Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid that’s illegally sold for recreational use. Heroin works like other opioids by attaching itself to opioid receptors on neurons in the stomach, brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body linked to pain and pleasure. Not only can heroin alleviate pain, but it also activates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to create a euphoric and rewarding high that reinforces further drug use. Due to its high potential for addiction, heroin isn’t an easy drug to quit. If you’re trying to overcome your addiction and thinking of undergoing medical detox, then it’s fair for you to wonder, “can you die from heroin withdrawal?” Our Christian rehab is sharing some information on heroin withdrawal so you can move forward in your recovery.
Heroin withdrawal occurs in people who are addicted to heroin and suddenly stop using it or significantly reduce their dose. Heroin withdrawal is the body’s reaction to a lack of or reduced dose of heroin. Heroin withdrawal symptoms are a sign of dependence. When a person is dependent on a drug, their body may exhibit certain physical and behavioral reactions when they aren’t using it or haven’t used it in a certain period. Certain drugs produce more intense or harmful withdrawal symptoms than others.
Some common signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
Although heroin withdrawal feels like the flu, the process can be dangerous without medical attention. At Faith in Recovery, we usually have patients complete heroin withdrawal treatment before moving onto one of our other rehab programs to ensure that they’re safe, healthy, and that they don’t struggle to control their cravings during addiction treatment.
So, can a person die from heroin withdrawal? Yes, heroin withdrawal can kill you. However, it’s not necessarily the process itself, but rather certain symptoms that can be fatal. Heroin withdrawal symptoms that can kill you are vomiting and diarrhea. A person who’s attempting to detox from heroin at home or without medical supervision can die from dehydration caused by persistent vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can lead to dehydration and elevated blood sodium levels, resulting in death. Fortunately, this is preventable. Although considered to be mild by some, these symptoms can be life-threatening, which is why people are encouraged to seek out medical detox treatment or medical assistance when detoxing from heroin or any other drugs.
Moreover, you can die from heroin withdrawal if you use the same amount of heroin you used before detoxing, a common scenario for people who detox from drugs. When a person uses drugs for a long time, their body may build up a tolerance to certain doses. When your body is tolerant to a particular dose, that dose may no longer be sufficient enough to make you “high.” As a result, a long-time drug user may increase their dose so they can feel the same side effects. Oftentimes, people die from heroin withdrawal because they use the same dose they once did before they went through detox. But at this point, their body is no longer tolerant to that dose, and taking it can cause them to overdose.
A heroin overdose is fatal mainly because it affects breathing. Because opioids are sedatives, they depress the central nervous system and other bodily functions like heart rate and breathing. Respiratory depression is a common symptom of a heroin overdose, which refers to shallow or ineffective breathing. Not only may brain damage occur due to a lack of oxygen, but the person can simply die because they can’t breathe.
With all of that being said, dehydration, vomiting, respiratory depression, and death can all be avoided if you receive heroin withdrawal treatment in a medical setting. The safest and best way to detox from heroin is with medical assistance. Faith in Recovery and most other rehab facilities warn against at-home drug detoxes because the lack of medical attention increases your risk of death. However, when you detox at a rehab facility that offers medical assistance or any other similar environment, these dangers can be avoided.