Most of us know the United States is in the middle of an opioid crisis. The crisis refers in large part to prescription medication being abused, but there’s another common opioid that’s been around for decades: heroin.
Just under a million Americans reported using heroin in the past year, according to a 2016 survey. Between 2010 and 2017, heroin-related deaths increased by 500%. Heroin use can be scary, and it can be one of the most difficult addictions to recover from.
If you or a loved one have taken the first big step and sought out help for a heroin addiction, you’re doing amazing. The road to recovery might be tough, but one of the best things you can do is prepare by doing research ahead of time, learning what to expect and how to cope with the effects.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Once your body has developed a dependency on heroin, you’ll experience physical symptoms when you begin to detox. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and sweating
- Abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Shaking and muscle pains
Withdrawal symptoms may gradually intensify over the first few days, but acute withdrawal symptoms will begin disappearing after about a week or so. However, you may notice these symptoms popping up from time to time for months afterwards – this is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
Because of the neurological changes the heroin has created, you may notice long term symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
How to Cope
Talk to your sponsor. If you’re in a 12-step program and struggling with any effects of detoxing from heroin, tell your sponsor. He or she has been in your shoes and likely has some tips or words of encouragement to help you get through it.
Focus on your diet and exercise. Recovering from an addiction requires changing different areas of your life. Make it a priority to nourish your body, especially if your addiction took priority over good eating habits. Try to keep your diet as fresh and natural as you can, incorporating fruits and vegetables. Similarly, establishing an exercise routine can provide the brain with a rush of endorphins, creating a natural high, as well as reduce some of your withdrawal symptoms.
Learn how to prevent a relapse. During your therapy treatments, work on identifying any of your old triggers and plan on how you can eliminate them to avoid slipping back into your old ways.