Heroin is an illicit opioid drug that can cause potent effects, often leading to addiction after only a few uses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 1.1 million people reported using heroin in 2021.
When you are addicted to heroin, your brain and body begin to rely on the substance to function properly. Once you stop using heroin, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. While heroin withdrawal is not life-threatening with professional treatment, some of the symptoms can lead to death if you attempt to detox on your own.
The main concern when detoxing on your own from heroin is dehydration. Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration without medical assistance, which can quickly become life-threatening. Thankfully, heroin detox centers can provide you with supportive care as well as medications to limit your symptoms and IV fluids to prevent dehydration from occurring.
What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin addiction can cause devastating side effects, from malnourishment to infections from IV drug use and eventually, extremely difficult-to-cope-with withdrawal symptoms. Oftentimes, heroin withdrawal is described as feeling like a really bad flu, however, untreated symptoms can lead to life-threatening dehydration.
The common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Agitation and anxiety
- Muscle aches and pains
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Increased yawning
- Abdominal cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Goosebumps and shivering
Because heroin withdrawal can lead to severe dehydration, you should always seek help from a medical detox center. These programs will ensure that you receive the support and medical treatment necessary to overcome withdrawal safely and comfortably.
Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin withdrawal can be an incredibly painful experience, causing muscle aches, abdominal cramping, and severe flu-like symptoms. However, it can also lead to life-threatening dehydration when it is not managed properly.
Heroin withdrawal causes excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Without receiving medications to limit these symptoms or IV fluids to replace the water you lose, this can lead to significant dehydration that puts you at risk of organ failure or even death.
According to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), “Persistent vomiting and diarrhea may result, if untreated, in dehydration, hypernatraemia (elevated blood sodium level) and resultant heart failure.”
With that being said, heroin withdrawal does not have to lead to death. By attending a medical detox program, you can ensure that your symptoms remain minimal through the use of medications and clinically proven treatments like IV fluids and monitoring.
How Do Medical Detox Centers Prevent Severe Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?
Medical detox centers use a combination of medical treatments like replacement of fluids through IV, consistent monitoring of vitals, and FDA-approved medications to treat heroin withdrawal symptoms.
First, you will be assessed to determine your needs. Once your treatment plan is created, you will be prescribed a medication that allows you to slowly taper until you no longer experience withdrawal symptoms. Common medications for heroin withdrawal include Suboxone, Lucemyra, methadone, and clonidine.
If you still experience vomiting and diarrhea on these medications, you will be given IV fluids to ensure that you do not develop dehydration. Additionally, you will have access to food that contributes to a healthy nutritional balance, keeping your body strong enough to overcome heroin withdrawal without any obstacles.
Signs You Need Professional Treatment for Heroin Addiction
If you are unsure whether you require professional treatment, being aware of the signs of heroin addiction can help you determine whether you need support. Keeping this in mind, anyone struggling with heroin addiction should attend medical detox and then transition into an inpatient or outpatient rehab.
The signs you need treatment for heroin addiction include:
- Having a hard time controlling how much heroin you use
- Wanting to quit heroin use but being unsuccessful
- Experiencing behavioral effects from heroin abuse like social isolation, ignoring your personal morals, or engaging in risky behavior while under the influence
- Heroin becomes your number one priority, making it difficult to complete responsibilities at home, school, or work
- Needing a higher dose of heroin to experience the desired effect
- Dealing with the mental and physical effects of heroin abuse, such as mood changes, weight loss, or frequent overdoses
- Experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms when you cannot use the substance
If you or a loved one relates to the symptoms mentioned above, it’s time to seek support from a heroin detox and treatment center.
Find Help for Heroin Dependence
Although very rare, you can die from heroin withdrawal without proper treatment, and you should always seek help at a medical detox center. At Arise Treatment Center, our medical detox services, evidence-based behavioral therapies, and aftercare services help clients build a strong foundation of recovery to rely on for years to come.
To learn more about our heroin detox program, contact us today.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of heroin use in the United States, Retrieved December 2023 From https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
- Medline Plus: Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal, Retrieved December 2023 From https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
- The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC): Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal, Retrieved December 2023 From https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/yes-people-can-die-opiate-withdrawal