How Painful is Detox and Treatment for Heroin?

Not surprisingly, breaking the cycle of addiction can be difficult. However, the process is even more challenging for those trying to overcome an addiction to opioids, especially heroin. For those who may not be as familiar with heroin, it is a highly addictive street-level opioid made from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. That said, those who are interested in putting heroin addiction behind them for good are often concerned about withdrawal-related discomfort. Similar to prescription-based opioids, depriving the body of the heroin that it has grown accustomed to can trigger a wide range of symptoms, some of which include intense pain, nausea, and vomiting. In light of these severe symptoms, most rehab facilities will recommend that patients undergo medically-assisted detox to help make their journey toward sobriety easier. In this article, we will take a detailed look into what medically-assisted detox entails and how these specialized treatments can benefit those seeking to end their relationship with heroin.


To say that medically-assisted detox is essential when it comes to overcoming an addiction to heroin would be a gross understatement. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, medically-assisted detox refers to a type of treatment that enables those trying to come off of heroin and similar opioids to wean themselves off these drugs in a controlled environment and under the supervision of a licensed physician. Most physicians and others involved in addiction recovery will agree that medically-assisted detox is ideal for those struggling with an addiction to strong opioids. As the name may suggest, medically-assisted detox entails taking prescription medication to cope with severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which can occur within hours or days after an individual stops using. Some of the medications commonly used in medically-assisted detox include

  • Suboxone

  • Methadone

  • Naloxone

  • Buprenorphine


Along with intense pain, nausea, and vomiting, some individuals may also experience the following symptoms after they have stopped taking heroin:

  • Heart palpitations

  • Profuse sweating

  • Breathing problems

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Seizures

  • Lightheadedness


If your primary concern with quitting heroin is painful withdrawal symptoms, quitting cold turkey is ill-advised as the pain associated with the withdrawal process is often too much for most people to bear. Beyond that, studies show that the probability of relapse is significantly higher amongst those who choose to stop taking the drug cold turkey. Of course, this is not to suggest that the cold turkey approach does not work, but it is important to note that the journey will be far more difficult.


Now that we have a general understanding of what you can expect as you work toward ending your addiction to heroin, let’s take a closer look at the medications used during detox and how they work:

Suboxone – Largely considered the most effective prescription-based medication when it comes medically-assisted detox, Suboxone is a Schedule III controlled narcotic that can help alleviate the chronic pain associated with detoxing from heroin.

Methadone – Running a close second to Suboxone, Methadone is a long-lasting, slow-release prescription medication used to help weans individuals off of heroin, Fentanyl, and other strong narcotic drugs. Methadone not only reduces severe withdrawal symptoms but also helps with cravings as well.

Naloxone – Commonly used in conjunction with Suboxone or Methadone, Naloxone helps relieve painful withdrawal symptoms. It is also commonly used to combat addiction and to treat opioid overdose as well.

Buprenorphine – Similar to Suboxone, buprenorphine is a Schedule III controlled narcotic that is used to soothe severe pain symptoms associated with opioid cessation.

It is important to note that the medications used in medically-assisted detox are highly addictive and should only be taken as prescribed by a physician.

In summation, quitting heroin or any other opioid can be painful and can also trigger a variety of severe side effects; however, there are treatments available that can make the process more manageable while increasing your chances of achieving long-term recovery. If you’re ready to reclaim control of your life and finally but substance abuse behind you, consider speaking with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate counselors today at 772-266-5320.

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