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Heroin Detox Program

When approaching drug addiction and recovery, the first practical step of addressing the addiction is the stage of detox before this is stages of recognizing the need for help, interventions, and the like. Once someone has decided he is ready to start recovery, though, detox is the next step. Detox is a natural process the body undergoes as it seeks to adjust to the absence of something it had become accustomed to (in this case, the drug or substance being abused). Heroin is a particularly addictive drug, and with stronger addictions come stronger withdrawal symptoms and more difficult detoxes.

The Nature of Heroin

Heroin is a powerful drug that is most often injected directly into the veins, though it can also be smoked or snorted. In many cases, only one or two uses are needed to form an intense addiction. Heroin can also have numerous short- and long-term effects, some of which are signs of heroin abuse and can be useful in identifying problematic cases. Some of the short-term effects of heroin can include the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Arms and legs that feel heavy
  • Itching
  • Mental confusion
  • Shifting in and out of drowsiness

As mentioned above, many of these and needle marks in the arms can be signs of heroin use. Recognizing this is not so that we can accuse our loved ones but to see the signs and seek help. Beyond the short-term effects, there are significant long-term effects of heroin usage, which can include the following:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Insomnia
  • Infections of the heart lining and valves
  • Skin infections such as abscesses and cellulitis
  • Higher chance of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Lung diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Menstrual problems and miscarriage

Because of how heroin affects the brain and impacts the areas of judgment, detoxification alone is nearly impossible. It is highly recommended that anyone dealing with heroin addiction seeks professional treatment through a counselor and addiction treatment program.

The Process of Heroin Detox

As discussed above, detox is often the first practical step of recovery once someone has committed to begin the process. In heroin addiction, this should always occur under the supervision and as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program. It is important to remember that detox is only the first part of recovery, not the whole process. Detox is, however, a difficult process, especially with heroin, given its powerful addictive tendencies.

When actually beginning the process of detoxing from heroin, the most important element is withdrawal. Withdrawal is a normal process the body goes through after it has become accustomed to a substance that is then removed from it. Persistent use or ingestion of any substance, including food and drugs, causes the body to adapt and adjust to these things. With drugs, this happens on a profound level in the brain, with changes to the brain’s pleasure and reward and judgment centers. Because of these things, once whatever the body has adapted to has been removed from the body, the body has to figure out how to adjust. This process of the body adjusting to the absence of something is the process of withdrawal.

Withdrawal can sometimes be extreme and even deadly, depending on how drastic the change is. In many cases with hard drugs, other drugs, or even the abused drug, are used to decrease amounts over time, known as tapering. The tapering process allows the body to adjust to the drug’s absence little by little instead of all at once. It is important, though, that professionals oversee this and in a secure treatment center since one of the things drugs like heroin are affecting is the judgment centers of the brain. For the person trying to recover, even if recovery is sincerely desired, the effects of the drug on his brain are convincing him he needs more, and tapering is nearly impossible.

With medical professionals, the tapering and withdrawal process can be handled as carefully as possible. This does not mean it will be pleasant or easy, as withdrawal from drugs like heroin rarely is, but proper oversight will ensure that it is as manageable and safe as possible.

Withdrawal Symptoms

In the process of detox, various withdrawal symptoms are likely to show up. In general, heroin withdrawal beings around 8-12 hours after the last dose and can subside within 3-5 days. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the official signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal (heroin is an opiate) include the following:

  • Increased pulse rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Abnormally heightened reflexes
  • Sweating
  • Gooseflesh
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle spasms
  • Abdominal cramps


  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Anxiety

Because of these things difficult and intense nature, it must be repeated that medical professionals in a treatment center should handle detox and withdrawal. If you or a loved one are dealing with heroin addiction, please seek help.

Seeking Help

Substance abuse and addiction are serious and complicated issues, especially true with those addicted to heroin. Difficulties with the possibility of withdrawal or co-occurring mental disorders serve only to compound the difficult nature of substance abuse. The last thing that any of us wants is to miss an opportunity to get the needed help. 

Because of the dangers involved in addiction and substance abuse, it is of great importance that helps in the form of treatment is sought out as soon as possible. At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to come alongside those struggling with various addictions and withdrawal symptoms to help transition into recovery. We can offer 24/7 on-site medical help and supervision, counseling, and consistent care to facilitate the process of healing. Please review our various programs to see what meets the situation or need. It is also recommended to review our accreditation, staff, and facility so that you can be confident Cycles of Change Recovery is the right path for you or your loved one.