Heroin Withdrawals

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If you are the parent or loved one of someone struggling with heroin addiction, you are well aware of the worry and often sheer panic that can take over your mind and body quickly. Where are they? What are they doing? Who are they with? And most importantly, are they OK? Will they be OK?

These questions fire rapidly through your brain, keep you up at all hours of the night, and make you anxious and restless during the day. The cliché that knowledge is power is true when it comes to learning more about addiction topics. 

Read on to learn more about what heroin is, what heroin addiction or opioid use disorder is, the signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal, how common opioid withdrawal and opioid overdose are, and heroin addiction treatment available at East Coast Recovery. 

When Does Opioid Use Disorder Develop?

According to the DSM-5, which was published in 2013, opioid use disorder can begin at any age, but problems associated with opioid use are most commonly first observed in the late teens or 20s. 

What Are the Physical Consequences of Opioid Use Disorder?

DSM-5 reports that opioid use is associated with a lack of mucous membrane secretions; this causes dry mouth and nose. Opioid use can lead to the slowing of gastrointestinal activity and a decrease in gut motility; this can produce severe constipation.

Those who ”shoot” heroin intravenously may have sclerosed veins (“tracks”) that may look like puncture marks on the lower portions of their arms. Death most often results from an overdose, accidents, injuries, AIDS, or other general medical complications of opioid use. 

What Are the First Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

According to the DSM-5, the first signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal include complaints of anxiety, restlessness, and an “achy feeling” that is often located in the back and legs. The person experiencing heroin withdrawal may be irritable and have increased sensitivity to pain.

What Are Physical Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

According to the DSM-5, there are diagnostic criteria that are used to determine if someone is going through opioid (including heroin) withdrawal.

To begin, there must be one of the following two things present. The first is stopping or reducing opioid (heroin) use that has been heavy or prolonged. Prolonged opioid (heroin) use is defined as lasting several weeks or longer.

The second thing that may qualify someone’s condition as opioid withdrawal is the use of an opioid antagonist after a period of opioid use.

According to the Indian Health Service, an antagonist is a drug that blocks opioids by attaching to the opioid receptors in the body without activating them or turning them on. Opioid antagonists like naltrexone (Vivitrol) may be taken to prevent relapse and reduce cravings.

Antagonists cause no opioid effect (for example, there is no “high” effect felt) and block full agonist opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc. Examples of opioid antagonists are naltrexone and naloxone.

The DSM-5 states that opioid withdrawal can also be diagnosed if three or more of the following withdrawal symptoms develop within minutes to several days after the end of opioid use:

  • dysphoria or dysphoric mood
    • DSM-5 defines dysphoria as a condition in which a person has intense feelings of depression, discontent, and in some cases indifference to the world around them.
  • nausea or vomiting
  • muscle aches
  • lacrimation or rhinorrhea
    • According to the Merriam-Webster (M-W) online dictionary, lacrimation is the secretion of tears (crying), especially when abnormal or excessive.
    • Rhinorrhea is excessive mucous secretion from the nose (a runny nose).
  • pupillary dilation (black center parts of eyes are larger than normal)
  • piloerection (goosebumps)
    • Also, according to the M-W online dictionary, piloerection is the erection or bristling of hairs due to the involuntary contraction of small muscles at the base of hair follicles.
    • Piloerection occurs as a reflexive response of the sympathetic nervous system,  especially to cold, shock, or fright.
  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • yawning
  • fever
    • The DSM-5 notes that both piloerection and fever are usually associated with more severe withdrawal. It is notable that typically, people with opioid use disorder take opioids before withdrawal becomes advanced enough for symptoms of piloerection and fever.
  • insomnia
    • According to DSM-5, insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep or poor sleep quality.

What Are Mental and Emotional Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is a resource used by mental health and medical professionals to diagnose and treat mental health and substance use disorders.

According to the DSM-5, the first signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal include feelings of anxiety and irritability. When going through heroin withdrawal, a person may also be in a dysphoric mood or have feelings of depression, discontent, and in some cases indifference (lack of interest or concern) to the world around them.

How Common Is Opioid Withdrawal?

According to the DSM-5, among people in various clinical settings, opioid withdrawal occurred in about 60% of people who used heroin at least once in the past 12 months. 

The DSM-5 notes that opioid withdrawal is typical in the course of an opioid use disorder. Opioids may be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms, which in turn leads to the person having more withdrawal symptoms at a later point in time. For those with ongoing struggles with opioid use disorder, withdrawal and attempts to relieve withdrawal symptoms are typical.

How to Mitigate (Reduce) Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

A person can reduce the physical and mental impact of heroin withdrawal symptoms by participating in a safe, medically supervised detox treatment program. While in detox treatment, a person can gain access to medication such as methadone or buprenorphine to help better manage their heroin withdrawal symptoms. The purpose of detox is to help you or your loved one gain comfort and stability by withdrawing from heroin gradually and easing the effects of heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin Addiction Treatment at East Coast Recovery

There is heroin addiction treatment available at East Coast Recovery. The person struggling with heroin addiction will be evaluated by our professional staff to determine the most appropriate level of care based on their physical and mental healthcare needs.

Together, the professionals at East Coast Recovery and the person struggling with heroin addiction will develop a plan to set achievable goals to work toward while they are in treatment. This is called a treatment plan. A treatment plan is a roadmap of individually tailored goals that can be revised throughout treatment to match the progress achieved.

East Coast Recovery offers safe, medically supervised detox. East Coast Recovery also offers “step down” or after-detox treatment programs such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Reach Out to East Coast Recovery

Overdose and death are scary possibilities that could happen as a result of continued heroin use. If you or your loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, consider seeking addiction treatment to regain health and stability.

The professional team at East Coast Recovery, located in Cohasset, Massachusetts, is ready to help you or your loved one with listening ears and caring hearts. Our team is trained and ready to help you or your loved one get closer to living a healthier lifestyle in recovery. Call us today at (781) 381-6098.

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