There are substantial differences between rapid heroin detox and standard heroin detox. Understanding heroin and the need for assisted detoxification of the body is the first step in choosing the right program.
Heroin is a highly-addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy. Once heroin hits the brain, it turns back into morphine and attaches to opioid receptors in the brain. These are the receptors that can decrease the body’s perception of pain. They also increase the level of dopamine, elevate mood, and give users a sense of euphoria or “the high.”
Heroin users have several methods of use from which to choose, including injecting, which could be “mainlining” (intravenous), into a muscle (IM use) or under the skin (skin-popping). Many users choose the mainlining method because it is the fastest and most intense way to achieve a “high.” Other routes of administration include smoking, snorting, oral ingestion, or even as a suppository.
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs available because a person can become both physically and psychologically dependent. For this reason, heroin users should seek professional assistance in a supervised heroin detoxification program. This offers the greatest chances for overcoming addiction before the addiction overcomes their lives.
Assisted Detoxification is Needed
Without adequate professional support or an effective standard or rapid heroin detox program, it can be difficult to stop using heroin. Many users are fearful of the withdrawal symptoms. They can start to appear as soon as six hours after a person last used heroin. Heroin withdrawal is a physiological condition that medical professionals should treat. The ability of a medical provider to help a patient overcome withdrawal symptoms can quickly and comfortably increase the likelihood of a successful detoxification.
The physical and mental pain associated with heroin withdrawal can be a trigger for relapse. Withdrawal symptoms can include cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and spasms, intense muscle aches, insomnia, extreme anxiety, depression, and even desperation. Heroin use suppresses the brain’s sensations of pain, both emotional and physical. When a person stops using heroin, their brain is re-activated causing the physiological and emotional distress to return. When this happens, many people see no choice but to continue their use of heroin. They would rather not face the unbearable pain that may reappear.
A number of medical treatments are available for heroin addiction. All medical approaches include pharmacological intervention, whether a heroin user chooses a rapid detox or the standard drug rehab approach. It is crucial that treatment programs inform patients of the risks and benefits of the drugs used for treatment. While some medication can reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, they can also become habit-forming themselves (cross addiction).
Pharmacotherapy Treatments for Heroin
Rapid Heroin Detox programs and most standard detox programs use a combination of FDA-approved drugs to aid in the process of withdrawal. However, physicians use the drugs in quite different ways.
Standard detox programs often use methadone or Suboxone (or other buprenorphine based medications) to help delay withdrawals symptoms and control cravings. Unfortunately, all of these drugs are opioid-based, offering similar effects to heroin. Those same drugs also have a very high risk of addiction. Moreover, the user will likely experience intense withdrawal symptoms when trying to discontinue use. By continuously taking methadone, Suboxone, or other buprenorphine-based drugs used for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), a person can become independent of heroin. However, they will be dependent on a methadone or buprenorphine-based medicine.
Rapid detox treatment programs use medications such as naloxone and naltrexone. Both are non-habit forming and help induce and speed up withdrawal symptoms during anesthesia-assisted detox. They also control physical cravings post-treatment. Since physicians monitor patients around the clock and provide individualized care in a hospital, they can manage withdrawal symptoms carefully, based on the assessment and unique history of each patient.
Standard Heroin Detox Process
Standard drug rehab detox programs usually admit the patient to the non-medical facility. They often will spend between 28 days to a few months there. Some programs have separate detox units where nurses assist through the withdrawal period. However, this depends on the level and intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Most standard drug rehab detox programs start with an evaluation or diagnostic period to determine the exact needs of the patient as well as establish the treatment plan. The patient then enters the detoxification phase where medical staff often administer buprenorphine-type medications. Traditional drug rehab programs usually pair patients with one or more individuals in a room. Having a roommate going through their own distress through drug detox might not be the ideal situation, but is necessary for most drug rehabs that need to lower cost by utilizing space.
Once drug detox is complete, staff transfer patients to the rehabilitation wing of the facility. There, they begin a routine of attending individual and group therapies until they are discharged. Here they will learn coping skills to help them in recovery. Upon discharge, patients receive a treatment plan to follow that can include outpatient group or individual therapy.
It is important to note that few patients leave standard detox with a prescription for methadone or suboxone. Medical providers should completely wean patients off these drugs so that there will be no remaining withdrawal symptoms. Once they discharge the patient, they are at high risk for an immediate relapse. Therefore, it is important to establish a plan for weaning patients off all MAT drugs.
Rapid detox programs should begin with an inpatient extensive pre-evaluation to determine the needs and medical condition of each patient. At the same time, the physicians normalize certain organ functions to obtain a better understanding of how each patient reacts to certain drugs. This preparation and additional knowledge of the individual patient will be key to the comfort and safety of the rapid detox procedure.
Rapid detox centers should provide patients with private rooms in order to offer the undivided attention and assessment, prior to the procedure. In a full-service hospital, p