Heroin is an opioid drug that changes the brain’s chemistry, causing physical dependency that worsens the longer someone remains on heroin. The opioid epidemic means hundreds of thousands of people daily experiencing heroin detox symptoms. The withdrawals are excruciating and force a person to commit crimes to relieve the withdrawal.
The reason heroin causes withdrawals is that opioids tell the brain to stop producing its own neurochemicals when heroin or another opioid is ingested regularly. The neurotransmitters that stop functioning are endorphins and dopamine. These bran chemicals suppress pain in the body, regulate temperature and heart rate, and are the body’s own “feel-good” chemicals.
Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, approximately one million people reported having had a heroin use disorder in the past year. The ages with the highest heroin use rate are adults aged 26 or older, followed by young adults aged 18 to 25. (NSDUH, 2021)
What Are Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?
Heroin addiction causes a person to need to use heroin every few hours to prevent withdrawals. Most abusers can sustain no more than 8 or 10 hours before the withdrawals start. The first symptom of withdrawal is sneezing and lethargy or yawning. The next phase of symptoms is restlessness, sweating, and cravings. If a person does not re-use heroin, they will begin to experience severe symptoms that include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme bone and muscle pain
- Fever and chills
- Restless leg syndrome
- Severe Insomnia
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
What Medication Helps Heroin Withdrawal?
Medications are not preferred but are required to help a person endure heroin or other opioid withdrawal symptoms. Without medications, an able person will relapse to stop the detoxification. Heroin withdrawal by users is called “dope-sick” or “kicking” and is what they live every day to avoid. This means they will commit crimes and lie to get money for more heroin.
The most effective medications for heroin withdrawal are suboxone, methadone, muscle relaxers, sleep medications, and some off-label drugs such as Lyrica. A medication that is not an opioid antagonist (Suboxone) or agonist (methadone) will not relieve heroin withdrawal symptoms, but some drugs are helpful.
Will Lyrica Be Prescribed For Heroin Addiction?
It is not common to prescribe Lyrica for opioid withdrawals. However, Lyrica is a prescription drug used to treat fibromyalgia and other nervous system disorders. It suppresses the activity of the central nervous system and will cause a person to relax.
The pharmaceutical name of Lyrica is Pregabalin, and it reduces nerve responses that cause muscle spasms, bone pain, and anxiety. As such, it can be effective for heroin withdrawal in addition to buprenorphine or other more reliable heroin medication-assisted treatments.
What Do The Experts Recommend For Heroin Detox?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heroin addiction and withdrawal can be treated with Medication-assisted treatments. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treating substance use disorders.
Medications used in MAT include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These medications are used to treat opioid use disorders to short-acting opioids such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. These MAT medications are safe to use for months, years, or even a lifetime.
Detox and Treatment For Heroin Addiction
Once a person enters an NJ heroin detox center, they can rest and sleep until they feel better. They will meet regularly with doctors and a therapist to help support them while they detox. Once they complete detox, the next step is to enter the treatment center. The programs recommended by our New Jersey Addiction Interventions team of specialists that have seen the most success in helping heroin addicts attain long-term recovery from heroin addiction utilize evidence-based therapy.
This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, one-on-one counseling, group counseling, holistic therapy, and ongoing MAT regimens.
Medically Reviewed: January 10, 2023
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.