How Dangerous is Heroin Detox?

The True Dangers of Heroin Detox

Heroin detox can be extremely uncomfortable. This is one of the reasons that so many people simply can’t stop once they’ve started using. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal, though different for everyone, often include things like: 

  • Severe full-body achiness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills and excessive sweating
  • stomach cramps
  • anxiety/depression

Taken together, these symptoms can feel like the worst case of stomach flu you can imagine. The severity of heroin detox symptoms depends largely on the individual person and their overall health, but they aren’t usually fatal all by themselves. Sometimes, the heroin user has serious health problems they don’t even know about. If so, these issues are bound to become much more dangerous when the body is under the type of stress that heroin detox tends to create.  

Heroin Detox as a Contributing Factor

Additionally, people who are addicted often neglect self-care and this increases the health risks even further. Heroin use has a high potential for mortality.  The importance of this simple fact cannot be overstated.  Vomiting and diarrhea alone can lead to severe dehydration and high blood sodium levels.  These can be serious precursors for a fatal heart attack. Heroin withdrawal isn’t the primary cause of death for most users. The bottom line is that going through heroin detox without medical assistance causes unnecessary suffering. At worst, heroin withdrawal can be dangerous or fatal.

The mental effects of going through heroin withdrawal present another potential for lethality that is often overlooked. Depression, anxiety, and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) are common during heroin detox. These effects can continue for weeks or months afterward. Many heroin-addicted people suffer from Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. Also known as PAWS, this includes a number of these mental effects and more. The mental anguish stacked upon the physical discomfort can be too much for many people which puts them at risk of suicide.

Fortunately, the outlook for heroin users is not all gloom and doom. It’s true that the U.S. has undergone a major spike in heroin use over the past 10-15 years. But this has also led to more and better addiction treatment becoming available. Clinicians are learning more about how to treat heroin addiction and abate cravings every year. The fact is that millions of people have successfully recovered from heroin addiction and thousands more do so every year. 

The Outlook for Heroin Users

No matter how far you think you have fallen, there are people out there who understand what you’re going through and are willing to help. Recovery from heroin addiction begins with you though. You must be brave and honest enough to admit that you cannot beat this on your own. You must find the willingness and humility to ask for help and to accept it and follow instructions. But if you do, there is a whole new life waiting for you on the other side of this.

If you are ready to kick the habit, there are a bunch of options out there for you. The best for most people is usually to start with medical detox. It’s the safest and most comfortable way to get through the withdrawal period without too much discomfort or risk of relapse. After detox, it’s best to attend a residential-style program for at least 30 days if you can. After that, live in recovery housing for 6 months to a year. That process isn’t necessarily right, or even possible for everyone though.

The good news is there are many options. One of the most popular is outpatient heroin detox and Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT. The point is to make recovery from heroin addiction as attainable as possible for the most people possible.

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