Fact #1: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 in America. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), one American takes their own life every 13 minutes.
Fact #2: The rate of heroin addiction has quadrupled since 2002.
What do these two facts have to do with one another? According to many medical studies, as well as my own observations in the recovery industry, the major symptoms of heroin withdrawal occur in three stages. The first stage of withdrawal often includes: cravings, anxiety, depression, irritability, sleeplessness, restless legs, and suicidal thoughts.
I want to talk about this first stage, because there is a common misconception that heroin withdrawal is not life threatening. Yes, it is true that the physical systems alone are generally considered low risk, but detoxing alone, without support, is definitely unsafe.
The Danger of Detoxing Alone
Heroin is a synthetic drug produced from morphine, a potent analgesic that comes from the opium poppy. It affects the brain by binding with receptor cells that respond to opiates. When an individual snorts, injects, or smokes heroin, the drug produces a rush of euphoria and a sense of profound relaxation. What the drug also does, is create a debilitating cycle of addiction that quickly hi-jacks the brain’s own capability to produce feelings of well-being or pleasure. Once this occurs, the drug has moved from “recreational” to “necessary” in the eyes of the addict.
The need to break free eventually becomes apparent, but it’s not as easy as “just putting it down.” There is a mental battle that goes on during the detox process:
Along with all of the physical symptoms, feelings of hopelessness and depression can manifest quickly, and since the addicted brain isn’t producing any pleasurable emotions to combat the depression, a heroin user can feel he or she has no way out. Gripped by an overwhelming and constant flood of negative emotions, the rate of suicide among heroin users has been reported to be as high as 35 percent.
Dual Diagnosis and Neurotransmitter Replacement Therapy
Heroin abuse and depression are both risk factors for suicide. But when the two conditions are combined, the risk of self-injury or suicide increases exponentially.
Clinical studies suggest that the key to treating heroin abuse and depression successfully is to identify both conditions early in the recovery process. Intensive neuropsychological assessment can reveal the signs of co-occurring psychiatric disorders like depression. Once identified, treatment to address both depression and heroin addiction has shown to be effective.
Although it can be difficult to determine whether depression led to addiction or depression led to addiction, a comprehensive treatment plan gives equal attention to both conditions.
Along with dual diagnosis, neurotransmitter replacement therapy is a great benefit to early sobriety. Neurotransmitter replacement therapy is a term used to describe the use of supplemental amino acids to help balance brain chemicals. The Shores Treatment and Recovery offers this therapy from day one of treatment and has experienced positive results. Amino acids are the precursors to brain chemicals such as serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, and providing daily aminos helps fight the brain fog, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Once an individual is thinking more clearly, they are able to participate in therapy and become engaged in their recovery.
Tips For Preventing Suicide During Heroin Withdrawal
- If you choose to detox at your home it is very important to make friends and family aware. Invite someone to stay with you for the next three or four days.
- Consider medical detox in a facility that will provide the necessary treatment. It’s not enough to detox. You also need to learn new ways of thinking and gain new tools for recovery.
- Speak to a qualified health professional about safety measures you could take in order to significantly reduce your chances of getting to the point of suicide.
- Take time to safety proof your home. This could be something that a friend or family member helps you with. Remove cords, wires, shoelaces, sharp objects, weapons, or anything else you think you could potentially harm yourself with. Give your car keys to the person who is monitoring you.
- Remember that the bad thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to act on them and they will end.
- Don’t wait until you are so overwhelmed that you are ready to use again. Seek out professional help and possible long term treatment.
Get Help After
Once the detox process is over it is important to realize that the addiction is still present. You’ll need to relearn how to live your life, how to deal with daily issues and stresses. You’ll need to form new, healthy habits. The best way to do so is by checking yourself into a treatment center. A controlled environment with positive influences and numerous methods for restoring mental, physical and spiritual health is ideal for achieving long lasting sobriety. This is something The Shores Treatment and Recovery Center specializes in. We have helped hundreds of men and women in your position completely turn their lives around. Are you interested in learning more about what we have to offer? Please contact us as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.