Heroin use may have become less common in the late ‘70s, but it has come back in full force. You might be one of the many people who started by taking opioids and at some point switched to heroin. This is a common pattern, as people form an addiction to prescribed opioid painkillers then lose access to the medication or need a stronger dose. They move to heroin, which has often become easier and cheaper to obtain than prescription opioids.
Does this story sound like yours? Whether or not this was your path, you or your loved one may now have an addiction to heroin. This is a difficult addiction to have, yet it’s possible to overcome it and live free from dependency. Treatment can make it easier to go through heroin withdrawal and give you tools and support to live a life without heroin.
How Heroin and Opiate Drugs Affect the Body
Like other addictive substances, heroin affects the brain. It attaches to brain receptors that the body’s natural neurotransmitters normally attach to. When heroin stimulates receptors in the brain’s reward center, it contributes to the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This means that the brain feels rewarded when given heroin. This drug can assist the body to manage pain and create feelings of pleasure at a higher level than normal. Other opioids affect the brain in a similar way.
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When you keep taking heroin, your brain can adapt to receiving high levels of a substance that stimulates dopamine release. Because of this, the brain will reduce or stop its own natural release of dopamine and become dependent on you giving it more heroin. When your brain has adapted in this way, stopping heroin use is likely to cause withdrawal symptoms. Your body would need a transition period of adapting to releasing dopamine on its own again.
Heroin also acts as a central nervous system depressant and can affect your breathing, your heart rate and your sleep. Soon after you use heroin, it has certain effects on the body. These include reduced mental function and moving between being conscious and semiconscious. Your skin could feel warm, your mouth dry and your limbs heavy. You might also experience uncomfortable symptoms such as severe itchiness, nausea or vomiting.
Over a long period time using heroin, you could experience other symptoms. You might develop signs of the method of use such as collapsed veins or damaged nasal tissue. You could have heart lining and valve infection, constipation, insomnia and/or other symptoms of long-term use.
Heroin is often mixed with something else, whether it is another opioid or an additive like starch. The other substance(s) mixed with the heroin could have additional effects on the body.
The Difficulty of Dealing with Heroin Withdrawal
While the withdrawal period after stopping heroin might seem scary, it is not likely to be life-threatening as it can be with certain other substances. A heroin overdose is a greater risk to your life than the withdrawal period. So you shouldn’t let nervousness about withdrawal hold you back from quitting. Also, a detox program can help you manage the symptoms you might experience, especially if you quit “cold turkey.”
These withdrawal symptoms include dehydration, hallucinations, convulsions and seizures. You might go through restlessness, muscle aches and extra tears, yawning and sweating. You could also have mental symptoms such as mood swings, irritability and aggression.
It’s important to be aware that your risk of an overdose increases after going through heroin withdrawal. If you go back to using heroin, your body might no longer have the same tolerance, and the same amount you used before has the potential to result in overdose. This is one of the reasons that a treatment program can be beneficial, since it can help you quit safely and provide an aftercare program to help prevent a return to heroin addiction.
How to Treat Heroin Addiction
A treatment program provides professional support and tools that can aid you in overcoming a heroin addiction. Going through a detox program as the first step can help you manage withdrawal symptoms and monitor you during detox. This can provide a safer recovery process that’s more likely to work.
When you have rid your body of the heroin, you can truly work on the recovery process. Through a rehab program, you would have the opportunity to address the factors contributing to your addiction and figure out methods to facilitate your recovery. This process could include learning your triggers and discovering a co-occurring mental health disorder that needs to be addressed.
An aftercare program can help you stick to the path of sobriety instead of experiencing a recurrence of symptoms, and it also provides a helping hand back to recovery if you need it.
At Transformations Treatment Center, we offer individualized treatment to help you on your journey of recovery. We take a holistic approach that focuses on the many aspects of your addiction and your needs going forward.
We provide access to a medically assisted detox program through our facility Summit Detox to assist with the withdrawal period. This program includes monitoring and symptom management to help you be safe and more comfortable. Professional support and being removed from heroin can help you get through the withdrawal process rather than facing this difficult time on your own.
When you have the substance out of your body, we offer rehab treatment programs to continue on the recovery path. Our individualized programs include outpatient programs, partial hospitalization and an intensive outpatient program. We can help you figure out a treatment plan that will work best for your needs, including the right program, track and level. When you have completed rehab treatment, we provide aftercare for ongoing support.
Treatment through Transformations Treatment Center can empower you to reach ongoing recovery from heroin addiction. Contact us today to discuss your ideal treatment path.