Skip to main content
Welcome to Retreat of Atlanta
Follow us:

Heroin: Abuse, Detox, and Withdrawal

Heroin addiction is tenacious, and relapse rates can reach 60%. Heroin withdrawal is intensely uncomfortable, which makes quitting very challenging. Professionals are aware of these complications, discomforts, and extreme symptoms and have found ways to manage heroin detox. Assessments need to occur to find any co-occurring disorders, physical and mental, that may be present before detox. 

Heroin’s effect on the brain makes heroin detox challenging to manage. Heroin disrupts standard brain chemistry by artificially inducing higher levels of dopamine and other endorphins. The brain can no longer function, controlling responses to pain without the drug, and heroin withdrawal symptoms occur without additional heroin. Fortunately, professional heroin detox programs can manage the discomfort, and those who wish to become sober can begin treatment. 

Heroin: A Powerful Drug

Heroin is a potent substance causing an alarming number of deaths from overdose. In 2020, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics stated that 14,000 Americans died from heroin overdose. 902,000 Americans use heroin a year, and 6.25 million people have used heroin in their lifetime. An alarming statistic is that 80% of those using heroin in 2020 were misusing prescription opioids first. 

Heroin Appearance and Street Names

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid processed from morphine and extracted from certain poppy plants. Heroin is either a white or brownish powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin is often cut with other substances, such as sugar, powdered milk, or other substances. When dealers add unknown substances, the odds of overdose increase. Heroin users inject, smoke, or snort heroin.

According to the DEA, the following are street names for heroin:

  • Big H
  • Black Tar
  • Chiva
  • Hell Dust
  • Horse
  • Negra
  • Smack
  • Thunder

Effects of Heroin Abuse

The effects of heroin abuse include the high likelihood of developing an addiction. The surge, euphoria, or extreme rush initially occurs to extend to a twilight sleep and wakefulness. The physical symptoms of using heroin include feelings of drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the extremities, and dry mouth. Once a dependence on the drug occurs, heroin withdrawal can be challenging. 

After the initial symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and severe itchiness can transpire. Drowsiness can extend for several hours, and mental capacity is cloudy, heart function and breathing slow to a life-threatening rate. The slow respiratory rate can lead to coma and permanent brain damage. These short-term effects continue to sabotage standard brain chemistry. 

Long-term effects include changes to the physical and physiology of the brain that are challenging to reverse. Some studies have shown deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which affects cognitive ability involving decision-making, behavior, and response to stress. With long-term use, heroin withdrawal symptoms can be extreme. Professional medically managed heroin detox is the best way to clear the body of the substance. 

Heroin Withdrawal

Professional treatment centers have experience with treating addiction to heroin and performing an initial assessment can determine if any mental health issues are also present. Depression and severe drug cravings are challenging to endure during heroin withdrawal. Brain chemistry is not within normal functions due to heroin’s effect, and the body must free itself from the built-up toxins in the system. Initially, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea are physical symptoms of heroin detox. For some people, the lingering effects of heroin addiction continue for weeks once treatment begins. 

Signs of Heroin Withdrawal

The physical symptoms begin to appear in heroin detox sometime between 6 and 24 hours without the drug. Anxiety and agitation can be the first psychological symptoms appearing in heroin withdrawal. Patients in detox can begin to feel a sense of panic, knowing they will not get more heroin. Many people develop a negative mindset and need treatment professionals’ encouragement to continue the process. 

It is essential to understand that the brain adapts to having the drug, and when it is not present, there is a sense of chaos within the neural network. Once the overwhelming physical symptoms appear, flu-like feelings like chills and sweating can begin. The heroin withdrawal symptoms continue to escalate, and the intensity can differ for each individual depending upon the length of the addiction and the condition of the patient. 

Other physical heroin withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Overwhelming sadness and depression
  • Aching muscles, especially the legs and back
  • Feeling restless and anxious
  • Runny nose 
  • Drug cravings
  • Stomach pains and diarrhea
  • Sleep issues, insomnia, and nightmares
  • Hallucinations

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Again, the heroin withdrawal timeline is different for each individual, with several factors determining the intensity and length of occurrence. The initial assessment provides pertinent data to estimate how severe the symptoms will be in heroin detox. Healthcare professionals can manage the severity and make the patient comfortable, sometimes using medication-assisted treatment. Understanding what happens during detox before the process begins is beneficial. 

A typical heroin withdrawal timeline includes the following:

  • The first 8 – 12 hours of heroin detox: withdrawal symptoms have begun and continue to intensify. Without professional help through this phase of detox, many people relapse because of the discomfort. Flu-like symptoms start, and sweating, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and extreme anxiety build. 
  • After 12 hours, more withdrawal symptoms will occur: Faster pulse and breathing rate, increased blood pressure, and elevated body temperature are typical. Muscle spasms, bone pain, and unusually heightened reflexes can occur with dilated pupils, watery eyes, and nose. 
  • Days 3 through 6: Heroin is generally out of the body by now, and symptoms begin to taper off. The brain is still adjusting and striving to return to standard chemistry, but this process can take time. 

After day 7, most brain functions and physical functions return to normal. Still, for severe cases of long-term addiction, additional heroin withdrawal treatment can be essential to address mental and physical health problems. 

Find Compassionate and Professional Care for Heroin Detox in Georgia

Enlisting treatment for a loved one for heroin detox can be intimidating and daunting. The Retreat of Atlanta in Georgia understands that the fear of the unknown can cause frustration and lead to insecurity about the decision to seek help for heroin addiction. Working through the fear of the unknown with professionals who understand the treatment challenges right from the beginning can build confidence. Contact The Retreat of Atlanta today for clarity and to gain faith that recovery is possible. 

Begin Your Treatment Today

Take The First Step Towards Your Journey To Recovery