How to Taper off Heroin

Heroin is a common recreational substance that is part of the opioid family of drugs. It is perhaps the most well-known narcotic due to its dangerous disposition and highly addictive properties.

Opioids such as heroin contribute to tens of thousands of overdose deaths every year in the United States alone. Because of their availability and volatility, drug overdose has become the leading cause of death across the country. Beyond its numerous fatalities, heroin contributes to rampant cases of substance use disorders. The drug is potent enough to make users develop crippling dependence issues even after a single use. Opioids are infamous for binding to receptors found within the central nervous system. Once triggered, the damage is truly done. Said receptors can never be un-activated, and dependence becomes the unfortunate result. Potent opiates like heroin are particularly effective in fulfilling this diabolical task.   

It stands to reason just why heroin is among the most difficult drugs to quit entirely and recover from using. Medical professionals advocate for comprehensive care — detox, inpatient and outpatient care, and more depending on the individual’s needs. These methods have proven time and time again to be the most effective means of treatment to achieve life-long recovery.   

Still, some heroin users may choose a slightly different approach to their dilemma: self-detox. Virtually everyone has heard the term “cold turkey” before, especially in the case of heroin. Stopping drug use outright has its associated risks. Without question, heroin has arguably the hardest withdrawal of any drug. The flu-like side effects are abundant and more excruciating than the last. Such symptoms and effects of a heroin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea: Perhaps the most overt of all the withdrawal symptoms, diarrhea and vomiting spells can occur for hours at a time.
  • Excessive energy or agitation: Heroin withdrawal is characterized by restlessness and a feeling of being incomplete without using the drug.
  • Crippling aching: Withdrawal is truly a full-body experience in the worst way. Muscles will throb incessantly, while pain emits from all over.
  • Hot flashes and chills: The body will attempt to self-regulate to questionable results, leading to bouts of intense heart, or alternatively, shivers. However, the user may not experience any temperature changes on the surface. Sometimes this is a psychological side effect only.
  • Depression: Getting through an intense heroin withdrawal is not something one can accurately put into words. Such trauma will take a lot out of a person both physically and mentally.

Cold turkey is not the physician-recommended course of action for heroin users of any kind, especially for long-time and frequent users with high tolerances. This is because tolerance vanishes once withdrawal symptoms clear up — approximately a week or so for most users. When this happens, users are at their most susceptible to overdoses. A dosage they may have been accustomed to before is suddenly far too strong. It would only take a much smaller dose to result in a potentially fatal heroin overdose.

However, there is another option. Some heroin users and doctors alike may choose to taper off heroin, which provides an intermediate approach — allowing an individual to quit heroin gradually rather than all at once.

How to Taper Off Heroin | Is Tapering Off Heroin Possible?
There’s no glossing over the matter — heroin withdrawal is a nightmare. Many will go to any means necessary to avoid this debilitating event, including continued use. Tapering off heroin is seen as a feasible alternative, or in some instances, a stepping stone to prepare for full medical detox and treatment. Users are often searching for a way to improve steadily and at their pace, in combination with a sense of control over their own recovery that they might not experience in a clinical setting.  

A tapering regimen is all about lessening tolerance and dependence over time. Taking less and less of the drug allows the body and nervous system to self-correct and, ultimately, heal itself. By keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay, it is more likely that an individual will continue the recovery process. This is one of the primary reasons replacement therapy is used as well. Additionally, it must be remembered that heroin doses are not exact from batch to batch. For this reason, it can be difficult to taper off consistently, since using less heroin doesn’t necessarily mean it is less potent each time.

Heroin users and their families may wonder how to taper off heroin. While heroin treatment may require using medications such as methadone or Suboxone to wean off the drug, a user tapering on their own does not have this option. Overall, this means that a self-guided approach will be fundamentally less structured (and potentially more dangerous) than a clinical system. It will require extensive forethought and perseverance.

Tapering off of opioids such as heroin requires a strategy. This strategizing can be as simple as identifying a date on the calendar — a time frame in which complete cessation or marked improvement is desired. It becomes easier to focus on making a change once a commitment is actually made. From here, the process takes one day at a time. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs for a reason. It will take resolve to taper off of it successfully.

Setting also plays a vital role in deciding how to taper off heroin. As a recreational drug, heroin is often ingested in the presence of others. Those who are effective in tapering off heroin point to a feeling of loneliness once overcoming the drug. Their identity was tied to both heroin use and the individuals they used the drug with for so long that they begin feeling empty without them. This is a very real issue that can lead to setbacks. In order to avoid this factor entirely, it is best to remove oneself from environments or friend groups that have negative influences. With adequate support, commitment and medical intervention, even a blight as serious as heroin use can be overcome.

Heroin addiction may be all-consuming, but it can be overcome. If you’re ready to take the first step toward recovery, consider The Recovery Village. We make the withdrawal process safe with the help of experienced medical professionals. Reach out to  352.771.2700 today to get started. 

How to Taper off Heroin
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