Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms & Effects Of A Heroin Comedown

Heroin belongs to a family of drugs known as opioids. Opioids are used for the management of severe pain. An opioid comedown is a life-threatening condition that results from opioid dependence. Heroin like other opioids, produces mental relaxation, pain relief, and euphoric feelings. Over time, prolonged use of heroin leads to dependence on the substance because it alters the chemical balance of their brain. When a person abruptly stops using the substance they begin to experience a heroin comedown. This is because a heroin-dependent person’s body is trying to figure out how to cope with the loss of the drug that it was used to getting.

Heroin Comedown Symptoms

In 2016 in the United States, around 948,000 people used heroin during the last year. When an individual suddenly quits taking heroin, their body needs time to recover from the negative effects of the drug. This recovery process causes withdrawal symptoms that can range anywhere from mild to severe depending on the amount of substance used, length of time of use, a person’s body mass index (BMI), and a wide variety of other factors. Some of the first heroin comedown symptoms include muscle aches, anxiety, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, agitation, and yawning. Later withdrawal symptoms can include diarrhea, dilated pupils, goosebumps, nausea, abdominal cramping, and vomiting.

Heroin Binge and Crash

Usually, a heroin binge happens sometime after the initial high fades and a person may continue to use heroin every couple hours in order to maintain desired effects. The crash is the last stage before a person goes through withdrawal. A crash can start within hours after a person takes their last dose of heroin or it could take a few days.

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Managing a Heroin Comedown

Opioid drugs such as heroin can have an extremely uncomfortable and difficult comedown. Sometimes it can feel like a very bad flu. Short-acting opioids like heroin can have an onset of withdrawal 8-24 hours after the last use and can last 4 to 10 days. No matter how significant the opioid withdrawal symptoms are a person detoxing from heroin should always seek medical attention prior to discontinuing use. Management of withdrawal symptoms without medications can cause unnecessary suffering.

Depending on the severity of addiction there are different ways of treating how to come down from heroin. People who are only mildly addicted to heroin or another opioid and withdrawing should drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day to replenish their fluids. They should also take vitamin B and Vitamin C supplements to keep their immune system healthy and enable their organs to flush out the toxins.

Moderate to severe withdrawal from heroin or another opioid should include medications to assist in the withdrawal process. Medications can alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms and can help reduce cravings. This gives the individual trying to overcome their heroin addiction a better chance of having a successful recovery and long-term abstinence.

Also, opioids like heroin often cause gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms can lead to a person not getting enough vital nutrients and experiencing an imbalance of electrolytes. Therefore, it is important for a person who is coming down from heroin to eat balanced meals to make the symptoms less painful. Also, eating a high-fiber diet with lots of vegetables is necessary to help with the detox process.

Withdrawal from Heroin/Detox

Heroin withdrawal usually begins about 8 to 12 hours after the last dose of heroin was taken. The comedown effects usually only last between 3 to 5 days. Detoxing alone from heroin can be extremely dangerous and should not be attempted alone. For example, opioid dependence, specifically intravenous heroin use is known to cause a lot of medical issues. Therefore, a complete medical examination is crucial to screen people who are addicted to heroin for a wide variety of complications such as HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis B and C, and other infections. This medical and psychological exam ensures that the person addicted to heroin can have the best treatment plan created for their unique recovery process.

Treatment centers are well equipped with medical and mental health professionals who are able to assist in the withdrawal process. Recovering from heroin involves gradual tapering off of the substance no faster than 10 to 20 percent per day. With that being said, the recovering individual needs to be closely monitored by medical professionals to ensure their safety.

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Medications to Assist in the Withdrawal Process

If you are wondering how to reduce the effects of a heroin comedown, you are in luck! The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), announced that lofexidine is the first medication for use in reducing the withdrawal effects of heroin and other opioids in adults. This medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Lofexidine is designed to be taken as an oral tablet and is used to help individuals wishing to overcome their heroin addiction manage the symptoms that are associated with quitting the substance. This medication works by targeting the early withdrawal symptoms that can start just a few hours after the substance was last taken. Painful withdrawal symptoms are often one of the reasons why treatment doesn’t work and people relapse. Alleviating these painful symptoms can help people successfully quit taking heroin and can aid in the treatment process.

Other medications that are available to assist with the withdrawal process for an opioid addiction like heroin are methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine, and naltrexone. The medication methadone is used to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the withdrawal process and assist in the detox process. Buprenorphine is another great medication that is used to shorten the length of the detox process. This medication is able to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. The medication clonidine is used to help alleviate a few of the early comedown symptoms like anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, running nose, and cramping. This medication does not help with reducing the intense cravings that some people experience. Finally, naltrexone is used as a preventative measure to help stop relapse from happening.

Finding a Treatment Center

Coming down from heroin can be extremely difficult and painful for someone who is addicted to heroin. Even after a successful detox a lot of people still need long-term treatment after detoxing. If you or a loved one is afflicted with a heroin addiction finding a high-quality rehabilitation facility can help. Some support that you or a loved one can receive from a rehabilitation clinic includes outpatient counseling, intensive outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, or even self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Mental health counselors can also teach people about the ways heroin has created problems in their lives and teach them methods to cope with stress in healthy ways.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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