Pakistan, a country already tormented by regional insurgencies, is fighting a losing battle against a different kind of foe: drug addiction. In the country’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), an estimated 11 percent of residents use illicit substances – primarily heroin. Peshwar, the provincial capital of KPK, is a city rife with homeless addicts and dirty needles.
“Pakistan’s illegal drug trade is believed to generate $2 billion a year [making] Pakistan the most heroin-addicted country, per capita, in the world,” wrote David Browne, who covered the mujahideen insurgency in the 1980s, in a recent exposé for The Telegraph. “Peshawar is at the center of this phenomenon, in close proximity to extensive opium-poppy fields in the Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Kunar and Nangarhar, and the rudimentary heroin-processing labs clustered around Landi Kotal in the adjoining Khyber tribal agency.”
The booming drug trade, which goes hand-in-hand with local Islamist groups, has transformed Peshwar from a city popular with tourists for its outdoor bazaars to a violence-ridden wasteland. Public offices are hidden behind extensive barricades and blast walls to protect from suicide bombers. Travelers have been replaced by derelicts, constantly in search of their next hit.
The longer and more frequently an individual uses heroin, the worse the damage becomes. Therefore, it is crucial to seek heroin detox and treatment for addiction as soon as possible.
Medically-Supervised Detox from Heroin
Quitting heroin is a difficult process that produces many uncomfortable – but seldom life-threatening – withdrawal symptoms. With proper medical care, this process may be made far more bearable and symptoms may be managed more effectively. A medically-supervised drug detoxification program is the best option for this reason. “Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Dependence” notes numerous benefits of such a setting, like allowing healthcare providers to keep patients informed as to the process of care, to monitor the patient’s status, and to offer supportive care and medications to manage symptoms and reduce cravings.
Heroin Withdrawal: Phases and Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 24 hours after the drug is discontinued, peak at a few days post-use, and last about a week. This phase of withdrawal is known as acute withdrawal. The early stages of acute withdrawal from heroin are often likened to the experience of a flu. Symptoms include:
nausea and vomiting
high blood pressure
elevated heart rate
anxiety or depression
suicidal thoughts are also possible with heroin and similar opioid withdrawal, demonstrating the need for medical supervision throughout the process.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from Heroin Use
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, shortened to PAWS, is a condition experienced by some who quit chronic use of heroin and other drugs. In an article describing PAWS, author Erik MacLaren, PhD notes that opioids like heroin affect the user’s neurochemistry to the point where new opiate receptors form on the user’s brain cells with long-term use. Such changes, combined with the decrease in endorphins resulting from such drug use, can contribute to long-term mood dysfunction. The article characterizes PAWS by conditions like anxiety, sleep disturbances, and fatigue that can last for extended periods of time, often up to years after one discontinues use. Other symptoms of PAWS can include tremors, cravings, mood swings, and insomnia.
Sunrise International Hospital offers a comprehensive, hybrid treatment program combining 12-step programming with clinical care that will help you or your loved one leave heroin and other harmful substances behind and build a better life. Call Sunrise International Hospital at +92-345-890-1970