Those suffering from heroin addiction and/or dependence often make a number of excuses why they’re going to put off treatment and recovery until tomorrow. When I was actively using oxycodone and heroin, the thought of quitting on a Friday night was ridiculous because I didn’t want to pass up a weekend of “feeling good”. But when Monday came around, the day I said I was going to quit, I simply made another excuse. Monday is the beginning of the week and it’s a hard day, so I felt a little “pick me up” of heroin and/or oxycodone use would get me through it. And when Tuesday came around, I wanted to unwind and relax because Monday was such a hard day. Wednesday, there was another excuse (hump day) – celebrate the fact that the week is almost over. Thursday is known as Friday for college kids and while I have been out of college for over a decade now, it was just another excuse. Before I knew it, another week passed and I would swear that after yet another weekend of heroin use and abuse that Monday would be the day I would quit. This cycle continued for me personally for quite sometime.
Fear of Heroin Withdrawal Promotes Ongoing Drug Use and Abuse
The thought and fear of heroin withdrawal symptoms due to heroin dependency often prevents people from getting into treatment and recovery. For awhile, this fear was just too great for me. I’m a strong guy but feeling sick – and not just a normal discomfort either, but the kind of gut wrenching horror that would put Hercules on his knees was just something I feared. Many heroin dependents fear withdrawal and this coupled with that ubiquitous connection and compulsion to continue using heroin (due to the addiction) makes quitting heroin feel “impossible”, even though it isn’t. See “Addiction Vs. Using Drugs: Why Addicts Can’t Just Quit Using Heroin“.
What is Heroin Withdrawal and Why Does It Happen?
Heroin withdrawal is the bodies natural response to eliminating a substance that one has become dependent on. Physical dependency is caused by an alteration in the mind and body’s natural balance (or homeostasis). When heroin enters the body, the mind and body experience a sensation of pleasure (euphoria) resulting in a high. Due to its toxic nature, ongoing use causes the body fights back, creating a tolerance to it while the mind adjusts to the new altered reality. This process of change is called allostasis. When the mind and body eventually reach a new balance, it reaches a new homeostatic point. When the mind and body reach this new homeostatic point, dependence sets in. Eliminating heroin from the body too quickly causes the mind and body to go into shock, creating feelings of withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs until the body and mind adjust (allostasis) creating a new homeostatic point (similar to the original one before heroin dependence set in). Learn more about Addiction Vs. Dependence.
Why Does Withdrawal Occur Eliminating Heroin but Not Taking Heroin?
While allostasis and homeostasis are normal ways the mind and body function, heroin withdrawal can be nasty and provide feelings of significant discomfort. Withdrawal is so significant because of the dramatic loss. Those who start using heroin gradually build their way up to more and more heroin as tolerance increases. Thus, there is no “shock” that would create a negative sensation like withdrawal. The body can go into shock if too much heroin is ingested at one time – but it’s not withdrawal the body experiences. If the body ingested a large quantity of heroin all at once, the body would go into a similar “shock” and creates a heroin overdose. Heroin overdose can also occur for several other reasons so don’t just assume because you are gradually increasing the amount of heroin in your body and bloodstream that you are safe. Learn more about heroin overdose by reading the following:
So in summation, ingesting too much heroin all at once causes the body to go into “shock” and creates heroin overdose. Eliminating too much heroin all at once causes the body to go into shock and creates heroin withdrawal.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal symptoms are ugly and can last up to a week or two depending on the person. Post-acute withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS can even last up to 2 years. Withdrawal symptoms include but aren’t limited to: depression, cold sweats, anxiety, unstable moods, loss of appetite, diarrhea, seizures, painful & excessive vomiting, muscle cramping, irritability and discomfort, restlessness (including restless legs and arms), trouble sleeping, enhanced cold/flu symptoms, excessive sneezing, sensory deprivation (loss of smell, taste, etc.), etc.
Is there Any Way to Avoid Heroin Withdrawal
Medical detox centers and medicine assisted treatment options such as Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) can help to reduce and/or even eliminate withdrawal. Whether or not medicine assisted treatment is right for you requires research, especially since there are benefits and risks associated with their use. Moreover, there is a commitment associated with medicine assisted treatment and some (such as methadone and Suboxone) are accompanied by dependence. Thus, a slow taper off the medication is crucial to avoid the “shock” dependence creates that produces withdrawal. Ibogaine is another option for those who live in Mexico, Brazil or New Zealand – it is not legal in the United States and several other areas. To learn more, visit the below links:
Living a Life of Freedom Rather than Being Paralyzed in Fear
Heroin withdrawal may be scary but it won’t kill you and it’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough going through it. But many have gone through it cold turkey and stayed sober and clean because they had the desire and were willing to put in the hard work and persevere. There is help, you don’t have to do it alone. You are encouraged to join our free heroin recovery discussion forum community for support and encouragement and/or contact us with any questions or concerns. We will do our best to provide you with additional information and support.
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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