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The physical dependency combined with the psychological override of active addiction makes for a harrowing experience, fraught with depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and pain. Certainly feelings of depression will surface during the withdrawal stage and suicidal thoughts often accompanying depression. Given the vulnerable state you’re in during a heroin detox, how can you prevent yourself from making a serious mistake?
The reason depression is so common with heroin withdrawal is that the body has learned to attribute all feelings of pleasure with use of the drug. In fact, it has such a strong effect that when addicted to heroin, the body cannot tell the difference between natural dopamine produced by the brain and that which comes from the foreign chemical. Over time, the brain is less able to produce these emotions of pleasure without heroin as a catalyst. Once the dependency reaches this level, a full detox will be necessary. However, it won’t be easy. After the withdrawal stage is complete, the body will have the power to function in normal ways again.
The brain will develop new abilities to produce dopamine-based pleasure and the body will regain its strength. While necessary and beneficial, heroin treatment and detox can be incredibly dangerous. The mind and emotions are in a fragile, very vulnerable state after months of complete dependency on a drug. There is a lot of inner turmoil that happens in an addict’s heart, mind, and soul. No one wakes up and wants to be a heroin addict. The anguish, guilt, frustration, and hopelessness that often accompany withdrawal are notorious for taking negative, self-loathing thoughts and turning them into suicidal inclinations. Depression is a nasty beast and when a person feels desperate, they resort to desperate thoughts and acts. In order to get through a harrowing detox experience and stave off the self-defeating thoughts of suicide and giving up, make sure to understand the risks and plan your detox out with a supportive network of friends, family, and addiction treatment specialists.
This is the single most important thing you can remember while going through heroin withdrawal. If you have access to a treatment facility or a hospital, take advantage of it. Not only will you be in expert hands, you'll automatically have someone watching over you to ensure suicide attempts don't occur. If a therapist or doctor is involved in your detox, you have the opportunity to ask for further help if mental stress and depression overwhelm you. If you don't have these opportunities available and must detox at home, it's crucial to have a family member, friend, or someone you can trust with you at all times. If they are unable to stay with you the entire time, make sure you have someone to stop in to check on you. This should be often, not just once per day. However, it can’t be stressed enough that you should undertake a heroin detox on your own.
If you must detox at home away from professional care, make your environment as safe as possible. People going through withdrawal are at high-risk for suicide. In fact, people who abuse drugs and alcohol are five times more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t. Remove anything from the home that could be used to attempt suicide. Things like cords, guns, prescription drugs, razors, and wires should be taken away. Educate your family or friend who is staying with you to be alert for any warning signs of suicidal tendencies during heroin withdrawal, and keep them in mind for yourself too.
These can include:
If someone you know is exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms, it's always a good idea to keep them under close watch and reach out for professional help should you feel the need.