Whether it is smoked, sniffed or injected, heroin is a highly addictive opiate. Though once primarily used by adults in lower-income or poverty-stricken areas, heroin use has spread to the young and to more affluent regions.
When heroin enters the body, it is converted back to morphine and quickly binds to opiate receptors in the brain, producing a rush. Once the rush has passed, the user will be drowsy for several hours as brain functions and heart functions slow severely. Breathing can also slow, sometimes to the point of death.
Overdose is another potentially fatal effect, since users build up tolerance very quickly, resulting in taking larger and larger doses to get the same effect. Since it is difficult to know how pure the drug is, there’s no way of knowing how big a dose to take. HIV and AIDS are also common, as a result of sharing needles.
Withdrawal symptoms begin six to eight hours after the last dose, peak between 48 and 72 hours, and can last from about a week to several months. Stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, tremors, and panic attacks are among the many symptoms.
Options for Heroin Detox
There are two approaches to heroin detox. Some clinics use methadone, a synthetic opioid that blocks the receptors in the brain from getting the rush of heroin. Methadone has similar effects, but less intensely. One issue with methadone treatment for heroin detox is that the user can become addicted to the less harmful drug. Gradual reduction of the dose can allow the user to wean himself from the methadone without serious withdrawal symptoms.
Other detox facilities believe that the use of methadone is counterproductive and only delays the inevitable need for complete detoxification. At these centers, withdrawal is medically supervised, and medications can be administered that relieve some symptoms but are not addictive.