Can You Die from Heroin Withdrawal?
You probably ended up here becasue you want to know if you can die from heroin withdrawal, but there isn’t one single answer to this question. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal are not generally deadly, but indirect consequences certainly lead to quite a few deaths. The detox process from any opioid should be overseen by medical professionals at a licensed detox facility. Because of the long recovery process from heroin addiction, it’s also important to seek continuing care in residential treatment, sober living and at an IOP.
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Heroin produces some of the worst withdrawal symptoms out there, especially because many users of heroin are using large amounts and using for years. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal may vary from individual to individual, and depend on the person’s habit of abuse, their individual body chemistry, and if they have been using any other drugs. Common symptoms of withdrawal are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Intestinal discomfort and pain
- Fever and sweating
- Agitation and anger
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Muscle tension and spasms
- Intense cravings for opioids
- Depression and sadness
Although none of these symptoms are directly lethal, they can lead to fatalities in various ways. The one way in which detox from heroin can kill you is in the possibility of seizures. This is highly unlikely and extremely rare, and generally only happens in individual with pre-existing medical conditions or severe malnutrition. The risk is much greater if you go through withdrawals on your own, and keeping yourself safe is just one of many benefits of detox. Even when people do have seizures from heroin withdrawal, death is rare.
The unfortunate truth is that heroin withdrawals become deadly most often when people return to heroin use and overdose. Because withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant, many people make it through a few hours or days of the detox process before finding heroin again. This is the painful and difficult part of addiction. Our minds tell us that the only thing that will make us feel better is using again, and we lose sight of our bigger intention to get clean. In the last 13 years, overdose rates have almost tripled according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The final way in which people die from heroin withdrawal is by suicide. Opioid detox can be severely uncomfortable, causing symptoms like a flu times ten. Many people try to quit many times before getting sober, and it can just seem like too much. Because of this, some people end up taking their own life while going through detox, either by overdosing on heroin or using another method.
If you or somebody you know is thinking about harming themselves, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
Withdrawals that Can Kill You
There are other withdrawals that can indeed kill you and are much more likely to be fatal. It’s important to know these things because many abusers of opioids like heroin also abuse other drugs. The two substances that most often cause fatal symptoms during withdrawal are alcohol and benzodiazepines. Both of these impact the GABA receptors in the brain, and are depressants of the central nervous system.
When alcohol and benzodiazepines are removed from the system, the nervous system responds very poorly. GABA is the body’s main inhibitor of the central nervous system, and is responsible for calming us and bringing us the sense of ease when abusing these substances. When they’re removed, the nervous system is overactivated and individuals may experience life-threatening seizures. If you have been abusing alcohol or benzos along with heroin, the danger of withdrawal grows substantially.
Finding Help for Opioid Withdrawal
It’s incredibly important to find the right help when getting clean from any drug, especially heroin. Going through withdrawals is rough, and having professional help and care can go a long way in ensuring your safety and recovery. Because heroin use causes a rush of dopamine to the brain, individuals may experience dopamine deficiency for weeks or months after quitting heroin, and it takes work to get the brain working right again.
Although it’s a long process, there is hope. Many people quit heroin, go through withdrawals, and learn to live clean and sober. It seems impossible when we are in the midst of our addiction, but it does happen every day to people across the world. You can do the best thing in the world for yourself and get sober. You don’t have to go through withdrawals more than one time if you stay sober. As uncomfortable as detox is, you have the opportunity to never go through it again.