Heroin Withdrawal and Empathy
Authored by Audra Franchini
Understanding what an addict goes through in one of our heroin detox facilities can help you provide better care.
The face of heroin addiction is changing, but the symptoms and struggles that accompany heroin withdrawal remain the same. As more and more private practice clinicians meet patients facing heroin withdrawal symptoms, it becomes critical for clinicians to understand as much as possible about the process of withdrawing from a heroin addiction.
Heroin withdrawal has both physical and mental symptoms that illicit a strong reaction from the addict. A variety of symptoms can afflict someone trying to quit heroin including cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and cold sweats. Those suffering from heroin withdrawal symptoms also suffer mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Even still, heroin’s addictive grasp is so strong that some addicts say the anticipation of withdrawal is often worse than the actual symptoms.
Heroin withdrawal is a slow process. It may take months for someone who is suffering from symptoms to feel like themselves again. It is a challenging and painful process, and it is vital that you come from a place of understanding.
Overdoses Are Painless; Narcan-Caused Heroin Withdrawal Is Not
When a heroin addict overdoses, there’s absolutely no pain. An addict does so much heroin that they shut down the signals to the brain that tell the lungs to breathe. Naloxone or Narcan is a drug designed to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose almost immediately. This drug has the potential to revolutionize how we treat heroin addiction.
But, how does it feel? Narcan bonds with the same receptors that heroin and other opioids do. If someone is high on heroin when Narcan is administered, the high quickly dissipates. This causes all of the terrifying physical and mental symptoms of heroin withdrawal to manifest almost instantly.
If you’re seeing our patient soon after an overdose or after an administration of Narcan, keep in mind that your patient may be in some of the most excruciating pain of their lives and it is vital to effectively help them.
The Power Of Empathy In Understanding Heroin Withdrawal
Unless you’ve been there, it’s very hard to put yourself in an addict’s shoes. Empathy is a vital part of providing quality care to patients trying to recover from their substance abuse disorders. It’s important for private practice clinicians to be sympathetic towards addicts suffering from withdrawal.
It’s also important to be optimistic. Some may be tempted to lecture drug addicts about the consequences of their actions, building up fear over what could or might happen to them. Others may even begin to agree with the addict, assuming success is impossible or relapse inevitable. It’s not uncommon for some family doctors to refuse to treat addictions altogether.
But, empathy and understanding can go a long way towards helping someone get clean and get through the withdrawal process at one of our heroin detox facilities. An addict might not be able to see that another world exists outside of their addiction, but you can help show them – with kindness, empathy, and understanding.
At RCA, we offer a full continuum of care in helping patients recover completely from substance abuse disorders. Contact us today for more information about treatment options at our heroin detox facilities by calling us at 1-800-RECOVERY.