Heroin addicts usually start their addiction with some other drug. Such as cannabis (or marijuana or ‘hashish’), then graduate to prescription painkillers and eventually start using heroin. Once they are hooked onto heroin, it begins to take a huge toll and it becomes extremely difficult to quit.

Most of the time, professional help is needed to quit heroin.

Heroin - What are the Effects?

Heroin is an opioid. Opioids are used as pain relievers in medicine. Heroin acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. That is one reason why persons who are addicted to prescription painkillers start using heroin.

Heroin is commonly injected and intravenous use causes other related problems – increased risk of other diseases such as Hepatitis C, HIV and infected abscesses.

Some of the short term effects of heroin include:

  • Euphoria

  • Sleepiness

  • Constipation

  • Slurred speech

   • Disorientation

Heroin use causes a very euphoric “high” that is so intense that it becomes difficult to live without it. It is not only addictive due to the “good’ feeling caused by it, but it is chemically very addictive. The addict becomes physically and psychologically addicted.

Continual usage begins to change the perspective of the addict and he or she begins to use it as a coping mechanism in life – to “escape” the realities of living.

Some Facts about Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal can be a very painful experience. In fact, that is one reason why an addict continues to use the drug – he doesn’t want to go through the pain of withdrawal.

It is always better to withdraw under expert medical supervision. At Hope Trust, heroin withdrawal is monitored by professionals such as a physician and a psychiatrist who are experienced and may use medication to minimize the pain and risks of heroin withdrawal.

Heroin withdrawal may include following symptoms:

   Watery eyes

  • Running nose

  • Depression/ Anxiety

  • Chills and intense cold sweats

  • Severe headache

  • Diarrhea

  • Insomnia

  • Restlessness/ Tremors

  • Stomach cramps

  • Leg pains

  • Nausea/ vomiting

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

PAWS symptoms can persist long after the initial acute withdrawal. This may include problems with thinking, managing emotions, sleep problems, memory issues and poor physical coordination. Actually it is PAWs that usually triggers a relapse. PAWs can be managed by maintain a relapse prevention program – all clients at Hope Trust are provided with a plan post-discharge that is designed to help the addict remain abstinent and lead a healthy and balanced life.  

Medical Detox Treatments

In medical detox centers, medications might be used to help treat the withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine is a medication that reduces muscle aches, sweating, cramps, and runny nose and alleviates anxiety and agitation.

Buprenorphine helps to eliminate pain and it’s often considered to be the safest drug to use. It is being widely used in areas where drug addiction is rampant and holistic drug treatment centres are few or non-existent – such as Punjab in India and Sultanate of Oman in the Middle East.

Methadone is a drug that is useful in can reducing physical pain and it can be used for women who are pregnant. Suboxone also reduces some symptoms. However, drug addiction treatment centres that focus on overall and long-term recovery slowly taper off these medications and then focus on the addictive personality of the addict – his thinking and behaviour patterns. Methadone and Suboxone are not intended to be taken for more than few months and the addict must be weaned off the drug.

 Ideally, they would also help in re-building broken relationships with an effective family support program.

Detox is only the first stage in complete recovery. Therapies such as 12 Steps, CBT and psychotherapy are highly effective in providing long-term drug treatment.

Quitting Heroin – Treatment Options and After Care

Withdrawal symptoms of quitting heroin are not usually fatal. Eventually the acute symptoms go away. The problem however is the brain chemistry that takes a long time to regulate and normalize itself. The irregular activity of dopamine and serotonin levels leads to increase symptoms of PAWs that trigger a relapse. Therefore, a long term stay (the ‘Gold Standard’ is 3 months).

A good drug rehabilitation program will incorporate an integrated therapy module that addresses all areas of the addict’s life – not only the physical but also the mental (thinking), emotional (managing stress and mood swings), social (rebuilding relationships), ethical (becoming honest) and spiritual (being humble, open-minded, compassionate, etc). Addiction treatment is no longer a mystery – lot of scientific knowledge has been gathered during the past few decades. There are proven methodologies, though ongoing research is also there. A good drug treatment centre will incorporate individual therapy, group therapy, spiritual measures, life skills and other phases into their treatment plan. And an individualized after care plan is essential to maintain the clean status of the addict.

Addiction treatment is actually noting but relapse prevention. If the addict remains away from any mind-changing, mood altering substances, he or she can lead a happy, productive life and spread happiness and cheer to those around him – his family and society.

If you are serious about providing the most effective drug treatment to an addict, check out the credentials of a drug rehab – their experience, the staff, the duration (should be adequate), and the program (should be holistic).