At least since the 1970s, many people’s mental image of “drug withdrawal” has featured a heroin addict in cold-turkey agony, doubled up and groaning on a filthy cot. Heroin, after getting somewhat less attention in the late 20th century, has resurged as a national crisis in the wake of widespread prescription-painkiller addiction: the problem of exchanging one opiate for another is now a major concern for those involved in drug rehab, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015.
There are, of course, many types of addictive substances and many forms of detox (some of which are more dangerous than heroin withdrawal), but all detoxes have one major thing in common besides making you feel miserable: it’s unsafe to attempt them “at home” without medical supervision. When it comes to heroin (or prescription opiates), the temptation to go it alone may be increased if you’ve heard that withdrawal is rarely fatal—and, strictly speaking, that’s true. However, there are still very good reasons to look up professional heroin detox centers rather than locking yourself up at home.
1. “Rarely” doesn’t mean “never.”
Despite the relatively low risks, there are verified cases of people dying during opiate withdrawal: the usual causes are dehydration from severe vomiting and diarrhea, or suicide triggered by distorted thinking. The majority of heroin-withdrawal fatalities occur among inmates in correctional facilities, where, unlike in medical detox centers, staff are often poorly equipped to administer proper care and respond to emergencies. Even in a home setting, however, there’s real risk of becoming too ill to reach adequate hydration or medical assistance. It’s foolish to take the chance when there are dozens of professional rehab centers in NYC alone.
2. Heroin detox is unpleasant enough without adding isolation to the mix.
People in the throes of non-life-threatening but severe pain have been known to express sentiments like, “The only thing keeping me alive is the hope of dying.” Most people who have been through heroin detox can relate: the period 24–72 hours after the last dose, in particular, is often so miserable that it feels anything would be better than enduring it one more second. Too many people give up the fight and resort to an “anything”—which sometimes means literal suicide, but more often entails reaching for a fresh dose of heroin. That second option is barely safer than an actual suicide attempt, since re-dosing a physically weakened, partly detoxed body carries a major risk of lethal overdose.
Knowing that shouldn’t scare you out of attempting detox, but it should serve to highlight the advantages of professional heroin detox centers in making the experience more bearable. Treatment center staff are experts in making detoxers as comfortable as possible. They’ll brief you in advance on what to expect and how to minimize the worst of it. They’ll ensure you stay adequately hydrated and nourished, and, no less important, they can offer repeated assurance that all this will be over soon, and that the rewards of being “clean” will prove worth it.
3. The shame of admitting you need professional help is nothing compared to the potential consequences of entering withdrawal with no human help—or of continuing in addiction indefinitely.
Among drug addicts who put off—and put off and put off—seeking rehab, the Los Angeles Times noted in 2017 that some of the most reluctant are professional physicians. Often, the people anyone would think are smart enough to do the wise thing are the people most used to solving problems on their own—and the ones who feel they have the most to lose by letting anyone find out what a mess they’ve made of their lives. Will public disclosure cost them their jobs, their families and their reputations?
Well, first, if you continue in your addiction, it’ll probably wind up costing you all the above in any case. And if you try home detox and underestimate the time you’ll need for sick leave, or if withdrawal effects land you in an emergency room, or if you give up and return (during or after detox) to regular doses of heroin, your secret may well get out under considerably more shameful circumstances than trying to do the responsible thing. (Besides, chances are plenty of people already suspect something is wrong. Like it or not, addiction is rarely possible to hide from those who know you.)
Second, checking into a heroin treatment center isn’t exactly a matter of public record—detox professionals guard their clients’ privacy like any other medical providers, and often only your doctors and health insurance company need know the full details behind why you require extended sick leave.
4. Even if you succeed at getting clean through home detox, without experienced support you’ll remain in the highest-risk group for relapse.
Just losing the physical cravings isn’t enough: your brain will remain on a “heroin is the best answer to pain” setting for weeks. And the pain and stress of your everyday world won’t go away on its own. How long do you think you could remain clean, really, with no alternate coping methods planned and no one to ask for advice when temptation gets overwhelming—when the pain of the moment is blurring your memory of the miseries of addiction?
A professional detox center will show you how to head off relapse—and recover quickly if you slip—by providing a long rest, therapy to plan better ways of dealing with stress, and referrals to long-term support. The center will also help you get your loved ones involved in supporting you for the long term.
Convinced that professional heroin detox is the way to go? Okay, here are a few quick tips on finding the right center (you can learn more in our article on finding rehab in NYC, among other blog posts):
Look for a place fairly close to home, so you can check it out in advance and stay in touch with loved ones on the outside.
Get referrals from your doctor, your insurance company or a local sobriety-support network.
Don’t rely solely on a Google search for “drug rehab NYC.” Just calling itself a drug rehab center doesn’t guarantee a place will provide safe and effective services.
Before making your final decision, tour the center in person and speak with at least one treatment provider.
Make sure you have a good feeling about the place and that they believe in you at least as much as you should believe in yourself. Positive attitudes are 80% of recovery!
RehabinNYC, best of the drug and alcohol rehab centers in the New York City. If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction and need professional detox help, please contact us.