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Article Summary

How To Stop Using Heroin

Are you looking for help with your heroin use, tolerance, dependence, and addiction? Then, you have come to the right place. In this guide, you will learn all there is to know about heroin, as well as how to deal with it.

Withdrawing from heroin use can be difficult and dangerous. This is why you need to undergo medical detox and rehabilitation. Attending rehab may provide you with the help you need.

Some rehab facilities are also designed specifically to treat opioid addiction through MAT (medication assisted therapy), and most of these are widely available all around the United States. However, you need to take some time searching for the right rehab for you, or a loved one.

Understanding Heroin Recovery

Heroin use and addiction causes fear, isolation, uncertainty, and a level of darkness. As an abuser, you will tumble right into the abyss of addiction with nothing to prevent the fall apart from death, time served in jail, and a loss of everything you hold dear in your life. Luckily, there is always a way for you to get out of this spiral.

In this guide, you will understand the process that happens when you decide to stop using heroin. These process involves:

a) Pre-Recovery

For starters, you will undergo the pre-recovery stage where you may want to attain sobriety but have a hard time doing so. This stage tends to last for years, although you can expedite it.

b) Withdrawal and Detox

After that, you will go through the withdrawal and detoxification phase. Most people have a hard time quitting heroin because of the painful and difficult withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting. However, you can fight your withdrawal by undergoing detox.

c) Early Recovery

Next, you will undergo the early recovery stage. This phase usually encompasses anyone who has been sober for less than a year after using mind-altering drugs and substances for a given period.

During early recovery, you may relapse as a result of the post-acute withdrawal signs and symptoms of heroin use or due to undergoing weak rehabilitation. If you have been sober for a year (or longer), you may follow the suggestions below:

  • Work through your recovery under a sponsor
  • Join a home group
  • Meditate and focus on a regular basis
  • Acquire sober friends

d) Long Term Recovery

Last but not least, you will get to the long term recovery stage. In this phase, you will have been sober for longer than a year and this will be clear from your financial and emotional stability. You may also be going through a solid recovery program.

Even with these processes, you need to keep in mind that heroin is one of the hardest substances to stop using and abusing. It ranks higher than alcohol, prescription drugs, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and cocaine in terms of difficulty to quit.

Luckily, through sustained sobriety and consistent abstinence, you can stop using heroin. Although it might not be a walk in the park, perseverance and commitment might get you out of the spiraling web.

How To Quit Heroin

There are many different ways you can stop using dope. As you might well expect, some come with higher chances of success than others. For most addicts, the time and financial commitments required to undergo detoxification and enroll in inpatient rehabilitation may seem like a deterrent.

However, even with these impediments, your strong desire to quit the drug and stop using it completely may compel you to go through the process of getting clean. Consider the following:

I. Pre-Recovery

Pre-recovery will provide you with time for personal and emotional exploration and reflection. Otherwise denoted as precovery, this term describes the stage in heroin addiction that is characterized by internal dialogue inside yourself. At this point, you will start growing weary of your life of addiction.

As such, precovery involves a variety of processes happening at the same time. These include:

  • Breakthroughs in your perception of the world and yourself
  • Cognitive disillusionment with your drug usage lifestyle
  • Crystallization of your discontentment with heroin as a result of analyzing the pros and cons of using
  • Exposure to people who have recovered, which might be most catalytic to helping you reach the tipping point that initiates your recovery
  • Growing self-repugnance and emotional distress
  • Spiritual hunger for a greater purpose and meaning in life
  • The physical depletion of the esteemed value you once placed on the drug

As a direct result, precovery involves a variety of processes which reflect combustive collisions between hope and pain. This collision may work to your advantage and compel you to look for solutions to your heroin addiction.

Through these processes, you may stop holding heroin on the pedestal you once placed it on. You may also grow tired of living your addicted lifestyle and start desiring something more for yourself.

You should also keep in mind that recovery carriers are some of the most effective elements in helping an addict to seek sobriety. This is because it is more likely that a former addict to help you than it is for someone who has never undergone heroin addiction.

That said, this stage may occur over months or even decades. However, with the right exercises and tools, it is possible to expedite the processes. These exercises include, but are not limited to guided reflection on the history of your substance abuse, how it affected and continues affecting your life and that of others, as well as a variety of other difficult questions. If you are thinking about getting sober, it is also essential that you examine and explore your past.

Some of the questions that you may want to ask yourself include:

  • Can I achieve my true self and continue abusing heroin?
  • Can I develop long lasting and meaningful relationships while on heroin?
  • Do I steal, cheat, or lie to obtain the drug?
  • Does heroin make me truly happy or am I using it to conceal my discontentment?
  • How do I think of myself with respect to my addiction?
  • How has the drug affected my life negatively?
  • How would I benefit if I stopped abusing the drug?
  • What do I want out of life, and how does the drug keep me from achieving this dream?
  • What has heroin addiction cost me?
  • What perception do others have of me due to my addiction?
  • What will happen if I don't stop using?

As an addict, asking these questions and answering them honestly is by no means easy. This is because you may not want to deal with your emotions and will certainly cower in fear when they surface.

However, the emotional pain that these questions bring are the recipe you need to fuel your desire for change. As long as you answer them honestly and lucidly, you should be able to make the progress to the next stage in your recovery journey.

II. Willingness To Quit

At this stage, you need to develop the will to stop abusing the drug. You first need to desire change long before you quit. This is because it is difficult to continue using when deep down you want to stop.

The desire to quit heroin may come from different factors and sources. These elements may be present even if your use of the drug is still persistent. This is because, however addictive it is, heroin will not numb your emotional states forever - including isolation and depression. Eventually, these feelings will arise in spite of your perpetual intoxication.

The factors that might drive your decision to attain sobriety include:

a) Depression

From the emotional perspective, you may feel completely detached from everyone and everything. You will feed off the drug and all your feelings may eventually vanish. Shortly before you get sober, you may discover that your life and personality have changed. This may compel you to rethink your decisions.

b) Isolation

As you progress into active addiction, you may find yourself isolated from your family and friends. Even when you are around your loved ones, you will not be genuinely and truly present because your mind will be fantasizing on getting your next fix.

As a result, you may cut the time you spend with your loved ones short to get the opportunity to get high. You might also take vacations just to continue using heroin. Eventually, the things you love will start making your miserable - including holidays and time spent with friends and family. In time, you may cut ties and only leave your house to buy the required paraphernalia and score some of the drug.

Isolation and depression are two sides of one coin. This is because the more depressed you become, the more you will isolate yourself from others. This isolation, in turn, will make you even more depressed than you were initially.

c) Loss of Possessions

By the time you show up for detox, you may have nothing to your name. This is because your primary priority will be to use heroin, which may compel you to ignore your responsibilities.

Heroin addiction is so starving that most addicts end up selling their possessions, taking out loans, and stealing to get more of the drug. Since most of them steal from loved ones, they never get reported.

This kind of loss is one of the reason most addicts will never consider sobriety serious until they exhaust all their property and resources.

d) Loss of Identity

Once you get addicted, you will be scared to look into the mirror and fail to recognize your reflection. This applies to more than just your physical appearance and go over to a place where you do not know who you are any longer.

Heroin use will turn you into a different person - an addict. Your sole purpose in life will be to get the drug and use it. As a result, all your personality traits may disappear and you will only exist to use heroin.

e) Legal Consequences

While on heroin, you will experience both imagined and actual legal consequences. Although you might never get arrested, you may endure difficult problems with the low. For instance, you may find yourself in a high speed chase.

As your use progresses, you will start knowing more people who are abusing and getting arrested as a result of their addiction. You may even know that it is only a matter of time before you go down the same road.

III. Exercises To Help You Want To Quit

Here are some exercises to help you desire a life free of heroin. Start by writing out a list of the things you would like to accomplish in your life but which you cannot due to your addiction. The list should include the following:

a) Financial Goals
  • How much you would require to retire comfortably
  • If you wish to invest or start a 401 (K)
  • Starting a savings account, and how much you would like to save
  • The benevolent causes you would donate to if you were financially able
  • What you would like to own some day
b) Professional Goals
  • What you have always aspired to become
  • If you require a particular education to qualify for your dream profession
  • After getting your dream job, what you would like to accomplish
c) Personal Goals
  • If you wish to get married
  • If you would like to start a family
  • The ethics you wish to practice
  • The kind of person you would like to grow into
  • The lengths you are willing to go to for sobriety
  • The qualities you would look for in a friend

You can add to these lists and personalize the exercises for your own benefit. You should also highlight the answers you give and ensure that you can easily access them when the need arises.

If you ever feel tempted to start using again, or your dedication starts slipping, re-read these goals.

IV. Heroin Withdrawal, Detoxification, And Treatment

Most heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to be incredibly and excruciatingly painful and uncomfortably. In between your mental compulsion and withdrawals, you may not be able to make it through detoxification on your own.

The symptoms, however, will vary from one person to the next. The factors that influence the severity and duration of these symptoms include your age, duration of use, amount of use, method of use, and health.

1. Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feverish chills
  • Insomnia
  • Kindling
  • Restless legs
  • Stomach upsets

2. Factors Affecting Heroin Withdrawal

Some factors will influence how severe your withdrawal symptoms from heroin are. These factors include:

a) Age

Age plays a crucial role in the severity of withdrawal. In general, the older you are, the more severe your withdrawals will be. Younger people tend to enjoy faster recovery times - even though this might not always be the case if the following contributing factors also apply.

b) General Health and Wellness

The state of your health will also play a role in how severe your symptoms are. Most addicts will enter the detox stage in relatively poor health - they are underweight, malnourished, and severely under-exercised. The little they eat is also of low nutritional value.

c) Preexisting Conditions

Some health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, and Hepatitis, may magnify the withdrawal effects. Others like asthma may also make these symptoms more acute. This is why it is highly recommended that you first seek immediate medical assistance before you undergo detox from the drug.

d) Amount and Frequency of Use

The number of times you use heroin all through the day will play a crucial role in your withdrawal. The amount you use will also affect these symptoms. In general, the higher your doses and the more frequent your usage, the worse the heroin withdrawal symptoms will be.

e) Duration of Use

Apart from amount and frequency of use, the duration you use heroin will contribute to the duration and pronunciation of the withdrawal symptoms. With time, the drug will start changing your body's biochemistry. Although some of these changes may reverse through continued sobriety, some are permanent.

f) Mode of Usage

Heroin is one of those drugs that can be used intravenously, smoked, or snorted. Those who use the drug intravenously through a hypodermic needle tend to suffer more from detox than those who snort or smoke it.

g) Potency

The purity of heroin may make withdrawal more difficult. Generally, pure heroin (which is stronger) will make your withdrawal severe. Similarly, there are 2 main types of the drug - china white and black tar. If you buy black tar heroin as a brown powder, it will be more potent than if you get it in the form of the gummy textured variety.

On the other hand, china white heroin that is available in rock form tends to be more potent than the variety that you get in powdered form.

h) Concurrent Substance Abuse

If you are also addicted to other substances - such as opiates (Oxycodone, Percocet, or Lortab), benzodiazepines (Xanax or Valium), or alcohol - you are more likely to experience a combination of the withdrawal effects from these drugs and heroin.

In such a case, you should undergo detoxification in an inpatient center or addiction treatment facility, especially if you are also co-addicted to benzodiazepines or alcohol. This is because complications from benzodiazepine and alcohol detoxification is sometimes life-threatening.

i) Number of Times You've Detoxed

Kindling is a phenomenon in which withdrawal symptoms will become more severe every time you undergo detox. For instance, if you detox from heroin for the first time, you may not experience the withdrawal effects quite as bad as another addict who is undergoing detox for the 4th time.

j) Detoxification Method

At times, you may be required to use maintenance drugs like Suboxone to aid in your detoxification. However, these drugs can also cause their own withdrawal symptoms. In this way, they will only delay the inevitable.

However, many people appreciate the help gained from these drugs. As a result, it is essential that you are prepared to undergo some pain even as you go through detoxification.

3. Heroin Detoxification Treatment

As you might already assume, detox may be the most difficult stage you will face on your road to recovery from heroin addiction. That said, there are 5 main options you may want to consider. Each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

However, they are all useful because it is so hard to kick heroin addiction on your own. In fact, few people can manage to do so without getting help. As you consider undergoing detox, you may want to reach out to friends and family that might help with the process.

For instance, if you don't have health insurance, the inpatient detoxification center may be expensive. Even with insurance, the associated costs may prove too substantial for you to bear on your own.

You may also want to remember that heroin detoxification on its own can be ineffective. The best way to deal with this type of addiction is by signing up for a residential or inpatient heroin treatment program to complement the detox. During this time, you should spend a minimum of 3 months (or 90 days) in the recovery center for it to work.

In case you do not receive any financial assistance from your church, friends, or family, you should not let this deter you from seeking help. There are many vocational rehabs and state-funded facilities, as well as other financing options that can provide you with treatment even if you lack the resources to get help.

4. Heroin Detox Options

In general, there are six options for detoxification from heroin. These include:

a) Cold-Turkey Detox

This is the least preferred detox option and tends to have the lowest chances of success. It happens when you simply stop using heroin with no help whatsoever. The benefits to this is that the withdrawal symptoms are unlikely to last long - although they may end up being more acute. Additionally, this is the most affordable option.

However, cold turkey quitting is dangerous due to the morbid thoughts it creates. These thoughts may even lead to suicide.

b) Warm Turkey Detox

Most addicts will try the warm detoxification method but with minimal success. It involves using lesser drugs - such as a weak opiate or Xanax - to taper off from heroin addiction.

This approach is problematic because you may end up abusing both the lesser drug and heroin.

c) Using OTC Medications

You can also try detoxification using over the counter drugs. The process may involve taking a cocktail of OTC medications, including cough syrup, antihistamines, melatonin, anti-diarrhea drugs, and ibuprofen.

The ibuprofen will help with body aches while the anti-diarrhea drugs will alleviate stomach knots. On the other hand, melatonin may assist with sleep even though when you undergo acute withdrawal you are unlikely to get any sleep. Antihistamines, on the other hand, can help with your restless legs and the syrup may deal with body chills.

Although you might attempt this approach, it is not the best recipe.

d) Using Prescription Drugs

Alternatively, you may opt to visit a methadone or Suboxone clinic. These are various opinions about how effective this option is. Some experts say that there will be a significant reduction in relapse rates while others note that you will only be swapping heroin addiction for another one.

Additionally, there are severe side effects that you may have to endure from using maintenance drugs like methadone and Suboxone. Subutex and Zubsolv also carry risks that you need to know about before you entire into one of these medicated treatment options for heroin or opiate addiction.

In fact, you should keep in mind that withdrawing from methadone is sometimes even harder than heroin. On the other hand, the side effects from using Suboxone include headache, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, vomiting, and nausea. In case you experience any of these effects, you should talk to a pharmacist or doctor immediately.

You can, however, prevent getting constipation by improving your diet and addict more water and fiber, and exercising moderately. You should also consult your pharmacist to help you select a laxative.

You can also reduce the risk of lightheadedness and dizziness by getting up slowly when you need to rise from the lying or sitting position.

If you abuse, inject, or mix the medication with other depressants like narcotics, diazepam, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, you may experience severe or potentially fatal breathing problems.

In case of any serious side effects, seek immediate medical attention. These may include:

  • Difficulty waking up
  • Fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Mental changes
  • Mood changes (such as hallucinations, confusion, and agitation)
  • Severe dizziness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Unusual drowsiness
e) Inpatient Detoxification

This is one of the best ways to fight heroin addiction. The inpatient detox facility/treatment center will typically provide short tapering on Suboxone for 5 to 7 days. Additionally, it may prescribe other medications to assist with blood pressure and anxiety - such as Clonidine - and with sleep - such as Trazodone.

However, you can be sure that detox from heroin is quite tough irrespective of the method you choose. Luckily, getting into an inpatient facility means that you won't face the temptations you would have had to deal with if you were outside.

f) Residential Drug Treatment

Last but not least, you may choose to undergo heroin detox at an inpatient or residential addiction drug treatment facility. This is the best option particularly because it will combine the best services and medications to get you off the drug faster, more effectively, and perhaps more permanently. In particular, you will be provided with detoxification services in a safe and controlled environment and end up receiving the treatment required to keep you away from the drug.

Some of the members of staff at the center may even have experience with addiction to opiates and heroin. Knowing that there are others around you who understand what you are going through may help speed up the process. These staff members may even guide you towards recovery because they would have traveled down the same path.

At the facility, you will also be taught the tools that you need to help you stay sober. Additionally, it is almost certain that the patients you will be staying with - at least some of them - will have a background with heroin. Identifying these peers may be crucial to sustaining your recovery.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

As you seek treatment for your heroin addiction, you should keep in mind that the addiction may be enabled by your friends and family members. The members of your family, for instance, may be in denial that you are addicted. This is easy to understand consider the stigma that society places on addiction.

However, if you have the support of your friends and family, you should be able to find the right treatment for your addiction. As you do this, keep in mind that the quality of the treatment program you enroll for will be crucial.

Even more important is what will happen after you leave the treatment facility. Some centers have relatively loose processes for assisting patients recover after treatment. Others will dedicate significant resources to provide support as you transition from treatment to your normal life.

If possible, always ask about the level of support you can expect after you complete the heroin treatment program. You should also remember that the most successful centers tend to track the outcomes of their patients.

That said, there are 5 main options if you are looking for treatment for heroin addiction. These include:

  • State-funded treatment centers
  • State-funded vocational rehabilitation centers
  • Faith- or Christian-based recovery centers
  • Private heroin addiction treatment facilities
  • Luxury heroin addiction treatment facilities

Irrespective of the option you pick, you should work hard to ensure that you do not relapse and find yourself where you were before you started treatment. At the end of the day, remember that it is possible to beat your heroin addiction. As long as you are dedicated and focused enough, and you pick the right facility for your particular needs and preferences, you should be able to get off the drug and re-start life on a fresh footing.

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