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What Are Some Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?

The symptoms of drug withdrawal, and the length of that withdrawal, vary depending on the drug of abuse and the length of the addiction. These are a few withdrawal symptoms and timelines for major targets of abuse:

  • Heroin and prescription painkillers: flu-like symptoms lasting 24-48 hours
  • Benzodiazepines: anxiety and/or seizures lasting weeks or (in some cases) months
  • Cocaine: depression and restlessness lasting 7-10 days
  • Alcohol: tremors and/or seizures lasting three days to several weeks

In 2011, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH) published that almost 25 million Americans over the age of 12, approaching 10 percent of this section of the population, had used an illicit drug in the month prior to the survey, classifying them as current drug users.

Addictive drugs and alcohol make changes to the way the brain processes emotions and regulates mood. Many of these changes create a flood of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which create an artificial feeling of pleasure, or a “high.”

Continued abuse of drugs or alcohol interferes with the motivation and reward chemistry and circuitry, resulting in drug cravings and dependence.

Once a dependence on a substance has formed, withdrawal symptoms will start when the substance is then removed. Different drugs and substances will have different withdrawal symptoms and timelines, depending on how they interact with the brain and bodily functions. Drugs are absorbed and remain active in the body for differing amounts of time. This is often referred to as the drug’s “half-life,”which relates to the different withdrawal timelines for each substance.

The severity and duration of withdrawal is influenced by the level of dependency on the substance and a few other factors, including:

  • Length of time abusing the substance
  • Type of substance abused
  • Method of abuse (e.g., snorting, smoking, injecting, or swallowing)
  • Amount taken each time
  • Family history and genetic makeup
  • Medical and mental health factors

For example, someone who has regularly injected large doses of heroin for several years, with a family history of addiction and underlying mental health problems, is likely to experience a longer withdrawal period with potentially more…

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You Are Not Alone

Spice is a real, growing drug problem in the US today. Synthetic marijuana is the second most commonly used drug in high schools in the US. 1 out of 9 students admit trying it at some point during high school.

Very often, spice is used because it’s seen as a legal, safe, more powerful and less expensive alternative to marijuana. Spice merchants will usually tell you it’s non-addictive, like weed and has few side effects.

Problem is, they were either lying to you or just plain ignorant about the dangerous side effects caused by the chemicals they sell.

In fact, the active ingredients in synthetic weed include over 200 man-made chemicals called synthetic cannabinoids. These chemicals are poorly understood by medical professionals, especially hospital emergency room staff. The chemicals are sprayed over cheap plant material and sold using cool-sounding brand names like Spice, K2, Scooby Snax, Mojo, Cloud9 and Diablo.

Today, a more potent liquid form of K2 and spice is being used in e-cigs and hookah pipes to avoid the stigma of looking like a pot head.

The real problem with synthetic cannabinoids is that they are often highly addictive, a problem not normally associated with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Use of synthetic cannabinoids also carries side effects that can be dangerous or even deadly to new users.

The two main reasons most people want to end an addiction to spice are the nasty side effects and the big changes in personality that come with using this drug on a regular basis.

Side Effects From Using Synthetic Cannabinoids

heart issues due to using synthetic marijuana spice k2
Use of spice carries life-damaging side effects for many users, including the following:

  • hallucinations
  • suicidal and homicidal thoughts
  • intense fear and paranoia
  • aggressive changes in personality
  • psychotic breaks
  • violent behavior.

It’s easy to understand why anyone would want to stop using Spice.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been using spice or K2 for weeks or months, then you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you when you try to quit.

Withdrawal Symptoms

withdrawal symptom nausea

If you’ve been using spice regularly and you try to quit, harsh withdrawal symptoms may appear that can make it difficult for you to function in the real world.

Many spice addicts report losing work for days or weeks due to the extreme, hangover-like effects of withdrawing from spice.

Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms shared on this site recently:

“Withdrawal left us unable to eat or drink without vomiting, cold sweats and insomnia”

“This is the worst feeling I have ever felt…Heroin withdrawal ten fold!!!

The most common spice and K2 withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nightmares
  • paranoia
  • extreme nausea and diarrhea
  • cold sweats
  • insomnia that can last for days
  • tremors, anxiety and restlessness.

Heart attacks are another, more dangerous, risk to users going through withdrawals.

The first withdrawal symptoms usually occur within the first few hours of ending drug use and typically persist for days or weeks.

The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms depend on how long the person has been using, what specific cannabinoid they were using and the person’s own body chemistry. The medical reasons for these symptoms are not well-understood.

The primary way to relieve withdrawal symptoms is to use more spice. This is what causes the vicious cycle of addiction that ruins families, loses careers – and worse.

Due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms, It is important for the user to have a strong support system during this time and to remain as physically strong as possible to reduce damage to his/her health.

Good hydration is also critical, due to the nausea and diarrhea that often accompany withdrawal.

Getting help from family and friends isn’t always a realistic option for a spice / K2 addict. For these patients, there are two main treatment options.

Option1: Local Support Groups

Joining a local Marijuana Anonymous (M.A.) support group in your area is a great first step to getting clean.

Some people in M.A. are addicted to spice in addition to having issues w/ marijuana. Marijuana Anonymous meetings are free to attend, and patients can visit meetings anytime they choose.

For family members trying to understand the harmful effects of synthetic marijuana, Marijuana Anonymous is a great place to start, too.

Newly recovering addicts may want to attend professional private therapy or rehab plus Marijuana Anonymous together, to improve the chances for success.

Option 2: Residential Treatment Centers

Synthetic Marijuana Rehab Facility

If you have insurance, checking in to a residential treatment center for spice or K2 addiction can be ideal. Many residential treatment centers today accept insurance for spice addiction recovery, and nearly all offer payment plans for patients.

At a residential treatment center, the counselors and staff are equipped with the knowledge and experience to help a person kick synthetic weed addiction for good. The patient needs to be ready for a drastic lifestyle change, but with constant monitoring, supervision and support, the journey becomes easier.

3 Steps To Permanent Recovery

5 Types Of Rehab For Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

There are three actions required by the user to achieve permanent recovery from spice addiction:

  1. detox
  2. counseling, and
  3. self-help.

When all three are done together, a patient has a much greater chance of successful recovery.

The detox process requires a strong support system who understands how to treat the symptoms of withdrawal.

Counseling helps the patient see how they were damaging their lives and the relationships around them when using spice.

Lastly, self-help is the key way to stay off drugs and continue a sober lifestyle well after treatment is over.

After you’ve detoxed and quit using the drug, in-person support groups like Marijuana Anonymous and online groups like this website can serve as a great sounding board that can help you stay on a clean and sober path, for the long term.


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Alcohol Withdrawal: Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

Everyone will experience alcohol detox differently. However, most people will experience at least some of the following withdrawal symptoms:2

  • Racing heart beat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
Seizures are the most dangerous of the acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They occur because your brain and the cells within it actually begin to change as they grow accustomed to the persistent presence of alcohol and its sedating effects throughout your system.

When alcohol is abruptly removed from your system, your brain struggles to adjust to the rebounding level of stimulation. Sometimes the brain can’t keep up with all this new excitatory neuronal activity, and this can result in a seizure.3

The risk of seizure remains high, in some cases, for several days after the last drink. Therefore, it is vital to your treatment course that you begin with detox and have all of the alcohol removed from your body first. Beginning treatment for alcohol abuse after safely completing detox is the best way to set yourself up to maintain sobriety — that way, the most physically uncomfortable part is over, and you can focus your efforts on recovery.

What to Expect from Alcohol Detox

The severity of a person’s withdrawal during detox is closely related to how severe and long-standing his or her addiction has been to that point.It is important to keep in mind that your experience of detox — its severity and duration — can differ from what you read here or what you may have observed in other people. Exactly how your detox progresses will be influenced by many factors, so it’s difficult to determine with accuracy what course your detox may take.

However, it is possible to get a general time frame for the detox process, complete with the progression of symptoms.

The First Hours of Alcohol Detox. Cravings are some of the first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and a definitive sign that the body is beginning the detox process.

  • Cravings can occur within hours of taking a final drink and continue far into the detox process.

The first hours of detox may also involve symptoms such as:2

  • Physical sickness.
  • Anxiety, depression, or irritability.
  • Spikes in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Nightmares, insomnia.
  • Tremors: Physical tremors are quite common for all levels of alcohol addiction.
  • For more extensive addictions, symptoms may persist and get progressively worse throughout the detox process.


The First Two Days of Alcohol Detox. After the initial hours of detox come more severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, which can range from from hallucinations to deadly seizures.

The symptoms that develop within the first two days of detox can become life-threatening as the brain reacts to alcohol leaving the system.2

  • Hallucinations are possible during this stage of detox.
  • Seizures are possible as well, most commonly in the first 12 to 48 hours after the last drink, but can continue for days after the process begins.3
  • Rapid heart rate will continue and chest pain may arise, which may indicate heart or blood pressure issues.
  • Delirium tremens: a severe, dangerous effect of acute alcohol withdrawal (see below for symptoms).4
  • For many, the detox process does not end at 48 hours.
  • Severe or long-standing cases of alcohol addiction may require particularly close monitoring for days after the decision to detox is made.

The Rest of the Alcohol Detox Process. Detox can continue for many days after the initial withdrawal symptoms develop. It is likely that your cravings will grow and physical discomfort will increase somewhat as detox gets underway. If present, and not managed closely, seizure activity may continue and also increase in severity.

After the first 48 hours of detox, seizure risk will begin to lessen in many cases. However, continued medical observation may be required, as the risk of extreme confusion and cardiovascular events such as heart attack, and even stroke remains elevated.

These symptoms usually occur within 48 to 96 hours after the last drink, but occasionally they have a delayed onset, starting between 7 and 10 days after the last drink.2

Delirium tremens symptoms include:4

  • Body tremors.
  • Agitation or irritability.
  • Fever and sweating.
  • Extreme confusion or disorientation.
  • Rapid mood changes.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.

As mortality rates in unmanaged cases of delirium tremens are quite high, sedating medications, diligent supervision, and supportive care will be important until the health risks subside over the course of a few days.

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Alcohol dependence is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, second only to major depression.1 In the U.S., alcohol use disorder affects an estimated 17.6 million Americans annually, although only a small fraction of people with alcohol problems seek professional help.2 Detox is the first step in overcoming alcohol addiction. Many people struggling with alcohol abuse wonder how to detox from alcohol and may contemplate tackling this alone. However, anyone with a serious dependency on alcohol should never consider going “cold turkey” at home.

In regular and heavy drinkers, the body compensates for the depressive effect of alcohol by increasing production of hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine. When a person stops drinking alcohol cold turkey, the body becomes flooded with abnormally high levels of these chemicals. This causes the brain to undergo rapid adaptive changes in an attempt to maintain normal function. Severe complications include dehydration, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms and a condition called delirium tremens (DTs).3

About 30% to 40% of people who experience seizures progress to DTs.4 Considered a medical emergency, delirium tremens typically occurs 24 to 48 hours after the last drink and is characterized by confusion, delirium and seizures. Unattended, people can suffer head injuries, lethal dehydration, heart attack or stroke and can choke on their own vomit. In an estimated 15% of cases, DTs results in death.3

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Approximately 50% of people with alcohol dependence experience withdrawal symptoms. Severe alcohol withdrawal is often refractory to standard doses of medication and requires aggressive treatment.5 The severity and extent of withdrawal symptoms from alcohol vary depending on an individual’s history of abuse and overall health, including any exacerbating co-existing medical and/or psychological disorders. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the term given for a cluster of symptoms that occur when somebody detoxes from alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms usually start about six hours after alcohol cessation. Clinical diagnosis of AWS is made based on the following criteria:

  • Clear evidence of recent cessation or reduction of alcohol after prior regular excessive use.
  • Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal cannot be attributed to any co-occurring medical or mental health disorders.
  • Significant distress or decrease in functioning in socio-occupational or other important areas due to withdrawal symptoms.1

AWS is divided into four clinical categories: minor withdrawal, major withdrawal, withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). An alcohol withdrawal seizure is frequently the first sign of alcohol withdrawal. In fact, no other signs of withdrawal may be present after the seizure abates. Withdrawal seizures can occur within six to 48 hours of alcohol cessation. In the absence of treatment, multiple seizures occur in 60% of people. The duration between the first and last seizure is usually less than six hours.4

Detoxification from alcohol is a three-phase process. The first phase occurs over a period of a few days and is the most dangerous. It is within the first 72 hours that individuals are most at risk of suffering major withdrawal.1,5 Signs and symptoms include anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, whole body tremor, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, diaphoresis (profuse sweating), shakiness, convulsions, DTs, hypertension and heart failure.

The second and longer phase of alcohol detox occurs over months, as the brain slowly begins to regulate and resume normal functioning. There may be lingering symptoms during this phase, but they are usually not life-threatening.

During the final phase, elevated anxiety and dysphoria (profound state of unease or dissatisfaction) may not be apparent. However, normally insignificant challenges can provoke negativity, craving of alcohol and relapse.

Medically supervised detox typically includes the administration of benzodiazepines, a class of drug that is considered the gold standard pharmacotherapy for alcohol withdrawal. Prompt pharmacological treatment is indicated in all cases of AWS. The absence of treatment or inadequate treatment can be fatal, which is yet another reason why a person should never try to detox on his or her own. Benzodiazepines that have been studied extensively for AWS include diazepam, chlordiazepoxide and lorazepam.1

The Goals of Detox

As defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the three goals of drug and alcohol detoxification are as follows:

  1. To provide a safe withdrawal from the drug(s) of dependence and enable the patient to become drug-free.
  2. To provide a withdrawal that is humane and thus protects the patient’s dignity.
  3. To prepare the patient for ongoing treatment of his or her dependence on alcohol or other drugs.1

Co-occurring Alcohol and Drug Detox

For people suffering from both alcohol and drug abuse, detox is a complex and dangerous process. People who abuse alcohol and drugs should never attempt to detox cold turkey. In addition to the alcohol withdrawal symptoms discussed above, drugs are associated with equally frightening detox side effects.

Cocaine: Prolonged use of cocaine can result in “crashing,” which is characterized by anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability and thoughts of suicide. Other common cocaine withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, nightmares, a general feeling of discomfort and extremely strong cravings for the drug.6 Cocaine dependent users have a statistically higher risk for other substance use disorders, as well as personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive disorders. That makes the mental health aspects of cocaine withdrawal particularly complex.7

Tranquilizers: Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Valium and Xanax work in an opposite manner than stimulants like cocaine. They are a class of psychoactive drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia and a range of other conditions. When tranquilizers are suddenly stopped, symptoms include insomnia, feeling jittery, shakiness and nerves that are extremely sensitive to any type of stimulus.8

Opiates: The nervous system of a heroin abuser’s body is so accustomed to chronic exposure of this opiate narcotic that abrupt withdrawal can cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include abdominal and body pain, anxiety, chills, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and weakness. While heroin is the most commonly abused opiate drug, there are other opiates including morphine, codeine, opium and oxycodone (the primary active ingredient in OxyContin). Withdrawal symptoms can begin within six hours of cessation and include agitation, abdominal pain, blurry vision, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.9

Getting Off the Addiction Roller-Coaster and Into Recovery

The truth is that you can learn to overcome your substance dependence or addiction and achieve sobriety. The key point to remember is that it is never safe to attempt to detox from alcohol or drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs on your own. Those at highest risk for complications from alcohol withdrawal are people who drink frequently to excess and then routinely go through their own version of detox.3 Even if you believe that friends or family can help, only trained professionals have the skills to safely assist you through the arduous and potentially dangerous detox process. Self-detox is a bad and very dangerous idea that can prove fatal.

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Opiate Detoxification
Medical Detoxification is a controlled and medically supervised withdrawal from addicting drugs, usually under the care of a physician. Drinking alcohol or using drugs can cause physical dependence over time and stopping them can result in withdrawal symptoms in people with this dependence. The detoxification process is designed to treat the immediate bodily effects of stopping drug use and to remove toxins left in the body as a result of the chemicals found in drugs and/or alcohol.

Medical Detoxification: In order to withdraw from certain addictive substances safely, it may be preferable and in some cases necessary to undergo medically supervised detoxification in a hospital or residential treatment center that has a detoxification unit. This would be advisable for patients that have been using an addictive substance heavily for a longer period of time and are more likely to have more severe withdrawal symptoms, or those with other significant health problems. Inpatient detoxification allows the patient to be closely monitored throughout the process and given appropriate medication to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. It commonly involves the gradual administration of decreasing doses (tapering) of an agent that is related to the original drug of abuse that is now substituted to prevent withdrawal.

Rapid Detoxification: In this procedure drug withdrawal occurs while patients are asleep under general anesthesia. The patient is given intravenous injections of medications called opiate blockers which stop the action of narcotics and opiate drugs as well as injections of other medications that reduce the symptoms of withdrawal such as muscle relaxants or anti-nausea medications. This process results in rapid withdrawal from the physical effects of addiction. Through the use of opiate blockers such as naltrexone, naloxone, and nalmephine, physical detoxification is achieved within 4 to 8 hours. Rapid detox takes place in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Patients are usually discharged within 48 hours following recovery from anesthesia and assessment of their physical status.

Rapid detoxification helps reduce the distress of opiate withdrawal for people who are chemically dependent on narcotics such as heroin, Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, Dilaudid, Darvocet, OxyContin, opium, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, prescription painkillers, and all narcotic type drugs. It shortens the detoxification period and spares patients the pain and physical discomforts of withdrawal. It may be of great benefit to patients who suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms and who have failed repeatedly to complete conventional withdrawal programs . However, there are significant costs as well as risks associated with the use of general anesthesia. It is imperative that the procedure be performed by medical professionals who are highly trained in these procedures in a medical setting that is fully equipped to deal with any complications that may arise.

Stepped Rapid Detoxification:This alternative to rapid detoxification provides small doses of Narcan (Naloxone) injected just under the skin and naltrexone orally every hour or so, together with reduced withdrawal management medications, mostly orally, as necessary. This approach using the slower oral and subcutaneous routes rid the body of the opiate more slowly than intravenous Rapid Detoxification . In addition the pacing can be controlled and responsive to any withdrawal symptoms that develop in the patient by having them quickly suck on Buprenorphine tablets under the tongue. There is less need for withdrawal management medications. The patient is alert and directly communicating with medical staff until the situation has been resolved. It is possible to be detoxified and stabilized on Naltrexone Maintenance Therapy with 2 to 4 small manageable bites. If someone tries to use any kind of opiate while they are on Naltrexone, they feel no effect because all of the receptors are completely blocked.

Ultra Rapid Detoxification: This procedure involves putting patients under general anesthesia and giving them a drug called Naltrexone which blocks all of their endorphin receptors. This accelerates the withdrawal process, pushing them into 100% detoxification within a 5-30 minute period. Although this is an extremely painful process it is tolerable under anesthesia. As with rapid detoxification, it is very costly and has significant medical risk.

Outpatient Detoxification: Outpatient medical detoxification is usually safe and effective for people who are more likely to have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. For instance, opiate detoxification in the outpatient primary care setting can be accomplished with a variety of medications such as buprenorphine-naloxone (BUP/NX) or clonidine alone or combined with naltrexone. Buprenex, approved by the FDA, can be given on an outpatient basis by physicians who receive a required eight-hour training. Using Buprenex, the detoxification can take between 7-14 days.

Methadone: The most common method of opiate detoxification is to use Methadone in an approved clinic and slowly taper the patient down from the usual dose to zero over a period of approximately 21 days. This process still entails an uncomfortable withdrawal period and patients often use drugs during the withdrawal period.

What Are Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms?

Opiate drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, can produce withdrawal symptoms just hours after the last dose, and the symptoms can last for a week or more.

Unassisted withdrawal may not be life-threatening, but it can lead to relapse. Medications and therapy, accessed in medical detox, may make relapse less likely.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Opiate cravings

Signs of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe, depending on how dependent the individual is on an opioid drug. Dependency can be directly tied to the length of time taking a particular drug, dosage amount, which drug was taken, how the drug was taken, underlying medical conditions, the co-occurring presence of a mental health issue, and certain biological and environmental factors, such as family history of addiction, previous trauma, or highly stressful and unsupportive surroundings. Withdrawal from an opioid drug may roughly adhere to the following timeline, although it can vary from person to person.

Early Withdrawal Symptoms

These usually start within 6-12 hours for short-acting opiates, and they start within 30 hours for longer-acting ones:

  • Tearing up
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Nose running
  • Sweats
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Fever

Late Withdrawal Symptoms

These peak within 72 hours and usually last a week or so:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

Some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioid drugs may continue longer than a week in some cases. Therapy and psychological support provided by a mental health professional as a part of a complete substance abuse treatment program can decrease the symptoms and side effects of withdrawal.

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The truth is that heroin is unfathomably dangerous, and no amount of positive spin can make it anything but a deadly poison. One of the less savory elements of this addiction is heroin withdrawal that always accompanies abuse.

What Is Heroin, and How Does It Work?

To set the scene, we need to clarify what heroin is, and how it works. Heroin is a type of drug known as a depressant, meaning that it artificially dampens the speed at which the brain sends electrical signals to the rest of the body, hence why users feel pleasantly lethargic after they take a hit. Heroin is usually found as a white powder that is snorted. It can also be rolled into paper and smoked, or even consumed orally. These methods, however, dilute the effects of the heroin on the mind. Another form of administration is to heat the power and dissolve it into a sludgy, dark brown liquid, which is then injected into a user’s veins. While there is usually a delay between a snort and the high (perhaps as long as 10 minutes), injecting the heroin gives the user that blast of euphoria in a matter of seconds. Not only does it make this method of abuse more popular, it also creates a much stronger addiction to heroin. Such is the potency of this method that injection is also the most common way that addicts fatally overdose. They are so knocked out by the heroin that their bodies literally forget to breathe, a doctor and addiction psychiatry residency program director tells CNN. Unsurprisingly, heroin is considered a Schedule I drug in the United States; it has no legitimate medical purpose, it has an extremely high likelihood for developing physical or psychological dependency in its users, and it cannot be used with any degree of safety.

What Are the Effects of Heroin?

Heroin has a number of immediate effects on the body, many of which are not enjoyable:

  • Flushed skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose, runny eyes, and dry mouth
  • Lethargy in the limbs
  • Reduced breathing and heart rate
  • Inability to focus or remain lucid

Due to the extreme addictiveness of heroin, users may find that they have to take more and more of the drug as they chase the same sensation they got when they first started. In addition to deepening their dependence on heroin, it also means that trying to get off heroin becomes much more difficult and a lot more dangerous. After continued exposure to the drug, the user’s brain becomes so sensitized and dependent that cutting off the heroin supply will leave the mind and body starved and incapable of functioning normally.

This is when heroin reveals its truly ugly side, as even the most well-intentioned users find themselves going back to their supply when the symptoms of withdrawal become too much to bear. A writer for XO Jane compares the sensation to being underwater and deprived of oxygen, and the director of a treatment center for health care professionals in Minnesota describes it as being in a state of constant depression – one that will never lift. “The anticipation of withdrawal,” he says, “is oftentimes worse than the actual thing.” Some of these symptoms of heroin withdrawal can include:

  • Cold sweats
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unstable moods
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

The various sensations of withdrawing from heroin can be likened to being in the grips of a particularly bad case of the flu, which has led to the slang term “super flu” being used to describe the withdrawal stage.

These symptoms are not life-threatening in and of themselves (unlike withdrawing from alcohol, for example, which can be fatal on its own), but they might induce a user to take heroin or other dangerous substances to alleviate the physical and mental distress. That action might be lethal, especially if the user takes too much of the drug in order to compensate for how debilitating the withdrawal effects can be. In addition to the physical effects of heroin withdrawal, addicts also experience feelings of loneliness, despair, and a desperate compulsion to use the drug again, making them especially prone to making an ill-advised decision. Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually kick in around 12 hours after the user has their last dose of heroin. They tend to peak around one to three days later and gradually subside between five and seven days after they first arose, although some symptoms may persist, albeit in milder forms. In cases of extreme heroin abuse (either in terms of volume consumed or duration of abuse), it may take weeks, or even months, for the withdrawal effects to fully subside, a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

Like most forms of treatment for a substance abuse problem, correcting heroin dependency will start by slowly adjusting the user’s body and mind to a lack of heroin. Since this does mean that the user will be exposed to the symptoms of heroin withdrawal mentioned above, it is imperative that detoxification not be attempted alone or with people who do not have any kind of medical training or credentials. The temptation to relapse while in the throes of muscle spasms, diarrhea, vomiting, or uncontrollable tremors will be too much for an addict to withstand. The danger of overdosing on heroin while in such a susceptible state is too great to risk.Furthermore, self-detox deprives the patient of receiving anti-anxiety prescription medications to help them through the process. Suboxone is a popular choice of drug for this purpose – as mentioned in the XO Jane blog above, Suboxone is specially designed to counter both the opioid and the withdrawal effects of heroin, while being of a mild enough potency to avoid the risk of causing a brand new addiction. Alternatively, PsychCentral touts methadone as a common medication for opioid addiction, and it has been a standard avenue of treatment for more than 30 years.


DBTOnce the addict makes it through the withdrawal stage (which, as stated, could last for as long as a week), she is ready to begin therapy. Without addressing the mental and emotional reasons why she turned to heroin – whether as an attempt to self-medicate her way out of a stressful situation, whether she did it simply for enjoyment, or if there were other causes – the addict is more prone to relapsing than she would be if she went through a course of psychotherapy. When the user is physically and mentally ready to start therapy, a trained mental health counselor will talk with her in great detail and depth about the conditions in her life that prompted the heroin use. There may be factors at play that the patient doesn’t even realize exist – past traumas, unacknowledged feelings, or buried desires – that a therapist will carefully and precisely bring to light, to show the patient what fueled her heroin use. Once these factors are determined, the therapist will help the patient understand how these factors caused the patterns of thought and behavior that led to heroin experimentation and reached the point of addiction. It is only from grasping the relationship between all these points that the patient can begin to unlearn her destructive thoughts and actions. With this in mind, the therapist can teach the patient any number of coping skills and positive thinking strategies, all with the intention of training the patient to better resist the lure of temptation the next time it presents itself.

Further forms of treatment can include aftercare support (in the form of 12-step programs) or taking up various hobbies and activities, to give the patient a healthier and more productive outlet for her time, energy, and moods.

Heroin is one of the most devastating and debilitating drugs out there. One writer even described it as “the perfect whatever drug” for how easily and insidiously it wraps itself around a user. More than 4.2 million people have tried heroin at least once, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in October 2014, the Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released figures that showed fatalities as a result of heroin overdoses were on the rise in 28 states across the United States. Heroin doesn’t have to be a death sentence. There are a number of treatment options and plans available to you. Here at Futures of Palm Beach, we can answer your questions about treatment and heroin withdrawal. Please call us today, and let us help you find your way back from heroin abuse.

We all have prescription bottles with a few pills in them in our medicine cabinets. It’s pretty common to receive more medication than we need to take. We hang on to it. It’s not so bad to have on hand, right?

Actually, it can be bad. Prescription drug abuse is an issue. Every day, 2,500 teenagers use a prescription drug to get high for the first time. In 2014, an estimated 267,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 self-identified as nonmedical users of pain relievers. In addition to the huge risks that come with taking medication not prescribed for you, evidence links use of opioid pain killers to heroin usage, according to theNational Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Parents should not stock pile medicines in their homes. Don’t leave them in the home. Dispose of them,” urges Fran Harding, Director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

So you need to get rid of your medicines, but I don’t think I’m alone in being unsure of just how to properly dispose of prescription drugs. I know that flushing prescriptions down the toilet or just tossing them in the trash isn’t a good idea (due to environmental concerns like those discussed in this NPRpiece), but then how do you dispose of prescription drugs?

Turns out that it’s getting easier and easier to dispose of prescription drugs. I recently learned that my community has a prescription drop box at the police station and all the fire stations. It turns out that police stations in many cities, including Chicago, have ways for you to drop off prescription medication.

I rounded up expired prescriptions and those we weren’t using any more.

I confess that I was a little nervous pulling into the fire station. It’s not a place I usually go, I didn’t know what I was looking for, and frankly, it feels weird to walk around with a pocket full of pills.

Turns out, it was far easier than I thought. The box looked like a mailbox, was painted white, clearly labeled and easy instructions were posted above the box.

I didn’t have to talk to anyone, answer any questions, and it took a grand total of maybe 30 seconds. It’s great that something to keep our kids safe can be so easy and painless.

Even if your kid wouldn’t take a prescription drug not intended for them because they know better, you don’t know about their friends, or friends of friends, or party guests, or the myriad of other people in and our of your house.

So, how do you find a drop box?

* Look online for a drop box near you by zip code. Check on and

My community fire departments did not pop up on the list, although there were many options in nearby communities. If you don’t see your community listed, fear not, there are other options.

* Go to to see if your community pharmacies participate in a medication disposal program. Talking to your pharmacist may also give you some leads.

* Google. I know it seems obvious, but googling your town and “prescription drop off” can generate just the info you need that may be part of a smaller program that doesn’t appear on these sites.

* If none of these give you the information you need, the Dispose My Meds folks suggest calling your local law enforcement. Some counties, universities, and other community groups host drug take-back events that they may be able to share with you.

The FDA says here that “if no disposal instructions are given on the prescription drug labeling and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash following these steps:

  1. Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).
  2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.”

Of course, if you received specific instructions from your health care providers, including pharmacist, follow those.

Disposing of your medicines with your kids in tow not only sets a good example, it is a great way to open a conversation about the importance of respecting medications, including not taking prescriptions intended for other people or giving prescription medications to others even if you have the best of intentions, and the dangers of medicine abuse.

Read the rest here.

On December 24, 2013, I woke up at 5 AM still wasted from the night before. I proceeded to have a panic attack so severe I considered checking myself into a hospital. I had quit drinking the previous summer but relapsed over the holidays, and spent Christmas Eve having regrettable sex in a karaoke bar bathroom before losing all my shopping bags filled with Christmas presents. In my alcohol-induced early-morning panic, I figured I’d rather spend Christmas in a hospital bed than face my family looking while looking like shit and without presents. As bad as that moment was, it’s not unique: Many recovering alcoholics face similar threats of relapse come holiday season.

Relapse in general is common. The Journal of the American Medical Association has put the relapse rate for drug addiction at 40 to 60 percent; stress and being around the drug are common causes. Stress increases over the holidays, as does exposure to alcohol due to the plethora of get-togethers. The office holiday gatherings, the ugly Christmas sweater party, simply getting through several days with family —all can potentially trigger relapse.

For those who aren’t in recovery, it can be hard to understand why someone can’t just have “one glass of champagne” for a New Year’s Eve toast, a cup of family eggnog on Christmas Eve, or a beer with your high school buddies the night before Thanksgiving. “There’s nothing wrong with having a glass of wine to celebrate with friends,” I remember being told by a loved one around Thanksgiving. At the time I was newly sober, completely uncomfortable in AA, and unaware there were other recovery options, I happily agreed. That night, everything was fine. But it didn’t end there. A few weeks later I found myself in another snowy city with strangers choking down a tequila worm and puking it back up into a kitchen pan. Then there was that lurid Christmas Eve morning back in New York, after which I took the train to my family and continued my journey of recovery—pushing through the self-hatred and hangover. It was brutal. But today, I no longer drink, and have found my way through alternative recovery outside the 12-step system.

While I’ve thankfully made it this far through the holidays, this time of year often involves a struggle with sobriety. “There are a lot of messages over the holidays from the media, and family, and friends, that alcohol is part of the celebration,” says Susan E. Collins, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Washington who researches relapse prevention. “It can be particularly hard, especially if someone is early on in their sobriety.”

“It’s really important to be extra compassionate with yourself over the holidays,” Collins adds. “What we know from research is that relapse can be a part of recovery. We’re all human and sometimes we do have slip-ups. But the idea is if you can learn from that slip and apply that knowledge in the future. You can get back on board with your goals and move forward.”

I recently spoke to three people in various stages and methods of recovery to dig into the dark memories of holiday relapse, and seek wisdom on how they plan to make it through this year.

Subject One

Male, Age 32

Two Years Sober

VICE: Can you tell me a little bit about your sobriety?

Subject One: I go to Refuge Recovery in conjunction with Alcoholics Anonymous. I love AA. I was brought up in AA; my mom goes to AA. The last time I used was September 27, 2013. I’m an alcoholic and I started drinking when I was 12. I got into coke, beer, bars. I got construction, met a girl, and curbed my use for a while. But once I got hurt on the job, I got introduced to opiates.

That’ll do it. How’d you get into recovery?

My uncle 12-stepped me, as they say, when I was about 22. He took me to my first meeting in the Bronx. I walked in and sat down and I struggled for a long time. But I stuck with it—it’s always been there in my life.

So you had a holiday relapse?

So many of them. Thanksgiving was always a big one for me. Because the night before Thanksgiving you go home and you see all your friends and you want to show off how well you’re doing. I would drink a lot and do drugs—usually coke. I’d wake up the next morning extremely hungover. Usually around this time of year, I’d relapse, spend all my money, and wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas presents. I remember going home to spend Christmas with the family and needing to have heroin on me so I wouldn’t get sick from withdrawal. I also remember a couple years where I wouldn’t have heroin on me and would be sick—totally miserable experiences. You’re supposed to be there enjoying time with the family, and it’s just tragic because they know why you don’t have any presents for anybody and you’re just vacant. You don’t want to be around anybody; you just want to get your dope fix.

How has this year been? You’ve made it through Thanksgiving.

I didn’t go the year before. I went to alcathon [a marathon holiday meeting] instead. I stayed with some sober people and did it that way. This year, however, I came home. I was in a good place and I made sure I had talked to my sponsor beforehand and had a plan. At this point, I’m open about where I’m at with my parents. My brother and my dad still drink, but they drink in the basement. I don’t complain about it because it’s not in front of my face. I just kind of made peace with myself and where I’m at. It was better this past Thanksgiving.


Did it make your mom happy to see you sober this year?

Yeah, she teared up a couple times. They could see that I’m OK and I’m happy and I’m stable. They see the progress, so that makes them happy and more relaxed. Now Christmas is coming up and I don’t feel like such a scumbag.


Subject Two

Male, Age 39

Two Years Sober

VICE: Will you tell me a little about your sobriety?

Subject Two: I started using drugs and alcohol daily by the time I was about 14. The longest I’ve been sober in a single stretch was six years. My drug of choice just by ease of usability is, of course, alcohol. I always laugh when people say that pot is the gateway drug because alcohol totally is. Alcohol is so insidious. Everywhere you turn it’s being glamorized. If you’re in AA, they only consider you to be “sober” if you’re not using any type of intoxicants whatsoever. But I actually found that cannabis was a big part of my recovery from alcohol. I’m not “in the program” anymore because my spiritual proclivities are not necessarily in line with those of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Will you tell me about your holiday relapse?

Absolutely—it was actually my last relapse, which was two years ago. I was a newlywed and my wife was pregnant with our first child. That certainly added to the stress and there’s so much that can go wrong for the holidays, especially for addicts. I’m sure you’ve heard the pithy aphorism that they throw around at AA where they talk about how alcoholism is a disease of isolation. There are a lot of stupid sayings that they use, but I really do believe that. I think that most of us who are addicts or alcoholics are painfully introverted at our core. The holidays force you in a position where you have to not only interact, but also feign joviality. I think if you’re painfully introverted, especially in this society, it’s the perfect recipe for disaster.

So what happened?

I was being confronted with not just the normal holiday stress, but I also had a very pregnant wife. Foolishly enough, I was a truck driver and had left the job just because I wanted to be at home. So I wrote this spoof resume and put it on Craigslist, and it was this absurd thing. I just wanted any job. I got a phone call from a wine and spirits distributor, and I took the job like an idiot. It worked relatively well for a few months, and then eventually everything just collapsed on me and I caved.

I went out one night and got absolutely trashed with my boss. Don’t get drunk with your boss, even if you’re not an alcoholic. It’s just a bad idea. When I came home, it was obvious that I was drunk. My wife kicked me out of my house the next morning after driving me to the repair shop where my car was. My son was a newborn at the time, less than two months old. He was in the backseat of the car when she drove away, and that was probably the darkest moment of my life. After that, I did what any person would do: I went straight to the bar. The next three days are still just a blur to me.

How are things this year? Making it through?

This year has been actually great. My son is actually a person now. When he was a baby he was just this shrieking vortex of need. He’s hysterical, he’s just charming as shit. So seeing him able to enjoy the holidays is awesome. I don’t want to fuck that up, and I certainly don’t want to have him see my in the condition that I’ve been in in the past.

What advice would you give to others in recovery on making it through the holidays?

Have a friend or confidant, and I would urge people not to feel guilty about leaning very heavily on the confidant throughout the holidays. I think using some of the [memories of] blackness that drove you to addiction is a huge thing, at least for me. I just always think about how disappointed I’ve made my family and my wife, and the potential I have to be a disappointment to my son. That really keeps my head where it needs to be.

Also, overeat! If you have an addictive personality and there’s a cheese plate just eat the fucking whole thing. I will fuck up like a pound of fudge so I don’t consume anything else.


If you’re dealing with an alcohol or any kind of other dependency, please visit us here for more information on how you can get help.


Read about subject three and the rest here.


Poisonings from “recreational” drug and alcohol use account for 9 percent of all poisoning-related hospital admissions, says a new University of Sydney study revealing that males and people under 30 are at greatest risk.

Published today in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the finding underscores the harm and prevalence associated with “recreational” drug use among young people following a recent string of drug and alcohol-related deaths and poisonings at Australian music festivals.

“”recreational” poisonings are events arising from the use of alcohol, illicit or prescribed drugs for “recreational” purposes, or to induce psychoactive effects,” says the study’s lead author, Dr Kate Chitty, a Research Fellow at Sydney Medical School. “They represent a significant and potentially lethal form of harm associated with drug use.”

The report is based on 13,805 patient records collected between January 1996 and December 2013 using data from the Hunter Area Toxicology Service (HATS), Australia’s oldest toxicology service.

The report finds that stimulants were the drug class most commonly linked to “recreational” poisonings, followed by alcohol, opioids, sedatives, hallucinogens, cannabis, non-narcotic analgesics, ecstasy and cocaine (see table below).

Compared to other poisoning admissions, “recreational” drug poisonings were three times more likely to occur between 3am and 6am than 9am to 5pm and 40 to 60 percent more likely to occur from Friday to Sunday compared to a Monday.

Males were 2.8 times more likely to present to hospital for “recreational” drug poisonings than females and those aged less than 30 were 1.6 times more likely to present than people aged 30 years and above.

“The finding that peak “recreational” poisoning admissions occurred on Fridays and Saturdays reflects a ‘binge’ culture, associated with weekday restraint and weekend excess of alcohol and “recreational” drugs,” says Kate Chitty who noted that the findings from the Hunter region reflected general patterns of drug and alcohol use across Australia.

“That we see these patterns most commonly in young people highlights that these potentially life-threatening hospital admissions are not the result of years of drug abuse but are largely associated with binge behaviour considered ‘normal’ by many of Australia’s youth.”

Just over half of “recreational” drug poisonings (51 percent) included only one class of drug, while the remaining cases (49 percent) involved two or more classes of “recreational” substances.

The most common co-ingested substance was alcohol, comprising almost half of all “recreational” poisonings. Six (0.5 percent) patients died as a result of their “recreational” poisoning. All of these patients had taken an opioid, one patient had co-ingested benzodiazepine and three had co-ingested alcohol.

Read the rest here.

Many of us like to think of the holidays as a time of family and togetherness, but when a family member is abusing alcohol or drugs, the holidays can become a time of struggle and stress.

Stress levels tend to run high during the holidays and substance abuse becomes more prevalent, which can amplify negative behaviors. Many families who are dealing with a loved one who suffers from an alcohol or drug dependency may have learned to dread the holiday season.

If this sounds familiar, the greatest gift you can give someone you care about – is recovery. Having someone go through an alcohol or drug treatment program over the holidays can help them get their life back on track for the coming new year. This may seem harsh on the surface, but a closer look reveals many reasons why the holidays are actually the best time of year to be in treatment.

5 Benefits to Entering Treatment Over the Holidays

1 Temptation.

The holiday atmosphere is conducive to over-indulging. This makes it more important than ever to seek the support and structure needed to remain sober.

2 Statistics.

There is a higher incidence of drunk driving arrests as well as fatal accidents and overdoses during the holiday season. Being in treatment offers a safe environment.

3 Communication.

Being sober facilitates healthy exchanges with family members who may have been hurt or part of a destructive cycle in the past

4 Practical.

During this time of year, many people have already met their insurance deductibles and some find it easier to take time off of work or school.

5 Reset.

This may be the first of many holidays where a person has remained sober, giving them the chance to begin a new tradition of sobriety.

When a loved one is in treatment, families also find a certain peace knowing someone they care about is in a good place. One of the most important things for many people and their families is knowing this can be a new start at celebrating the holidays together where everyone is safe, sober and happy.

If you have a friend or family member that you think may be struggling with some sort of alcohol or drug abuse problem, please encourage them to get treatment. They may simply not know where to get help or what first step to take. If you aren’t sure about the first step to take, I want to share a few good places to start. You may not realize it, but a Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center, located right here in Aurora provides free consultations and resources to help you better understand substance abuse and answer any questions you may have. Or you can visit us to connect and to learn about the substance abuse treatment options available in our community.

Read more here.