Detoxing from heroin, informally referred to as dope, can be intimidating for individuals living with an addiction to the highly addictive narcotic. However, if they’re talking to you about their challenges with addiction, it’s likely they would be comfortable with you helping them through their first days of sobriety. If you have a friend or loved one who wants your help during heroin withdrawal and detox, it is important for both of you to be prepared for the process. When people consider what is the hardest drug to get off of, heroin is likely their first guess. Due to the potency of heroin, it’s easy for a person to become physically dependent on it. Having a dependency means that if the person stops using heroin, they start experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms within a few hours unless they get medical treatment. Therefore, knowing how to help and being prepared for heroin withdrawal by having a plan of action is critical to avoid experiencing any setbacks during the detox process.
How to Help Someone Detox from Heroin
If a friend or family member requests that you help them stop their heroin use, it’s important for you to support them in any way you can. Detoxing from heroin is challenging. For someone using heroin, sick of the drug controlling their lives, it may be intimidating for your friend or family member to envision their life without the drug. Them coming to you and asking for your help is the first step in their recovery.
Going through heroin withdrawal and detox is best done at a professional addiction treatment facility. However, some people may refuse professional treatment, believing that they can make it through the withdrawal symptoms without medication or the professional care provided by a treatment facility. Do what you can to convince your loved one that professional treatment is ideal because how to help someone detox from heroin is best left up to professionals. But if they persist in going through the detox process away from a facility, there are key ways to help them get started.
The best way to help someone stop using heroin and complete the detox process is by being supportive. They came to you for help during what are likely the hardest days of their life. Do not disregard their request for help, take it seriously. Listen to their complaints during the challenging withdrawal and detox stages. Overall, do your best to encourage their transition to a healthier future.
If your friend or family member turns down your encouragement to seek professional treatment, that doesn’t mean that you have to turn down professional help as well. There are heroin hotlines that you can call to speak to a professional about what your friend or family member is planning on going through. They will likely encourage you to urge your loved one to seek professional help, which is safer than cold-turkey detoxing at home. Explain your situation and they will be able to provide advice specific to you and your loved one.
4 Home Remedies for Dope Sickness
Home remedies for dope sickness can help someone who chooses to avoid professional treatment in order to attempt to detox at home. While there is no at-home-cure for heroin withdrawal symptoms, there are ways to increase the chance that an at-home detox is a success.
- Think twice: Home remedies for heroin withdrawal are not recommended. What helps dope sickness the most is receiving treatment under the care of an addiction specialist. It is difficult to stop heroin use without professional help.
- Consider the risks: Most people who don’t seek professional help end up experiencing setbacks. If heroin use resumes after withdrawal, the drug can be even more dangerous because people lose tolerance to heroin after quitting. This loss means that their next use of heroin puts them at an increased risk of overdose because their body is no longer used to the drug.
- Find outpatient options: A treatment team may be able to use opioid-replacement medicines like methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone, counseling, and support to help a patient with heroin addiction. While it’s still professional treatment, outpatient is not an overnight experience, so individuals can stay at home. This treatment method may be a viable alternative if your loved one refuses to seek inpatient treatment.
- Consult with experts: In anticipation of withdrawal symptoms or the detox process, remember that there are hotlines you can call to speak to knowledgable representatives about the experiences your friend or family member is about to go through. At the very least they can inform you of the extreme withdrawal symptoms to look out for where emergency services may need to be contacted.
How to Help Someone Going Through Withdrawals
Set Your Expectations
It can be very stressful to watch someone go through heroin withdrawal. Although heroin withdrawal is not deadly, stopping heroin can lead to very uncomfortable symptoms within only a few hours. These symptoms can include:
- Mood changes, like agitation and anxiety
- Increased bodily fluids, like runny nose, teary eyes and sweaty skin
- Stomach problems, like nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea
- Muscle problems, like aches and twitching
- Dilated pupils
- Goosebumps or feeling cold
Be Prepared for Mood Changes
Being with someone going through drug withdrawal can be difficult. The person experiencing withdrawal can feel confused or disoriented and may experience hallucinations. This added stress can make them act scared, panicked or even angry and aggressive.
Plan Your Reactions
It is best to use a calm voice when talking to someone in withdrawal. If they seem confused, explain to them where they are and what is happening. Reassure them that they are safe. If they are hallucinating, you can explain what is real and what is imaginary. It is important to always remain calm, even if the person is agitated. Do not argue or raise your voice, as that will only increase their agitation.
Sometimes a person in withdrawal can lash out and be a danger to themselves or others. Always make sure to protect yourself from harm, and also try to prevent the person from harming themselves.
Seek Help from the Experts
It is crucial to remember that addiction specialists are trained in how to work with people in withdrawal. They can offer you the support you need to cope with the task of helping your friend or family member through the withdrawal process.
How To Help Someone Withdraw from Heroin
Sitting down to figure out how to deal with someone going through withdrawal symptoms and then helping someone through their detox from heroin is just the beginning. Helping someone with their addiction doesn’t mean that you stop helping them when their withdrawal symptoms fade away. Addiction isn’t cured by going through dope withdrawal and detox. It must be managed for the rest of the person’s life. Your help should continue past the detox and withdrawal phase. You can continue helping in the following ways.
Plan for the Long-haul
Because recovery is a life-long process, your friend or family member can benefit from your continued support. By being someone who can listen to them, you’re providing them with an outlet they can turn to when life gets tough or they feel the urge to resume substance use. You can deter them from experiencing setbacks by simply letting them know you’re there for them and supporting them through everyday life.
Have a Support System in Place
The person in recovery will need a strong support system after heroin detox is complete. This support system may include long-term professional or group counseling, and it is important that the person in recovery attend these counseling sessions. Some counseling sessions may be available to you as a family member or friend as well.
Keep Negative Influences Away
After experiencing the challenges of detox and withdrawal, the last thing you want is your friend or family member returning to heroin use. While you can’t control their life, you can suggest they avoid people and places that may encourage drug use. Help them find new hobbies and meet new people. Without heroin in their lives, they likely have more free time than they have had in a long time since many people addicted to heroin often spend their free time pursuing their next high. Make sure their free time is filled with positive influences as a preventative measure to experiencing setbacks. Also, even before withdrawal and detox begins, it’s a good idea to ensure that drugs and drug paraphernalia are cleared out of the house to avoid tempting the individual to resume use.
Key Points: Helping Someone Detox and Withdraw from Heroin
It is important for both you and your loved one to be prepared for detox and withdrawal from heroin use. Keep the following information in mind as you prepare for helping your friend or family member address their heroin addiction:
- Home remedies do not work as well as medically-supervised addiction treatment
- Experiencing setbacks after detoxing increases the chance of overdose due to the loss of tolerance
- It is best to talk to an addiction specialist team who will be able to help you and your loved one through the detox process
- The detox process may be very uncomfortable for your loved one, so it is important that you are prepared for their discomfort and withdrawal symptoms
- Helping your friend or family member doesn’t end when withdrawal symptoms end. Continue helping them with their long-term recovery goals.
If your friend or family member want to detox from heroin in a safe, supportive and effective environment, call The Recovery Village and speak to a representative. Detoxing at home is not recommended. Heroin withdrawal is challenging and doing so without proper medical supervision can make it riskier and harder than it needs to be. The best way to help is by convincing your loved one that professional treatment is the best option. Set your loved one up for success and have them reach out to a representative today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Heroin.” June 2018. Accessed March 8, 2019.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” May 5, 2018. Accessed March 8, 2019.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed March 8, 2019.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation. “Home‐based Withdrawal.” Accessed March 8, 2019.