Most heroin detox programmes in the UK cover a five-day period of withdrawal, a time that with the help of a light sedative and pain relief medication, allows patients to overcome their dependency on heroin.
The use of sedatives means that patients spend most of the week relaxed or sleeping while their body cleanses itself of opiates.The administering of pain relief or opiate substitutes will also prevent the heroin cravings traditionally associated with the process of detoxification.
Prescribing opiate substitutes, such as Methadone or Buprenorphine, eases the patient’s transition into a drug free existence and makes them less likely to start reusing after detoxification.These drugs also do not have the associated antisocial problems common to heroin addiction and are completely legal products.
Other methods use pain relief drugs to ease the problems associated with heroin withdrawal and once the process of detoxification is complete Naltrexone is prescribed.This drug binds with opiate receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of heroin, meaning its use will have no effect on the patient.As Naltrexone prevents patients reaching a chemical high, its use is of great effect in preventing re-abuse amongst former drug addicts.
During the withdrawal period, patients quite often require 24-hour care and support to ensure a comfortable and painless release from their drug dependency.Once the detoxification process is successfully completed they undergo a series of behavioural and cognitive therapies, along with training and group support sessions, to ensure they adapt to a drug free existence.