The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that as of 2013 9.4 % of US adults had engaged in the use of an illegal drug in the previous month.
The physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms that addicts experience when they stop using the substance in question and are detoxing can be extremely difficult to cope with. This is so much the case that a person often turns back to the substance and relapses. This is why it’s so important to get help through the detoxing process.
Detox is the first step of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. The purpose of detox is to find an initial level of physical and mental balance so that a patient is more capable of continuing to abstain from the addictive substance.
The Detoxification Process
On a basic level, the term “detox” simply means that the body is expelling all of the toxins that have accumulated as a result of the alcohol or drug abuse. When a person has professional medical assistance and treatment for this initial phase of treatment, it tends to be more effective since caregivers will also be attending to withdrawal symptoms.
The process will vary from person to person and can take place either at an outpatient or inpatient method.
Withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type of addiction a person has as well as the severity of a substance. It also may depend on various other health factors and the type of ingestion that occurs.
Some of the most common substance abuse issues treated in detox programs are alcohol, heroin, prescription drugs, and cocaine, and often there is more than one addiction that needs to be treated concurrently.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, typically people will start to feel the effects of alcohol withdrawal after 8 hours and those may last for 24-hours to a few weeks. It’s quite common for alcoholics to feel mood changes like depression and anxiety, shakiness, and an inability to concentrate. They may also be nervous, unable to sleep, or in the most severe cases, experience fever and seizures.
In general, those using prescription drugs can expect flu-like symptoms to appear when you stop taking them. Benzodiazepine is a type of prescription drug typically prescribed for anxiety or as a relaxant. Withdrawal from this type of medication can put a person in a state of serious anxiety to the point where they have trouble concentrating, experience panic attacks, have headaches, problems sleeping, nausea and hypertension, just to name a few symptoms.
Because withdrawal from this class of drug can be so severe, some researchers recommend a graduated and supervised discontinuation process.
The US National Library of Medicine reports symptoms of cocaine withdrawal as fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, general restlessness, nightmares, increased appetite, and even suicidal thoughts in extreme cases.
The initial “crash” usually happens a few days after the last dose, but cravings, anxiety and suicidal thoughts can last for months. It is often the distinct feeling of darkness and depression that leads users to relapse.
When a person decides to stop using heroin, withdrawal results in a number of symptoms — body pain, diarrhea, and cold flashes are common. Symptoms are usually most severe within a week after the last dose, but ongoing support is usually needed to manage residual effects.
Heroin is notoriously difficult to stop using because the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe. At the mild end, a user typically experiences bad stomach pain and nausea, along with other flu-like symptoms. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, anxiety, hypertension, severe cravings and muscle spasms.
Detox is typically the first step in addiction treatment. Treatment more often than not involves medical supervision to help ease the painful process of recovery. Medical professionals will also closely monitor blood pressure and other vitals in case of seizures or other serious reactions. Sometimes sedation is necessary.
Even if sedation or other substances are not necessary, and the addiction is not in its most severe phase, it’s important to have a medical professional monitor you at a treatment center to make sure that you are safe and as comfortable as possible.
Medications are often used to ease detox symptoms and according to NIDA were used 80% of the time through treatment in US facilities. For instance, Methadone and levo-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM) are often administered for those with opioid dependence. Sometimes modafinil can help to manage those coming off of cocaine.
It is not uncommon for those going through detox to be prescribed medications like antidepressants in order to cope with the emotional changes that are common reactions in almost all cases. Anxiety and depression can be expected as the brain attempts to re-balance itself without the assistance of substances.
Rehab treatment can benefit patients in various ways, and helping them get through the initial detoxification phase is key to a successful treatment plan. In addition, detoxing can be dangerous and even fatal if attempted without medical assistance.
Many people resist quitting “cold turkey” for fear that the detoxification process alone will be too much to bear. That’s why it’s so crucial on both a physical and emotional level and is the initial step in almost all kinds of professional treatment plans.
NIDA reports that while over 22 million Americans in 2013 required addiction assistance, only 2.5 million were treated at a facility. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who need treatment for substance dependence, don’t hesitate to contact a trusted treatment center today.
As of 2016, 948,000 people in the US reported using heroin in the past year, and many of these were young adults aged 18-25, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Perhaps even more frightening is that the number of first-time users doubled between 2006 and 2016 for people (primarily males) in this age bracket. The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that some 25% of those who use heroin regularly will get addicted to the substance.
But it’s not only this age group that we need to be worried about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin use is on the rise across all demographics, especially for those who are already addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
What is Heroin?
Heroin, a derivative of morphine, is available on the street as a white or brown powder and sometimes comes in a crudely processed form called “black tar.”
According to the CDC heroin-related deaths in rose by 19% from 2015 to 2016, and many of these deaths are likely related to the fact that a deadly substance called fentanyl is being added to cut heroin.
How can you tell if someone has a problem? Keep reading for important information about this dangerous drug.
1. Drug Paraphernalia
Heroin requires specific paraphernalia. For smoking, people may use glass or tin foil pipes. Often the glass pipes are straight tubes, and sometimes they have a bulbous end. If a person is injecting, you will want to keep an eye out for syringes, as well as other things like rubber tubing, cotton balls, spoons with burn marks, scales, vials, and empty zipper baggies, as well as brown packaging paper.
2. Track Marks
American Addiction Centers reports that the majority of those in treatment for heroin or other dependency said that they primarily injected the drug. Injectable drugs have specific symptoms and medical issues that are more noticeable than other types of drug use, track marks being the most obvious ones.
If the track marks are new, they’ll look like puncture wounds, whereas older ones will typically take the form of small scabs or scars. Most of the time the location of the scars will be in the forearm near the elbow crease, but sometimes people do inject in their hands or other parts of the body like the groin or feet.
If you notice that someone refuses to wear T-shirts even in hot weather, or is taking great lengths to cover another part of their body, this may be an indicator that something is seriously wrong.
3. External Physical Changes and Symptoms
After the initial rush of a “hit,” a user will initially feel extreme euphoria followed by a relaxed state where limbs get heavy and mental and physical function is slowed. They may experience nausea, and they will probably fall into a semi-conscious state where their heart rate is slowed. Thus, you may notice them “nodding off” at strange times.
Other physical signs that someone is using include cloudy functioning, dry mouth, small pupils, a runny nose, flushed face and a general impairment of movement and speech. Excessive weight loss, sleeping at odd hours, and sexual dysfunction may also indicate of heroin addiction.
4. Psychological Changes
If a person uses any drug over an extended period, their brain will change, and normal systems involving hormones and neurotransmitters become unbalanced. In the case of heroin, there is evidence that the brain will actually change structure, which affects behavior, decision-making and people’s ability to cope with stress.
Thus, most people notice that heavy users become less functional psychologically overall.
5. Antisocial / Self-Destructive Behavior
Many people who fall into the habit of using drugs tend to lose interest in things they find enjoyable. They may have a new group of friends or start spending time alone in a private space. Work or school is likely to take less of a priority as well. They may even start to neglect or ignore their loved ones, forget about normal responsibilities, or become moody or violent.
Lying and manipulation, along with any sort of self-destructive behavior, often occur alongside addiction.
6. Financial Problem
In its most severe form, heroin addiction presents itself as heroin use disorder, which is characterized by excessive seeking behavior. This means that when a person is deeply addicted, they become less able to focus on anything but the drug.
They may steal money, frequently ask to borrow money, miss rent payments or even cash out lifetime savings accounts just to pay for the drugs.
7. Serious Medical Problems
Injecting heroin is dangerous because of not only the drug but also the injecting process itself. If needles aren’t clean, users are susceptible to Hepatitis and HIV. Snorting, too, can result in serious infections in the nasal cavity.
Other medical conditions that can result from heroin use include bacterial infections, pneumonia, arthritis, liver and kidney disease, heart infections, and more
If You Suspect Addiction
We’ve all seen movies where people have a puff of marijuana and then in the next scene the drug user is selling their last possessions and desperate to find another “hit.” And while this does happen to some people, it’s important to note that people can appear functional for years while hiding their addictions, leaving little to no trace of their problem in plain sight.
Typically, the worse a habit gets, less capable a person will usually be of hiding it, though they may stay functional for years and the signs may be subtle or even inconsistent.
While conversations about the topic may be difficult to have, it’s important that you stay engaged with the person on a regular basis and stay cognizant of mood swings and behavior changes, as well as physical signs and symptoms.