How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About


Often the biggest obstacle deterring heroin addicts from seeking treatment or simply quitting altogether is the uncomfortable detoxification process that is the first step in the recovery process.

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The physical and psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal can feel overwhelming, and heroin – or any opioid – withdrawal can be fatal if attempted without medical supervision.

One common mistake, made by those attempting home detox from heroin or opioids, is to simply assume that the pain and discomfort they are experiencing is only temporary and that it will soon pass when given enough time.

Some of these symptoms may include dysphoria, insomnia, nausea, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, or other typical flu-like symptoms.

While it is true that, in most cases, these symptoms will peak between three and five days and will pass over the course of time, fatal reactions to a select few of these symptoms are a rare but very real possibility.

The dangers are most prevalent in two of the previously mentioned symptoms: vomiting and diarrhea.

How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About
How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About


Both vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s natural processes of cleansing the body of foreign substances but also result in a significant loss of hydrating fluids — mainly water — from the body.

If you’ve ever sought medical attention for typical flu-like symptoms, medical professionals will likely advise you to drink plenty of fluids throughout the duration of your illness.

This is because dehydration and elevated blood sodium, or hypernatraemia, can cause heart failure and result in cardiac arrest.

In addition to the physical symptoms directly associated with death, certain psychological factors during withdrawal can make a person more likely to harm themselves.

For example, it’s long been known that depression and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand; depression can lead to drug abuse, or drug abuse can lead to depression.

Regardless of the origins of depression, the withdrawal period for recovering addicts will often enhance self-destructive behaviors.

Throughout this period, a person in withdrawal may experience not only amplified depression but also depersonalization, severe panic attacks, and hallucinations.

This altered state of mind and extreme discomfort can increase suicidal tendencies in those going through heroin withdrawal.

In fact, Psychology Today estimates the rate of suicide amongst substance abusers who fail to seek treatment to be approximately 45%.

If you’re attempting to detox from heroin at home, the mere risk of relapse could be enough to cause death.

During the detoxification process, the body is in the process of reducing opioid levels in the system, thus, decreasing tolerance levels for the drug.

That means if a person successfully made it just a few days into sobriety but then relapsed, their body would be incapable of tolerating the stronger dose, resulting in a possibly fatal overdose.

For these reasons, we recommend that professional, medical supervision should always be considered when an addict is ready to pursue sobriety.

While it is possible to overcome the pain and discomfort of heroin withdrawal by yourself, there are several complications that only clinical professionals will have the knowledge to recognize, and be subsequently equipped and ready to address during the recovery period.

The desire to live a sober life is commendable, but the process by which you achieve sobriety from heroin or other opioid-based drugs is a critical choice.

How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About
How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About


Teen Heroin Use At A Glance

Teen substance abuse is an ongoing problem in the United States. According to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, an estimated 30.9 percent of teens who experimented with heroin developed an addiction within the first twelve months. In addition, the CDC reported that 19.8 percent of drug overdose deaths were the result of heroin use.

What Are The Signs Of Teen Substance Abuse?

If you suspect your teen is using heroin, pay attention to their behavior. It is easy to identify teen heroin use, as a teen’s appearance will be much different from when they are sober. Here are some signs to watch in your teen:

  • Is your teen wearing shirts with long-sleeve shirts year-round? Teens often attempt to hide their track marks by wearing a long-sleeved shirts.
  • Does your teen have constricted or very small pupils? Also known as “heroin eyes,” pupils will be droopy and may even appear bloodshot.
  • Has your teen appeared alert and then exhausted? If your teen is nodding off and falling asleep, this can also indicate heroin use.
  • Does your teen have a dry mouth? If your teen is grinding their teeth or seems to have a dry mouth, it’s time to begin talking to them about their drug use.
  • Has your teen experienced quick, rapid breaths or flushed, warm skin? This, too, is associated with heroin use.

If your teen exhibits any of these signs, it is time to reach out for heroin addiction treatment. Yes, it is possible to assist your teen in withdrawing from heroin without the support of a medical team, but it is not recommended.

What Are The Symptoms Of Heroin Withdrawal?

Once the body is accustomed to an addictive substance like heroin, abruptly quitting will result in unpleasant effects. Typical heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms will start within hours of the last dose, with the worst peaking during the first couple of days. After a week, users feel better physically, although they often feel tired.

Can Heroin Withdrawal Be Deadly?

Detoxing from any kind of opioid can be life-threatening. For this reason, the safest way to detox is under medical care.

As uncomfortable as withdrawal symptoms are, they aren’t usually life-threatening. However, they are uncomfortable and painful enough to make at-home detox dangerous.

It is during an at-home detox that a person begins to crave heroin while also experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

To relieve their pain, they use heroin. However, now that they are clean, their body is no longer accustomed to the drug.

They may return to using the same amount as they previously did, but it can be overwhelming for their body, causing an overdose and death.

How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About
How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About


Seek Heroin Addiction Treatment At Destination For Teens

Addiction to heroin and the strain it puts on a user’s body can cause death. That is why it is recommended that teen heroin users undergo detox in a qualified facility such as Destinations for Teens.

During withdrawal, the body goes through a stressful time. If an individual has any underlying medical conditions like a weak heart, a high risk for blood clots, or any other medical issue, detoxing can cause that issue to lead to complications.

Medical professionals will monitor your teen’s health. Mental health professionals will also be present to support their needs of believing that they have the power not to use drugs.

Interventions will ease the worst of their symptoms, making detox more comfortable.

Once your teen is sober, they can move into the next phase of rehab, which includes various therapies, giving them a solid foundation for lasting recovery.

Compassionate And Comprehensive Substance Treatment

If you’re a parent worried about your teen’s heroin use, Destinations for Teens can help. We’re an addiction treatment and mental health facility with locations throughout California.  

Our goal is to treat adolescents who need to overcome drug addiction. With our help, your child and your whole family can recover and heal.

In addition to providing heroin addiction treatment, we also support other substance use disorders such as:

Opioid Addiction Treatment

This treatment program addresses prescription opioids as well as other forms of opioid or opiate addiction.

Residential Treatment

For patients who need round-the-clock supervision for at least 30 days, residential addiction treatment is often the best course of action.

Partial Hospitalization Treatment (PHT)

Partial hospitalization is a program where patients come to our facility for most of the day, but return home or to a sober living house in the evenings.

Intensive Outpatient Program(IOP)

This condensed form of treatment is ideal for milder addictions requires fewer hours, and is similar to a PHP.

How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About
How Heroin Withdrawal Can Kill You: Dangerous Facts You Never Knew About


Outpatient Program

An outpatient program is designed for individuals who have already gone through treatment but may have relapsed or for extremely mild substance abuse.

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