3 Signs of Heroin Withdrawal and How to Manage Them

by | May 15, 2018 | Recovery | 0 comments

signs of heroin withdrawal

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It’s difficult to break free from a heroin addiction when faced with signs of heroin withdrawal. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal are so intense that they drive compulsive heroin use. This results in long-term substance abuse. One of the many effects of heroin withdrawal is relapse. Most addicts can’t tolerate the withdrawal process and will start to use heroin again in order to feel at ease. This is despite the fact that the heroin withdrawal timeline typically only lasts up to a week.

This is why it’s so important for heroin users to get help from addiction treatment centers. Heroin is one of the most difficult types of substance abuse to wean yourself off of. To make matters easier, there are different types of heroin detox programs that help patients get sober. These detoxes from heroin couple medical detox with behavioral therapy to treat co-occurring disorders and mental illnesses, like eating disorders and personality disorders.

Even upon partaking in an addiction treatment program for heroin abuse, heroin abusers still may experience some unsavory effects of heroin withdrawal. Fortunately, there are plenty of different ways that patients can ease and manage these symptoms themselves.

Sign #1: Insomnia

opioid dependency

Insomnia is a common heroin withdrawal symptom. It’s considered as one of the most severe and serious symptoms, but it’s incredibly common. Most drug abusers will experience some level of insomnia when withdrawing from heroin.

A heroin addiction wreaks havoc on the dopamine system. When there’s not enough dopamine in your body, your body goes into a panicked ‘flight-or-fight’ stance. This state continues until dopamine levels are restored to normal levels. Since your body is stressed, patients will experience side effects like insomnia. They’ll have difficulties going to sleep and getting a decent amount of rest every night. A lack of sleep will only exacerbate other heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Treat Insomnia with Medications and Supplements

Most treatment centers will have different regimens in place for treating insomnia. Most medical professionals recommend treating insomnia with medications or supplements. These medications can are often part of the medical detox process and given to patients at the start of treatment. There are many options available; however, some of the most common and popular medications and supplements include:

  • Antidepressants, like trazadone. Trazadone improves nighttime sleep quality. It’s a great treatment option for insomnia because it does not cause daytime sleepiness.
  • Benzodiazepines, like clonazepam, quazepam and flurazepam. These medications are great for treating post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). While effective, these medications do come with a risk of tolerance and dependence.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, like eszopiclone and zaleplon. These medications are non-addictive, and one of the most preferred treatment options for insomnia. While effective, they do come with some side effects, like fatigue, diarrhea and drowsiness.
  • Melatonin. A small dose of 0.3mg is sufficient for reducing the time it takes to sleep.
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines, like doxylamine and hydroxyzine. These medications also come with side effects like dizziness, daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment.
  • Valerian root. This herb has sedative effects and can improve one’s quality of sleep.

There are also other options available, like kava; however, these options have fewer studies backing them up. Choose an addiction treatment that is evidence-based for the best results possible.

Use a Holistic Approach to Treat Insomnia

While undergoing medical detox, some patients may want to avoid as many medications and supplements as possible. They may want to take a more natural approach to treating the insomnia. In these situations, there are several holistic approaches that a patient can take to manage insomnia. Some of these methods include:

  • Avoiding naps as much as possible, as they can throw off a person’s sleep schedule.
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine later in the day.
  • Exercising about 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Keeping the bedroom cool and well-ventilated throughout the entire night.
  • Maintaining a strict schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Sleeping in a dark bedroom.
  • Taking a hot bath 1 to 2 hours before heading to bed.
  • Using a white noise machine to reduce distractions in the room.
  • Using breathing or relaxation exercises to get the mind and body ready.
  • Using the bed only for sleeping and for having sex.

These habits can help ease insomnia caused by heroin abuse. A good night’s sleep can make a world of a difference. It can help ease other effects of heroin abuse and shorten the heroin withdrawal timeline.

Sign #2: Muscle Aches

opioid addiction

When going through opioid detox and withdrawal, muscle aches and pains are some of the most common physical symptoms to expect. Muscle aches and pains are usually the most unbearable during the first week of detox. While medical detox can help ease some of the symptoms, there are other more holistic approaches you can take yourself. Some other ways to ease opioid withdrawal pains include:

  • Getting a massage or massaging the area that’s in pain yourself.
  • Relaxing with aromatherapy. Rubbing small amounts of lavender oil on your temples can help ease headaches.
  • Staying hydrated. One of the most pronounced symptoms of heroin withdrawal is dehydration. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the entire day. This can also help keep symptoms, like headaches, at bay.
  • Stretching reduces muscle tension and pain. The same can be said for exercise. Consider doing some light yoga or even trying a minute or two of vigorous exercises.
  • Sleeping, so the time passes by even more quickly.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol or ibuprofen. Before taking any over-the-counter medication, consult with a doctor to see whether these painkillers may cross-react with the medications used in medical detox.
  • Taking a hot bath in a whirlpool spa. To relax and ease the pain even more, add Epson salts to the hot bath.

The best way to avoid muscle aches and pains is to taper off of the drug. In the case of heroin, patients should substitute the heroin with a weaker opioid, like methadone or buprenorphine. Next, patients should slowly wean off of these medications. In most situations, these physical symptoms will only last for a few days at most. With the right mindset and motivation, most patients are able to cruise through this withdrawal period with ease.

Sign #3: Nausea and Vomiting

heroin withdrawals

When coming off of heroin, another common withdrawal symptom is nausea and vomiting. Even with medical detox, some patients will still feel nauseous and may still vomit several times throughout the opiate withdrawal process. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. In general, those who have a more serious addiction will exhibit more serious symptoms.

Thankfully, there are several different ways that you can ease these symptoms. Some detox programs implement these tactics to help make the recovery process a lot smoother. Some of the most frequently used tactics include:

  • Eating bland foods to avoid vomiting. It’s best to avoid spicy foods. White toast and white rice are great options.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. One of the most common effects of withdrawal is dehydration. A dehydrated body will experience more intense withdrawal symptoms. In addition to water, make sure that you also drink plenty of liquids containing electrolytes.
  • Taking Pepto-Bismol, or bismuth subcarbonate, to help ease withdrawal vomiting and nausea. You can pick up Pepto-Bismol at any pharmacy.
  • Trying acupuncture. The pressure point associated with withdrawal nausea and vomiting relief is just two inches below the crease at the base of your hands. This point is also known as the pericardium 6, or the P6.
  • Stimulating the P6 points with Psi bands.

Withdrawal nausea and vomiting is easy to deal with. These symptoms will tend to subside within a week.

Get Extra Help with Managing Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

The hardest part of recovery is going through the withdrawal process. Fortunately, no one expects you to face the withdrawal symptoms alone. Addiction treatment eases withdrawal symptoms and provides you with a comfortable environment for recovery. It’s a vital step in treating any type of drug abuse.

Amethyst Recovery offers both inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment services to patients. Patients go through heroin detox before participating in counseling and behavioral therapy. All of these treatments come together to ease the effects of heroin. Due to the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms, patients should never quit cold turkey without receiving medically supervised detox. It’s too dangerous and can even result in life threatening symptoms.

Contact our addiction specialists for more information about the type of heroin addiction treatment we offer. We can easily tailor the program to meet your needs.

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