Please click here for our latest coronavirus (COVID-19) response and preparedness.

What Medications Can Help Me Cope With Heroin Withdrawal?

medications for heroin withdrawalHeroin addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that affects many Americans. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, 0.3% (or about 902,000 people) reported using heroin in the past 12 months.”[1]

If you struggle with heroin addiction, you might be familiar with the withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using the drug. This occurs because your body is accustomed to the presence of heroin in your system, which is otherwise known as physical dependency.

The symptoms of heroin addiction can be painful and difficult to deal with. Because of this, attempting to detox at home might cause you to relapse in hopes of soothing the symptoms of withdrawal. Medical detox programs can provide you with medications to help you cope with heroin withdrawal.

Heroin

Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms and Timeline
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline Infographic

What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal is uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes life-threatening. It causes physical and psychological symptoms that can cause you to develop uncontrollable cravings for heroin.

The symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Muscle spasms
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Cravings for heroin

The symptoms of depression associated with heroin withdrawal can become concerning, often requiring professional help. If you experience the symptoms of heroin withdrawal, it is extremely important that you attend a medical detox program to avoid suffering from severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or cravings for heroin.

Which Medications Can Help You Cope With Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you attend a medical detox program for heroin addiction, you will be provided with medications to help you cope with your symptoms and limit the cravings you experience. Some of these medications are partial or full opioid agonists, which allow them to trick your brain into thinking it’s received the heroin it craves. This is why these medications are able to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and prevent cravings during detox.

medications used to treat heroin withdrawal

Buprenorphine

The first medication you can use to cope with heroin withdrawal is known as buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that may produce euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses. These effects are weaker than the addictive effects produced by full opioid agonists such as methadone and heroin, though. When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine is safe and effective.[2]

Buprenorphine binds to your opioid receptors partially, providing enough substance to alleviate withdrawal symptoms without producing a high. This medication is typically preferred in the treatment of heroin withdrawal because it can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

Methadone

Methadone is used as a tapering medication for individuals with severe cases of heroin use disorder. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings by activating opioid receptors in the body. Opioid receptors are the same receptors that other opioids such as heroin, morphine, and opioid pain medications attach to, producing euphoric effects.[3]

Unlike buprenorphine, methadone fully activates opioid receptors, providing you with an effect similar to heroin but less potent and medically safer. This is a good option if you struggle from severe symptoms of withdrawal, however, it is possible to abuse methadone. Because of this, it is only accessible within a licensed medical detox program.

Clonidine

Clonidine is commonly used to treat heroin withdrawal symptoms instead of medications like methadone or buprenorphine. Your medical detox program may provide you with this medication if they are concerned about providing you with an opioid agonist drug.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “use of clonidine hydrochloride in detoxification from opiates has demonstrated that this substance can rapidly suppress the signs and symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal. Clonidine hydrochloride, an alpha-adrenergic agonist, is a non-opiate substance.”[4]

Loperamide

Loperamide is an anti-diarrheal drug that is commonly referred to by its brand name, Imodium. Heroin withdrawal is known to cause excessive diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration without proper administration of fluids. Doctors may give loperamide to you during medical heroin detox to prevent you from experiencing dehydration and painful bowel movements.

Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is used to treat mild pain that stems from inflammation and headaches. During heroin withdrawal, you may experience painful and frequent headaches. As a result, your medical detox program may provide you with ibuprofen on a consistent basis to get ahead of the headaches you experience.

Finding Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction Today

Heroin addiction is a serious condition that can significantly impact an individual’s life. One of the most concerning risks of heroin abuse is the propensity for people to experience fatal overdoses. Due to these risks, if you or a loved one suffer from heroin use disorder you must attend a heroin detox program.

At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we offer our patients a continuum of care that includes connecting them with a medical detox center and providing them with ongoing care after inpatient treatment. If you are ready to begin a new way of life, contact us today.

References:

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/how-do-medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction-work
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6907020/

Can an Addiction Treatment Center Help Me Deal With Grief and Loss?

dealing with grief and loss during addiction treatmentAddiction is a serious condition that impacts all parts of a person’s life. Without treatment, the risk of serious consequences grows. People with addiction face risks to their physical and mental health, financial wellbeing, and loss of important relationships.

There are many reasons a person might develop an addiction. Many people experiment with drugs or alcohol and lose control after a period of heavy use. Others may desire certain effects that drugs and alcohol provide. Some people begin to use drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the pain of grief after a significant loss.

While grief is part of the human experience, it can also be overwhelming and impair a person’s ability to function in their daily life. When a person’s ability to cope is overtaken by grief, they may turn to anything available to get through the experience. For some, this means starting to abuse substances.

People who are grieving and addicted need extra support during treatment. The structure and around-the-clock support of an addiction treatment center can offer a healing environment where they can heal from addiction and learn healthy ways to cope with their grief. In fact, due to the constant support, an addiction treatment center can be one of the best places to cope with grief and loss.

If you or someone you love is grieving and needs substance abuse treatment, reach out to the caring staff at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment. We offer a range of substance abuse treatment programs and services designed to help people overcome addiction and get the support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives in recovery.

What is Grief?

Grief is a natural reaction to a significant loss. Many people think of the grief that often follows the death of a loved one, but grief can follow any kind of big loss or life change. Some people experience grief after the end of a life stage, divorce, or a change in their health.

Grief is usually thought of as sadness, but it is more complex than that. Instead, grief is a complex experience with both emotional and physical symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion
  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Nightmares
  • Preoccupation with the loss
  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Physical weakness

There is not a single, all-inclusive list of the symptoms of grief. It is an experience that is unique to each person who goes through it. The type of grief, the length someone experiences it, and the way they move through it vary greatly from person to person.

Grief has no timeline and can be unpredictable. Someone may develop grief immediately after the loss or years afterward. Some people have a short period of grief and some live with grief for years.

Since grief and loss are so unpredictable, they can be difficult to identify, but effective addiction treatment is available and can help people move forward.

Understanding the Connection Between Grief, Loss, and Addiction

When grief overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, people often look for any way possible to dull or numb the pain. Some turn to drugs or alcohol.

While using drugs and alcohol may provide a temporary numbing of the symptoms of grief, it can keep people from moving forward. It also puts people at increased risk of developing an addiction that can bring other harmful consequences.

Many substances, including alcohol, act as a depressant in the body. The effects of these substances can worsen depression. Substance abuse often prevents people from keeping up with basic daily activities like eating regularly, sleeping well, and making good choices about their health. All of this can lead to prolonged depression and worsen other mental health problems.

Many factors can make it more likely that a person will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. These include biological factors, genetics, environment, and mental health. However, any person can develop an addiction if they use drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period. Experiencing grief increases a person’s chances of developing an addiction, regardless of other factors.

Grief and Loss Healing During Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment generally happens in stages. Many people start the process in a medically supervised detox program. In detox, people receive support and treatment that allows them to have a safe, complete detox from drugs or alcohol.

After detox, people must begin a treatment program that gives them the support and skills they need to heal from their addiction, live a healthy, sober lifestyle, and avoid relapse in the future. During treatment, people participate in a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies that support healing and recovery. These therapies can help people move through grief, too.

  • Individual therapy helps people identify and heal sources of grief or trauma
  • Group therapy supports emotional processing and community healing
  • Education gives people skills and resources to manage their emotions and adapt to challenges more effectively
  • Holistic therapies promote physical and emotional healing and provide healthy ways to manage grief, anger, and other challenging emotions

In both grief and addiction recovery, having support is essential. During treatment, people will be referred to community resources that can give them long-term support after their program ends.

Learn More About Grief and Loss Treatment at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment

To learn more about treating grief during addiction treatment, reach out to the caring staff at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment. You do not have to go through this alone. Help is available. Call today to find out how we can support your recovery.