diet and nutritional guidance, a person going through withdrawal may take vitamin supplements as well.
Fluids For Hydration
Withdrawal from heroin can cause severe nausea with diarrhea and vomiting. Because of this, people going through withdrawal are at risk for dehydration.
It is extremely important to stay hydrated while going through withdrawal and to drink plenty of water.
If a person has trouble doing this on their own or is experiencing severe withdrawal, they may be hooked up to an IV to give them fluids.
One of the best things you can do for yourself during this time is to get plenty of rest and take breaks when you need to.
This can be easier said than done, especially when withdrawal causes insomnia and anxiety, but it is still important to not force yourself to do too much too soon. You can also try natural sleep supplements like melatonin.
Find Heroin Withdrawal Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
If you or a loved one have a heroin addiction or any other drug use or opioid use disorder, we at Bedrock Recovery Center would love to help.
Call our helpline at any time with questions about heroin use and addiction, or to let us know you are ready to get started with inpatient or outpatient treatment.
It is never too early or too late to get started on the right path.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Withdrawal Management https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Heroin DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm