December 5th, 2023
Heroin detoxification, commonly referred to as heroin detox, is the crucial first step in overcoming heroin addiction. Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid drug that can severely affect an individual’s physical and mental health. Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of heroin and managing the withdrawal symptoms that can be both uncomfortable and challenging.
Follow this diary entry as an example of what to expect throughout the initial days of heroin detox:
Even though I had done a lot of research about the detox centre and spoken at length to the admissions team, I was riddled with anxiety when I first arrived. I think part of it was fuelled by some of the horrible depictions of heroin withdrawal I had seen in films and on TV (which I recommend you avoid before you start heroin detox!)
Luckily, the staff at the detox centre quickly eased my fears, welcoming me warmly and showing me to my room. They meticulously outlined the detox process, emphasising the available 24/7 support and medical intervention to keep me safe and comfortable.
They also explained the rules to me, which came as a little bit of a surprise, but I understood they were necessary for recovery. I thought they might try to take my cigarettes, but luckily, they told me that smoking was allowed (although quitting smoking is definitely next on my list!)
The medical assessment
Once I was settled in, it was time for a comprehensive medical assessment. The team took a detailed account of my history with heroin, the duration of my use and its impact on my overall health. I felt nervous about going into my personal history, but I quickly realised that they heard it all before and just wanted to make sure they could provide the best possible treatment. They explained that everything is strictly confidential and that learning to open up is crucial for recovery from heroin addiction.
The medical assessment allowed my medical team to identify potential risks and create a heroin detox plan tailored to my needs. Every facet of the plan was explained to me, which helped to prepare me for what to expect and set a clear path for my recovery journey. They told me about medications that would block the opioid receptors and help me with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Then, I spent the evening relaxing and getting to know the other people going through the same thing.
The heroin withdrawal journey
My heroin cravings had already kicked in on my first day of rehab; honestly, the first few days would have been a bit of a blur. The detox team suggested to me that I keep a journal as a way to distract myself and also so I could write down the signs of heroin withdrawal each day to chart my process. I had never kept a journal before, but I’m glad I did because looking back at it now, it is amazing to look at the journey I went on:
A few hours in, and I can already feel stuff happening. All my muscles are aching, and I am just feeling really anxious and restless. I’m really tired, but I can barely sleep because of the nausea. Emotionally, I’m kind of all over the place, feeling scared one moment, then angry the next. The staff keep checking on me, telling me this is normal and that I’m doing great so far.
The muscle pain is getting worse, and I keep having bouts of shakes. I’ve had a couple of panic attacks, and the staff have helped me through them, teaching me to focus on my breath and stay grounded. It helps, but it’s easier said than done.
It feels like my body is turning against me. I’m running to the toilet constantly, my stomach is in knots, and the muscle pain just doesn’t seem to go away. It’s tough, really tough. The staff are here, encouraging me to keep going, reminding me why I started this in the first place. I don’t know if I could have even got this far without them.
I’m sweating non-stop and can’t stop shaking. I keep throwing up and just feel really, really sick. The staff have helped me to eat what I can though and they’re making sure I stay hydrated. Today is definitely the worst. I keep swinging between wanting to give up and wanting to fight through this. The team is helping me stay focused by giving me tips on how to handle what I’m feeling. Some of the other clients here told me that they experienced the same on day four, so it’s helpful to know it’s normal.
Today’s a bit better, thank goodness! The sweats and shakes still come and go but it’s not as bad as before. I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel. I’m starting to feel like maybe I can do this, that there’s hope. My detox team are telling me to hold onto the good moments, to remember them when things get tough.
The cramps are easing up, and I haven’t thrown up once today. It feels like maybe I’m starting to come out the other side of this. I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the progress I’ve made. The team keeps telling me I’m doing great and that every hour is a victory.
I can’t believe it’s almost been a week! I’m feeling more like myself, like my body is finally starting to get back to normal. Mentally and emotionally, I’m definitely feeling stronger today and more hopeful. The team says I’m ready for the next step, and I’m starting to believe I can really do this, that I can beat heroin addiction for good.
I stopped the journal there, and every day after that became easier. There are no two ways about it: heroin withdrawal symptoms are no fun, and I can definitely understand why attempting heroin detox on your own is so dangerous! The team were amazing through every stage of withdrawal, and it really is incredible how much better I felt after detox.
Most importantly, I felt ready for the next stage, heroin rehab. This is specially designed therapy and other treatments that focused on the root causes that led to my heroin addiction. But I’ll save that story for next time!
The light at the end
In hindsight, my journey through heroin detox was markedly different from the fear-stricken narratives I had encountered before. The tailored care, the dedicated team and the gradual yet tangible progress gave me the strength and hope I needed to go on.
For anyone teetering on the verge of this crucial step, know that with the right support, a safe and constructive recovery is not just a possibility but a reality waiting to unfold. It is a journey attainable by anyone willing to take that brave first step towards change. Contact UKAT today to find out more on how we can help you through your detox journey.