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I'm writing a story, and the main character is a heroin junkie. Previous research has given me a pretty clear picture as to the effects and withdrawal symptoms. My question is, what do people do while they're in heroin withdrawal, assuming that they don't (or can't) go to work or school.
I'm not a heroin user but I would assume the withdrawing junkie is doing the following: Looking for heroin, lying in his/her bed in a cold sweat suffering, eating benzodiazepines, injecting benzos, etc.
Most people stick it out for a day or two then they go and score unless they are in a controlled detox. Very few people will go full cold turkey with nothing, not many people will endure the withdrawal without at least some help including someone to watch and help them.
Watch Trainspotting and you will get an idea with a black comic twist. I have seen another documentary where a journalist helped his friend, his friend just got his money (benefits) but gave it to the journalist at the start. He last about a day with 'lots of sleeping tablets' (i am paraphrasing it was ages ago when i saw it), but the guy ended up trying to get out the door to score but first he wanted his money. The journalist wouldn't give him it so the guy phoned 999, the journalist took the phone and explained, anyway, no police got involved but the guy jumped out the window and scored.
Well firstly you spend the longnight without sleep,laying there hoping for sleep,trying to be comfortable.Occasionally for blissful brief seconds your mind will sort of shutdown or get lost and thought and you will be free from this ugly situation but this won't last very long.Dawn breaks,the non addicted people are waking up refreshed,getting in the shower,getting dressed and getting ready to go about their day.But not an addict,your only thought will be how to get something to make you feel better.You'll do this in any way you can even if you have to walk miles while throwing up and your head pounding.
This info has been great. My question though has more to do with what you do. I mean, I've been told that heroin withdrawal is a lot like having the flu, only with an intense craving for the drug. When I have the flu, I sit around and watch Dr. Who reruns. So, do people do that? Or are the symptoms too painful and/or the cravings to distracting to even watch TV?
People go out their minds, the withdrawal is horrible and while it is similar to the flu, and i mean influenza not a cold, there are still some huge differences. For a start the withdrawal alone is enough to make someone say fuck it, and go score, but couple that with intense cravings, then it makes addicts even more determined to score especially if they have money sitting there. People in withdrawal don't really do anything, all they do is try and lie in a bed or sit somewhere in front of a TV, but they probably have no interest on what's on or what is going on around them. Eating is difficult because they will likely feel sick as well as literally ill, the only thing that will make them feel even close to normal is a hot shower which they may sit in for quite some time. The other thing is the cold shivering sweats which is terrible, that and aching muscles, sore head and probably feeling very low, depressed and probably extremely frustrated and anxious.
As i said, very very few people will go cold turkey, and even fewer will successfully ride it out and get through the withdrawals. Generally 2 - 3 days of cold turkey will mean the worst of the physical withdrawals is over, however the daily struggle to abstain from heroin is arguably even harder. This is especially true if some sort of crisis or bad thing happens will act as a sort of catalyst which will increase the chances they will start using again.
For those people who are 100% determined to get off of heroin, then they have a good chance they will succeed but that will require some sort of drug. Something like diazepam and/or temazepam (or similar), and possibly some mild opiate like dihydrocodeine, hydrocodone or even oxycodone which is obviously a stronger opioid. Without any of these drugs then the chances of success will start to decline drastically.
That said, 100% determination is what you need with or without drugs. A heroin addict will know in them self if they have this determination, you can't mistake wanting to or needing to get off drugs as determination. Determination is something you either have or don't have, there is no in-between. I know myself i am not determined to get off methadone at the moment, i know i have to and i even want to, but i am not 100% determined which means i will probably fail until i get that determination, which, again, i will know in myself if and when i get it.
The physical symptoms of WD are almost identical to the flu. The mental symptoms are very different, with one main difference; With the Flu, you're just stuck with it and you know you just have to ride it off. With Wd, you know there is something that will make all your symptoms go away instantly, and bring pleasant ones along with it.
That's definitely something you should write on about what is going on in your character's mind.
Most people while on WD really don't want to do anything. Their bodies feel like shit, so one of the easiest things to do is to just lie in bed all day. One method that is commonly encouraged in helping people get out of WD is to keep busy. Taking care of work, going to the gym, going out with friends, anything to keep them busy. It is good for the body physically, as well as mentally because it helps the keep their mind off the mental cravings.
For SWIM, enduring WD has actually been a lot harder with something in the drawer. Knowing that it's a few steps away makes things harder. Being completely without it is tough, but knowing that it isn't there makes it a little easier on the mind.
Some users actually go cold turkey intentionally and endure the WD symptoms so that they can have that rush again.
"Diary of a drug addict" is an english documentary about it. A reporter wants to help his friend (who is also a reporter) to quit heroin cold turkey, and the guy eventually jumps out the balcony to score after just 1 nights withdrawal.
Before that though they are locked in his apartment for days to help him quit, but the guy is secretly using heroin the whole time to keep away from withdrawal and hiding needles all around the house. Then when he runs out he starts to go crazy and climb the walls, rolling on the ground moaning in pain etc.
for the first five days of withdrawl a heroin addict does nothing but feel sorry for their shitty existence and will breakdance with restlessness.
You cant focus on nothing....even TV, your mind constantly wanders, but if the said addict is determined enough they should be trying to apply their mind to something to help with the constant mental cravings for the drug.
To answer your question bluntly for the first week they will lie about with 0 energy doing jack shit.
I was an IV heroin addict for 5 and half years, I have been clean for 20 days now and have started naltrexone (opiate blocker), and im doing great.
Withdrawals off heroin is a really bad scarey & painful experience, not something that Swim would ever want to go through again.
Swim stayed at a detox centre of 3 weeks.
At the beginning of withdrawals Swim's brain wouldn't stop racing. It was like a built in camera taking pic after pic in front of her eyes, images that were repeated again & again. Similar to a washing machine going round & around but in her head.
Swim's legs ached so much so that she would punch them (crazy, eh) & at night she couldn't sleep as she was tossing & turning, body in agony, burning up, sheets saturated with sweat. She broke down & cried, lying on the bed, constantly writhing about. It was like she was riding a bike in bed as her legs were constantly rubbing together. Her nightmares were so vivid yet really frightening.
After roughly 48 hours came the trots, uncontrollable & really nasty. Swim's mind was going through some seriously disturbed thought processes & her body felt like it was frozen & was in the process of thawing out very slowly. Imagine all the muscles in the body screaming out in the worst pain imaginable; every part of the body, muscles, joints, eyes, head, toes, back, all hurt so much that the pain was unbearable.
Swim couldn't eat a thing so she drank special milkshakes, prescribed by a Doctor. She was mentally & physically exhausted. The only relief was to lie in the bath though it was really hard to get out the bath as her body was weak.
Swim kept sneezing, maybe 5 sneezes in a row roughly 4 times a day, eyes streaming & her skin had goose pimples even if it was warm.
Swim's got 3 children & still firmly believes that giving birth's a walk in the park compared to coming off opiates. The pain lasted for more than 10 days, constant pain that didn't subside. The only reason she stuck it out was due to having gone to detox. She couldn't have done it at home.
She had never detoxed off opiates before & at 42 years old her body was put through the mill. When she asked how much longer until the withdrawals would subside she was told something different by each person.
Swim's been clean for nearly 3 months now. The experience of this detox has put her off using opiates again.
swim read a post saying to watch 'Trainspotting' to gadge what coming off heroin is like. Yes, what the guy goes through when coming off heroin is similar though surely he wouldn't be prancing around, off down the pub with his mates after going through that! But then again, each person is an individual.
Honestly...when u withdrawl...WHAT U DO! specifically, u sit around all day throwing up, coughing, throwing up, drinking water, throwing up, laying down, throwing up, shitting, throwing up, drinking water, throwing up, shitting, watch tv, call a friend to see if he/she can hook u up with a lil bit of H, lol, i think u get the point! Basically, withdrawling is NOT FUN AT ALL! ITS WORSE THEN BEING SICK!!! BY FAR!!!
SWIM starts missing everything and everyone that he has ever encountered in his life. Looking through old photos and videos, feeling hopeless and depressed and dirty and guilty. Longing for the lost innocence he once had..
He especially started missing his ex girlfriends, even ones who treated him like SHIT.
That and a whole bunch of DXM.
You want to know what it is like to withdraw on heroin? Well first it starts with pains. in your back or legs and it feels like nothing you can do will relieve the pain. You start sneezing and yawning uncontrollably. your nose starts to run. You throw up constantly. You start to randomly sweat like crazy to where there are five drops running down your face at once and then you turn on the A/C to cool off. But when you do that you atart freezing but you are still sweating. Then you get goosebumps and you run into shit because your muscles become weak. Sleeping is the worse because you absolutely cannot sleep. No matter how hard you try, you have to move every minute because your body is going crazy without this drug and cannot get comfortable. I have had a lot of pains but this sickness is the absolute worse sickness I have ever experienced in my life. And guess what. In four hours, i will be feeling like this so wish me luck
It`s an Old Threado, but let my Cat add that in her whole addicted time
she never reach a "Total War WD." like we know from the TV.
(two Tmes she get a horrible WD. from a to early application of Buprenorphine, that was her own mistake)
The H.-User Today normally WD. "Warm"
and they mostly do what ever they want.
From Vollyball until sleeping.
W/D is physically and emotionally painful. Some people (rare individuals) get through it relatively easily, most don't.
But it's important that W/D isn't blown up out of all proportion, it's like a bad case of flu, only difference is flu can hang about for longer. It's not the worst pain Sparkles has had to go through (try childbirth, much more painful).
Sparkles thinks the reason it appears so painful is because of the "emotional" W/Ds. It's bad enough having symptoms that imitate flu, add to that the emotional problems (feeling depressed, see-saw emotions, cravings) and it can feel unbearable.
Sparkles found that planning for this, making sure she had support to help her deal with these feelings (raging, raving and craving) made it much more bearable.
People say to her "Plan a W/D...why? Simple really. The more coping strategies (plans) a person has in place to catch em when they falter (they act as a safety net) the better equipped they are to get through the dodgy times.
Why put this much effort into it?
No one quits their job, moves home, takes a holiday without some planning. If they want the process to go as smoothly as possible they work out all the possible pitfalls, look ahead, that way leaving a job, relocating or just going on vacation is so much easier.
Giving up drugs is much more important, you're talking about saving your life. Sparkles planned her using, all the details about how she was gonna score, use, get money, stay outta trouble...everything.
So she figured to get clean...and stay clean, she had to put as much...if not more, effort into it.
It was too important not to.
Hope these musings help someone.
Sparkles ain't really insane...more like terminally crazy. It does help in recovery.
Haha...it's a good job swim has got a darker sense of humour than most, else the fact that she finds this question after she's been up all night (and most of the day) rattling would seem somewhat in bad taste lol
So what has swim been doing to keep her mind occupied since yesterday afternoon when she drank the last of her meth, wrongly thinking she had another bottle stashed somewhere...?
Swim can't concentrate on anything when she's ill. The whole 'flu comparison is fine, but what non-users don't seem to get, is that when you have the 'flu you can just curl up in bed and sleep through it. Great stuff. Cept when you're rattling, you can't sleep. You can't keep yer legs still for more than 5 seconds at a time cos they hurt so fucking much. Nothing is comfortable. So sleep is out the window. No fucking chance. Every position is unbearably uncomfortable, so you're kicking and twisting and turning every few seconds. Your duvet feels like it's made of sandpaper. You just can't keep still, so decide to get outta bed and do something. But you can't concentrate enough on anything to get into it. So you end up jumping between watching telly, playing computer games, reading a book, going online etc etc. If by some small miracle you can find something to hold your attention for more than a minute or so, then you feel a lot better for it. But it's very, very difficult.
Add to it all the wrenching gut ache, cold sweats that feel like a layer of frost on your back, followed by hot flushes, followed by cold sweats, yawning, wretching, sneezing blah blah blah...not pretty.
Anyway, the OP didn't want a list of symptons, they wanted to know what we actually do to pass the time.
But it some instances, such as when it's the middle of the night, you've no cash, no petrol, no-one about who'd give you credit, Cash Generator isn't open til the morning (grins at BSR) then you're stuck. And you've just gotta grin and bear it, find something, anything, to pass the time til morning.
For swim, personally, she doesn't like lying in bed kicking the sheets. This makes her feel worse. She'd rather get up and try her hardest to do something that might just take her attention away from being ill for a minute or two. The problem is, finding the incentive to actually do that. Nothing is appealing in any sense, except of course a nice big hit of gear.
Swim has spent many nights up ill, when no-one else has been awake, and what she tries to do is just go for a walk, go online, do something, anything that'll take her mind off it. Of course, it doesn't work, but there's nothing worse than counting down the hours, watching the clock in the corner of the News 24 tv screen, listening to endless repeats of headlines slowly, slowly making their way to morning...
Speaking of which, digital tv has done wonders for being up all night ill - at least there's some half decent stuff on telly at night now, not just ceefax screens, news 24 etc.
Incidentally, for swim at least, she can cope with being ill during the day, when there's stuff going on, people around etc, what really fucks her head up is being up all night ill, alone. That's the one she finds hardest to take.
Once the body is able to move slightly, this Monkey has a lot of sex and/or masturbates a lot, as the slight damper on his sex drive caused by being on dope goes away and he is right back to being a sex fiend. Of course, due tothe fact that it is painful to move, he usually sticks to low energy sex, such as oral, girl on top of him or masturbating/getting handjobs.
Also anything that can release endorphins. Many recommend exercise but during a hardcore WD this is imposible in practicality. Things like eating spicy food are more realistic.
When Swir detoxs,well,lets face it, it's fuck me running.It's pretty hard to get your frigging mind to stop jonesing for a nano sec.First swiy start this horrible yawning,where swiy can't get air and the eyes are fucking running.Shit,this is the point when decisions are made.How can swi get some cash now!This is around the time you figure if Swir doesn't get some cash or similar facimile she'll tell whatever needs to be told.Then the fucking sneezing starts,and it's not the good satisfying sneeze but the kind that sort of coughs out the nose and throat.Multiples,back to fucking back.If swiy are on a bus or just around a bunch of people it's hella embarassing.Hold on now,we're just getting started.These spasm-like contractions move around the body,arms legs,but these contractions sent swiy into this stretching jag where it sometimes feels like the joints are going to pop.Once swiy starts the stretching it's nigh on impossible to stop.Get up,pace for 20 or so yawning,stretching crying blah.Hey,don't go yet the good stuffs yet to come.This should bring swim up to the sweats.Buckets,freezing fucking cold.Try and park the old bod halfway lay on the couch/bed pull covers on,fucking legs making me nuts.Toss Toss,Turn,stretch oh no swim's stomach.Puking UGH Swir can't finish,SWirs getting dsick just typing.Swiy all get the jist.Unfuckingcomfortable sad sad situation.Funny,anything but scoring is not possible.Go figure
Try and find a way to make some money so swim can end it. Other then that if swim is trying to take a break and stay clean, mostly just tries to keep busy reads,watches movies and maybe talk to some friends that don't use just to keep himself out of his head and the horrible mental state he is in.
What swim's done during wds is lay in bed all day kicking his legs to try and combat the restlessness. Watch 3 seasons of curb your enthusiasm and cultivate a great loathing for Larry David and the music of that show. Eat only cinnamon toast and ice cream for 3 day. Then, switch to yogurt pretzels. Writhe, sleep, repeat. Oh, and take cold medicine and muscle relaxers and smoke a whole lot of pot.
Well from swims experience, she layed in bed, had hot and cold flashes, her arms felt like they were crawling and couldn't bare to be touched, kicked her legs over and over again trying to to take her mind off of the pain, listened to music, took alot of muscle relaxers, ate alot of ice cream and puked alot. Oh, and she couldn't sleep at all.
The elements of wanting to call old girlfriends and missing things that weren't of any real importance tends to be a big thing for SWIM on about day three. Some crying about that.
SWIM spends a lot of time sat in front of the computer listening to music, usually Elliott Smith. Occasionally tries to watch a film. SWIM found that often things you watch in a rattle take on a different significance even when you're not. SWIM, who normally has a taste for postmodern detachment (kind of how he always found humour in the state he got in), decided to watch Nip/Tuck and was overwhelming by a sense of sick nihilism he found in it, wouldn't watch it now, or wouldn't without heavy apprehension.
Some warm showers, a lot of time sitting still (or trying to sit still), trying to talk yourself into sleep. Throwing yourself out of bed. There's a lot of nothing really, just sitting with the symptoms already described and not believing they're going to stop.
If it's a minor one or late on in the process, SWIM tries to get lobotomized drunk. SWIM also tried to start one with a bunch of sleepers, when he was naive enough to think it might make him sleep, it just meant things were the same but he fell on his face when he tried to stand up.
There's sometimes been a point after things begin to subside when SWIM has had a reflective moment, often written something, like a steadier version of the massive emotion and nostalgia on the third day, maybe have a look or a stand outside if SWIM can stand the temperature.
It took Sparkles quite a few tries before she got it together to quit for good (hopefully). Sitting there, or wandering aimlessly around didn't help, that's what she'd always done in the past, and she'd always relapsed.
Last time, she remembered from rehab, that having some routine, even a little helped her focus on staying the distance, a routine that focused on not using. Sitting there wondering how she felt, when it was gonna stop, just made her think of what would stop it...drugs.
Last time she planned it like a damned military campaign. She also has college to focus on too, this helped. She spent a year, from one September to the next, in early W/D as she reduced her methadone from 150 mls-30mls. Then she made the jump to subs.
She set up people for herself to talk to when she was bored, professional help to discuss personal and emotional issues when they came up, (and they did) she had a drug counselor, her doctor...anyone and everyone she could talk to. She made sure she had meds to make her more comfortable, such as loperamide, paracetamol and anti-histamine(for sleep). And although it was difficult towards the end she made sure she went out, if just around the block to get some fresh air, but she made sure she avoided using mates and anywhere that reminded her of drugs. She read self help books, recovery books, inspiration biographies, anything that made her feel hopeful. She drank loads of water, little caffeine and no alcohol. If she couldn't sleep she got up, she didn't lay there and stress it.
She rang AA, she rang NA, just to talk to someone when she was struggling, hell...she even rang the Samaritans one night when she was on the verge of relapse, they were wonderful, they saw her call as life saving, so not a problem. She laughed, she cried, she was craving, she was raving, and she had lots of raging, angry times, but she didn't care she got it all out. She was prepared to do anything to stay clean, she'd have done anything in the past to use, what's the difference?
Since Sparkles quit, she's helped two friends quit alcohol, they came and stayed with her. She went with them to the docs, got their Librium and their reduction schedule, took them home with her and worked out a routine, and went through it, sometimes minute by minute with them. It was as hard going through it with them believe it or not, Sparkles remembered every pain they got, every mood change, so difficult. When they were almost finished (10 days later) they sat down and wrote a schedule for the rest of their recovery. They're still sober today, not because of Sparkles, but because they put the work in, they planned for everything they could imagine happening. They anticipated their weak points according to what had worked or failed in the past.
Just hope some of this recovery brainstorming helps.
Last edited by missparkles; 04-09-2009 at 18:18.
Reason: Fuckin typo...innit? ;-)