There is no doubt that New Jersey has been affected by the opioid crisis. Heroin has swept across America and has been responsible for 14,996 deaths in 2018 in this state alone. It is estimated that there are 128,000 active heroin addicts in New Jersey, and it has affected people from all walks of life.
Heroin is one of the most addictive substances known to man. It physically changes the chemistry of the brain, and the withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Many users are left with feelings of hopelessness. However, as uncomfortable as the withdrawal symptoms are, it is possible to recover from heroin addiction.
Excel Treatment Center understands the trauma that can accompany heroin addiction and withdrawal. We work alongside superb detox facilities which provide expert medical assistance to those attempting to break their addiction. They aim to make the process as comfortable as possible, and our clients are often surprised at how different a medically supervised detox is, as opposed to attempting to go it alone.
Heroin in New Jersey presents as a white powder which is snorted, injected, or smoked. Users typically experience a rush of euphoria and a sense of well-being. It is a strong painkiller, and it blunts the effects of emotions. Heroin is highly addictive, and a single-use can be enough to cause psychological dependence.
As more is used over time, this mental dependence becomes a physical addiction. The body adapts to constantly having heroin in its system, and stops production of certain chemicals which are used to regulate the body. When someone stops taking heroin suddenly, this lack of regulation causes intense withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Typically known as ‘dope sickness’, withdrawal symptoms start around six to eight hours after the last dose is used. They usually peak on day three or four and will begin to reduce after about a week. Acute symptoms usually stop after three weeks, although some people experience effects for months after.
The acute withdrawal symptoms include:
Mild withdrawal symptoms:
- Feeling sick
- Stomach cramps
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
Moderate withdrawal symptoms:
- Sickness and nausea
Severe withdrawal symptoms:
- Extreme vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Reduced appetite
- Severe muscle and bone pain
- Inability to regulate body temperature
- Emotional upset
All levels of withdrawal symptoms are characterized by intense urges to use heroin. The detox period is an especially vulnerable time for users. This is why it is important to detox safely, with medical assistance.
We understand that attempting to detox alone is extremely hard. Clients have usually tried this many times before they reach out to us. The physical and mental symptoms can feel unbearable, and many people find themselves using heroin again to cope. However, with the correct medical assistance, symptoms can be managed.
Many people experience a rush of emotions after detoxing. Heroin blocks feelings, so being newly sober can feel overwhelming. Our understanding and non-judgmental staff are always at hand to listen to our client’s problems during these times. It is also helpful to be around other people who are beginning their recovery journey.
Treating Heroin Withdrawal
Various medications can be used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal. These act in a similar way to heroin, but are prescribed by a medical professional. They make the symptoms much more bearable and gives our clients a comfortable start to their recovery.
Some of the drugs used are:
Methadone stays in the bloodstream for an entire day. It can still cause dependency, and people can still ‘top-up’ with heroin. Effects can be monitored in the controlled environment of a detox facility. Methadone is usually slowly reduced, which avoids acute withdrawal symptoms.
This works on a similar part of the brain to heroin. However, it has a ‘ceiling’ effect, meaning that there is a limit to how much can be taken, which lowers its abuse potential. It is essential to only take buprenorphine when the client is already in withdrawal, or it can make them feel worse. Our clinicians are skilled in assessing the perfect time to move someone onto this medication.
One of the main complaints of heroin withdrawal is restless legs. Clonidine helps to reduce these symptoms, and also reduces symptoms of anxiety.
Mental Health and Heroin Withdrawal
We understand that heroin addiction and mental health disorders can co-occur. Research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness has shown that around half of habitual drug users have some kind of mental health condition. We carry out a thorough assessment before our clients begin their treatment with us. This informs us of any pre-existing conditions that will require treatment alongside the addiction.
We also know that many people reach us, having never had a proper mental health diagnosis. Our clinicians are highly skilled in diagnosing mental health conditions, and we can arrange for medication to be prescribed if necessary. We can also show our clients coping strategies and help them explore the potential causes of these conditions.
We will never force our clients to stop taking their mental health medication. Our heroin detox program is specifically for heroin, and our focus is always the wellness of our clients. If it is deemed necessary, we can arrange for mental health medications to be prescribed during the detox process.
Medication can also be used to treat heroin addiction in the long-term. Once stabilized, many of our clients choose to stay on medication. Although our clinicians will help with making this decision, it is ultimately the client’s choice.
These can include:
Buprenorphine – this is taken daily. It is often used in high doses, which as previously stated blocks the effects of heroin. Care should be taken with this, as even though it has a low abuse potential, people can still use heroin if they miss a dose.
Vivitrol (naloxone) – this is given as a monthly injection. This completely blocks the effects of heroin, and also can help to reduce cravings.
Although these medications can be helpful, they are not a ‘silver bullet’. People can still drink and use other drugs whilst on these medications, which is why we recommend clients still engage in our recovery programs during the first six months of recovery.
It is common for heroin users to take other drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, crack, or benzodiazepines to increase the effects. It is possible to detox from multiple drugs, and our team are skilled in making this as easy as possible.
Before you are admitted to the center, you will have the opportunity to tell us about any other drugs you are taking. You may also be required to do a drugs test. This enables our staff to tailor the detox program to make sure you are as comfortable as possible and ensure your safety throughout.
Addiction is a deep-seated condition, and simply breaking the physical dependence is not enough. As important as detox is, it is advised that clients engage in one of our recovery programs to ensure the best chance of success. It is here that clients will learn the coping strategies that will set them on the path of long-term recovery.
Our recovery programs are tailored to the individual and are all underpinned by the 12 Steps. Therapies include one-to-one therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and holistic practices.
We meet our clients where they are and help to guide them through the early stages. We believe that by showing people care and compassion, we can help them to build a solid foundation for their recovery.
Recovery is a life-long process. However, that doesn’t mean that your life has to be boring. We know how exciting recovery can be, and we want our clients to share that feeling. It is an opportunity for a new chapter in life. We offer an alumni program, where our clients can return for ongoing support. They also get the chance to lead newcomers by example, which is a brilliant way to build self-esteem.
We are partnered with several sober living facilities that provide support and accommodation for those who are just starting in their recovery journey. There is a fantastic recovery scene in New Jersey, with a wide range of mutual aid meetings and sober groups. In remaining connected to others on the same journey, our clients build a solid foundation and can go on to enjoy a happy and successful recovery.