Music City Detox

Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?

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Withdrawing from heroin can be difficult – but is it also dangerous? For example, can you die from heroin withdrawal?

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What Happens During Heroin Withdrawal?

When a person withdraws from heroin, the nature and severity of the symptoms they experience can be influenced by several factors, such as:

  • Their age, weight, and metabolism
  • How long they have been addicted to heroin
  • How much heroin they have been using
  • If they have any medical issues
  • If they have any co-occurring mental health concerns

With those caveats in mind, common physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Headache
  • Racing heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chills
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizure
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion

Heroin withdrawal may also cause a variety of psychological symptoms, such as intense drug cravings, irritability, anxiety, depression, and dramatic mood swings.

Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?

At their most intense, heroin withdrawal symptoms can cause you to feel like you’re dying. But do these symptoms actually pose a credible threat to your continued existence? Can you die from heroin withdrawal? Contrary to a popular misconception, yes, heroin withdrawal can be fatal. The good news is that this doesn’t happen very often, and you can reduce your risk by participating in a detoxification program. But it is important to understand that people can and do die while in the process of withdrawing from heroin. Somewhat surprisingly, the most serious health threats during heroin withdrawal are two relatively common flu-like symptoms: vomiting and diarrhea. As described in the February 2017 edition of the journal Addiction, persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea can cause dehydration and hypernatremia (excessive sodium in the blood). If these effects aren’t treated, they can lead to heart failure and death. Again, this is a rare outcome, but it is definitely possible. To summarize: Can you die from heroin withdrawal? Yes, you can, but if you get proper professional care, your risk of death is quite low.

How Can You Safely Withdraw From Heroin?

While death would clearly be the worst-case result of an attempt to withdraw from heroin, it’s not the only negative experience that a person can have, especially if they try to get through withdrawal on their own. Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually peak after about three or four days, then take a few more days to subside. However, during this period, they can be sources of immense distress. When you try to withdraw at home, the knowledge that you can end your suffering simply by returning to active heroin use can quickly overwhelm even the most fervent desire to stop using this drug for good. Thankfully, there’s a way to get through heroin withdrawal safely, with minimized discomfort and low risk of immediate relapse. This option is detoxification, or detox. When you withdraw from heroin at Music City Detox or another reputable and effective detox program, you will be cared for by a team of experts. These professionals can provide both medical and therapeutic support to help you manage your symptoms and stay as comfortable as possible. They can also intervene if you develop any particularly severe symptoms. Then, once you have successfully rid your body of heroin, your detox treatment team can refer you to a trusted provider for follow-on care.

What Happens After Heroin Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a necessary step on the path to heroin addiction recovery. However, while a detox program can address the physical and psychological aspects of withdrawal, it is not designed to help you make the behavioral changes that will support your long-term recovery efforts. This is why it can be so important to remain in treatment after you’re done with detox. Ideally, your detox team will help you find the type of treatment that aligns most closely with your specific strengths, needs, and goals. Your options for post-detox treatment may include:

  • Residential care
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient treatment

Some people benefit from spending time in several or all of these programs. For example, they may transition from detox directly into a residential program, where they can receive round-the-clock care and support as they work to establish a foothold in early recovery. After finishing the residential phase of their treatment, they may transition into a PHP, IOP, or outpatient program for continued support as they begin to reestablish a healthy independent lifestyle. Remember: There is no such thing as a single “perfect” path toward successful recovery after getting through heroin withdrawal. What’s most important is finding the path that’s best for you.

Find Heroin Detox in Nashville

When you’re ready to begin your journey toward long-term recovery from heroin addiction, Music City Detox is here to help. Our detox program in Nashville, Tennessee, is a safe and supportive place where you can withdraw from heroin under the supervision of a team of experienced professionals. Your detox treatment team can protect your health and minimize your discomfort as you take this vital step toward a healthier future. Then, when you’re ready, we can refer you to a trusted source of personalized residential or outpatient treatment, where you develop the skills and strategies that will support your ongoing recovery efforts. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.