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How to Get Through Heroin Withdrawal

Approximately 4.8 million people have used heroin at least once in their lives, and the average age of a first-time user is 28-years-old. Over 212,000 people over the age of 12 used heroin in the past year, with at least 435,000 people using heroin regularly in the last 30 days.

Since the 1990s, the start of the heroin epidemic as we know it, movies such as “Requiem for a Dream,” “Basketball Diaries,” and “Trainspotting” depict heroin addiction and withdrawal as hopeless, hallucinatory, and desperate — a mental and physical hell on Earth. These scenes depict the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal: cold sweats, restless leg syndrome, restlessness, diarrhea and vomiting, sleep problems, extreme muscle, and bone pains, plus uncontrollable heroin cravings. Rarely do movies, and TV shows show someone who gets to the other side of withdrawal and remains clean.

While heroin withdrawals in movies are acted out for dramatic effect, the physical withdrawal from heroin is physically painful. However, the most painful part of the withdrawal may be the emotional and mental aspect of kicking heroin “cold turkey.”

Too often, TV and movies don’t depict someone who gets through withdrawal and stays clean. Rather than spending this time to talk about how painful withdrawal is, we are going to share tried and tested ways to get through heroin withdrawal so that you never have to go through this hellish pain again.

Withdrawal Doesn’t Last Forever

It isn’t easy, and it may feel like forever. But withdrawals typically only last 7-10 days, with the worst of it during days 3-5. Remind yourself that pain is temporary, and after the tenth day, you’ll never have to go through that again, especially if you focus on recovery, therapy, and treatment following the initial detox period.

Take Showers and Baths

Part of what makes heroin withdrawal unpleasant are the cold sweats with goosebumps. The body and brain begin to rebalance themselves with the absence of the drug, and it can make you feel cold and hot, sweaty and clammy, all at the same time. Taking showers or baths can help alleviate feeling like you don’t know if you need a sweater or an icepack.

Drink Lots of Water

Because of diarrhea and vomiting during withdrawal, dehydration is a severe complication. Opiates are known to cause severe constipation. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, lethargy, and constipation. As your stomach and digestive tract continue to recover, these symptoms will alleviate, too.

If you are having trouble drinking water, popsicles and sports drinks can be more comfortable (and tastier) to eat and drink while still replenishing your hydration levels and electrolytes.

Take It Easy

Withdrawal isn’t easy, and as you become more clear-headed as the drugs leave your body, you may feel restless and have feelings of anxiety. Racing thoughts, regrets, mood swings, and compulsions to use are common. Do whatever you can to let your body rest. It is a stressful time for your body, and giving your body the time to heal itself is essential to recovery.

Get Some Fresh Air

If you have been using heroin consistently for a period of time, odds are you haven’t gone outside and enjoyed the sun for a long time. If you are having intense bone and muscle pain, you may be experiencing Vitamin D deficiency. Not only does the sun help your body produce Vitamin D to help strengthen bones, but Vitamin D also helps reduce symptoms of depression and chronic pain. It can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and weight gain while lowering your chance of cancers.

Detox in a Medical Facility or at Home?

While painful and uncomfortable, withdrawal from heroin is almost never life-threatening. This does not mean you should avoid entering a medical treatment facility, often referred to as detox. Medical supervision is helpful in making sure you are as comfortable as possible during withdrawals, and medical staff can help you regain your health more quickly than home remedies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment and ongoing care programs are as essential to prevent relapse as medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

After the initial withdrawal period has ended, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) is highly recommended. Beginning a life without using heroin or other drugs, learning how to live sober takes time, patience, open-mindedness, and a new approach to relationships with people, places, and things. Feeling like you may never have fun again or that life will never get better are feelings almost every former addict has experienced. Experiential therapy such as meditation, and other outdoor activities are designed to help you find new passions in life.

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