Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
Heroin is one of the world’s most addictive, dangerous, and damaging drugs. Long-term use can cause liver or kidney disease, heart or pulmonary infections, infertility, collapsed veins, and injection use increases the chances of contracting hepatitis or HIV — not to mention possible overdose and death.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug made from a substance taken from opium poppy plants, refined into the painkiller morphine, and refined again into heroin. It can be inhaled, smoked, or injected, and quickly binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, blocking pain and causing a relaxing euphoric rush. This tinkering with brain chemistry makes it physically addictive, and the feel-good euphoria is psychologically addictive, a devastating one-two punch that hooks people on heroin quickly.
Can You Stop Using Heroin On Your Own?
Can someone quit heroin on their own? Yes, but it is not easy and will be risky. There are physical and mental challenges to overcome, and long-term success is rare. Addicts will usually relapse if they don’t get the proper medical and emotional support or do not understand the issues that trigger their desire/need to use. Getting clean is just the first step.
When a person suddenly stops using any addictive drug, their body goes through a withdrawal process. Both the brain and body have become accustomed to the substance, so they need to “relearn” how to function without it, leading to withdrawal symptoms. Heroin is more challenging to quit than most drugs because of the addiction’s dual physical and psychological nature. Fortunately, heroin withdrawal alone is not deadly — just extremely uncomfortable and painful to the point that many have said that heroin withdrawal made them wish they died. Many things add significant risk, and complications arising during “self-detox” can lead to hospitalization and death.
Withdrawal symptoms generally appear in 6 to 12 hours, peak in 1 to 3 days, and begin to fade in about a week. Withdrawal will almost certainly include some or all of the following issues, with severity different for each individual: fever, weakness, loss of appetite, shivering, sweating, headaches, dehydration, severe aches and pains, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, major mood changes, cravings, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, and insomnia. While none of these are fatal, they can aggravate underlying physical issues and may require medical intervention. Withdrawal can lead to increased heart rate, stroke, respiratory depression, or seizures, so mental and physical monitoring is vital. Some experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which means that some symptoms may recur for weeks, months, or even years.
Risks Of Quitting Heroin On Your Own
Home is not the best place to get clean for several reasons: no medical monitoring and assistance, no access to treatments or anti-anxiety medications to ease discomfort and pain, and there may be access to other substances (alcohol, OTC meds, or more opioids) that may be extremely tempting. Detoxing at home can also expose the addict to the same triggers or old habits that caused the heroin use in the first place, almost encouraging relapse. Most who detox at home try it alone, but without emotional and social support, depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Dealing with detox without companionship can be difficult.
Withdrawal symptoms increase the risk of relapse. Relapsing increases the risk of overdose since tolerance for heroin decreases. Those who relapse tend to use the same amount of heroin they used before quitting, increasing the risk of overdose — which can be fatal.
An inpatient treatment center will provide counseling, therapy, and after-detox support to ensure recovery goes beyond the physical aspect. Without psychological and social rehab, the chances of staying clean are very low. The psychological symptoms of heroin addiction last much longer than the physical. Damage done by withdrawal must be addressed, and the triggers that started heroin use must be identified. Coping skills must be re-learned to help the recovering addict deal with triggers and temptation.
Holistic treatment programs that address the “whole person” are the most successful. Treatment offers companionship, support, understanding, and the opportunity to communicate about addiction and continue medical monitoring. Learning to cope with trigger events allows those in recovery to react in healthy, non-harmful ways rather than relapsing. The recovering person is encouraged to take responsibility for his or her choices, giving them ultimate control over their own life.
Heroin addiction is one of the most difficult ones to break. Some have been able to quit on their own, but withdrawal symptoms are brutal and dangerous, so seeking treatment is the safest way to quit. Inpatient treatment is the most effective way to beat heroin, as it goes well beyond detoxing the body. Working with medical professionals can minimize withdrawal symptoms and make it easier to stay clean.
Into Action Recovery Centers takes pride in providing a high level of treatment and a holistic approach to recovery for those who suffer from addiction. Our comfortable facility is designed with the client’s needs foremost in mind. Our staff includes master’s level counselors, licensed chemical dependency counselors, 24-hour nursing professionals, a staff psychiatrist, a staff chef, and direct care personnel. Our counseling staff provides individualized treatment and care for our clients with an emphasis on tailoring treatment to the specific needs of each individual. Additionally, our staff provides family counseling, relapse prevention, life skills, and grief and trauma counseling.
Break Free Of Heroin At Into Action
Into Action Recovery Centers provides an abstinence-based program, and all our staff members have a strong understanding of the recovery process through personal experience. We are passionate about sharing the process involved in living a drug and alcohol-free life. We offer free aftercare for the men who complete our program and have a strong alumni network that remains active in the community. We also offer other amenities such as dietician-prepared meals, mindfulness-based meditation training, outings, and fitness training.