Treating Heroin Withdrawal with Amino Acids 

Millions of families are affected by heroin dependency every year. Find out how amino acids help soothe symptoms of opioid withdrawal. 

Treating Heroin Withdrawal With Amino Acids
Treating Heroin Withdrawal With Amino Acids

Treating Heroin Withdrawal with Amino Acids 

Millions of families are affected by heroin dependency every year. Find out how amino acids help soothe symptoms of opioid withdrawal. 

The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a comprehensive resource. At Ampelis Recovery, our programs are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific details below that cover treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols used for our clients.

If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Recovery and our customized programs for professional men, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Why Should You Be Aware of Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Similar to other opiates, heroin withdrawal has severe side effects. These most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Intense pain
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Breathing issues

Without preparation or medical monitoring, these side effects cause further health complications and increase the chance of relapse. Heroin withdrawal occurs between 2-3 days from the last use and can persist for almost 2 weeks.1

Heroin Use Rates

  • Approximately 750,000 people suffer from heroin dependency in any given year.1 Around 50,000 people experience overdose on heroin and other opiates per year.2
  • Prescription medications are the gateway substance for 80% of heroin users.2
  • 1.27 million people are currently receiving treatment for heroin withdrawal and other opiates.3
  • Around 10 million people, ages 12 and up, admitted to opiate use in 2019, including heroin and other drugs.
  • The opioid crisis began in the early 90s and persists today, affecting millions of people every year. Heroin is a significant contributor. Its highly addictive nature makes it challenging to overcome.

Relapse Rates

  • One study found that 91% of heroin patients relapsed after treatment. Approximately 59% relapsed within a week.4
  • Short-term treatment programs have a higher rate of relapse than long-term.5
  • Stress increases the chance of relapse.
  • Individuals with mental illness have a higher chance of relapse.
  • Ongoing treatment has the lowest rate of relapse.

These statistics show that recovery may be a lifelong process for many. Withdrawal cravings and the potential for relapse can reoccur at any time. However, an individual with a healthy support system and proper coping mechanisms has a better chance of staying sober.

Learn More About Healing the Brain


  • Holistic Approach
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Positive Psychology

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein. Of the 20 amino acids, nine are essential. However, all amino acids play a role in the body. They regulate one’s mood, mental and physical performance, and several bodily functions like the immune system. Amino acid deficiency can cause numerous health complications.6

The body makes 10 of the 20 amino acids. The rest, including the nine essential amino acids, all come from the diet. Essential amino acids must be consumed regularly because the body does not store them.

Essential Amino Acids

The nine essential amino acids include:6

  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Histidine
  • Threonine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine

Protein Builders

Amino acids are essential for creating protein and absorbing it into the body. The required amount varies between men and women as well as different age groups. Amino acid proteins are essential for physical development, including weight, muscle mass, and height.

Amino Acids That the Brain Uses the Most

The brain uses tryptophan, tyrosine, histidine, and arginine to maintain mental performance. Brain health relies on several codependent systems. For example, the central nervous system is directly in charge of breathing, neurological development, and mood. The amino acids above are vital to these processes.

What is Untreated Heroin Withdrawal?

Physical Pain

Physical pain from heroin withdrawal occurs in stomach aches, touch sensitivity, and brain damage related to drug use. Heroin use also lessens pre-existing pain. People who develop heroin dependency from attempting to self-medicate unrelated injuries – such as back pains, joint pains, etc. – may find that the underlying pain returns during withdrawal.

Cravings

Heroin withdrawal causes powerful substance cravings. Intense cravings can lead to drug binges and mental instability. The exact intensity of these cravings scale with the level of dependency. 7 Furthermore, heroin cravings last for years after the last use of the drug. Heroin is considered highly addictive, and certain types of heroin, such as Black Tar Heroin, are more potent than their counterparts.

Acute Depletion of Vital Amino Acids

Tyrosine – Tyrosine deficiency results in poor coordination, clumsiness, and uncontrollable eye movement.8 These side effects can increase with age.

Tryptophan – Tryptophan deficiency causes irritability, intensifies pain, and disrupts mood. 9

Phenylalanine – Phenylalanine deficiency causes an inability to absorb amino acids, which causes several health complications.10

Psychological Issues During Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal harms GABA receptors in the brain. GABA receptors produce calming effects meant to stifle fear and anxiety. Over time, heroin causes the body to stop regulating or improperly regulate the GABA receptors, leading to several mood issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. Heroin withdrawal also impacts cognitive processing making it harder to apply logic or see long-term benefits of recovery.11

Other Issues During Withdrawal

Social stigma also impacts withdrawal. Seeking recovery means admitting there is a substance problem. A heroin-dependent person may be encouraged to continue using heroin or experience shame for their dependency on it. Seeking the proper help, including medication and therapy, is essential to overcoming addiction.

Traditional Methods for Treating Heroin Withdrawal

Methadone and Buprenorphine

Methadone and buprenorphine ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Less buprenorphine is needed to ease withdrawal symptoms than methadone. Buprenorphine also has reduced effects when compared to methadone. However, doses for both drugs reduce as withdrawal symptoms wear off.

Risks Associated with Methadone and Buprenorphine

Both methadone and buprenorphine have addictive properties. They are administered only in a medical setting.

These are the most efficient amino acids to combat heroin withdrawal.

  • L-tryptophan: L-tryptophan stabilizes mood and eases general withdrawal symptoms.12
  • Tyrosine: Tyrosine, like L-tryptophan, works to reduce withdrawal symptoms and stabilize mental functions.12
  • Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine rebuilds the immune system. Heroin withdrawal and dependency make the body prone to infection and other health complications. Phenylalanine reduces the risk for illness.
  • GABA: GABA receptors help stabilize mood. One of the more severe side effects of GABA deficiency is poor motor function. GABA amino acids improve coordination, life outlook, and mental performance.

Other Helpful Amino Acids

All of the amino acids play a role in regulating bodily functions, including immune health, muscle and bone health, and more.

How Do Amino Acids Help with Heroin Withdrawal?

Amino acids support the body. Amino acid deficiency, even without the factor of drugs, causes several severe health issues. Heroin-dependent individuals often suffer from poor diets and amino acid deficiency. In terms of withdrawal, proper nutrition betters the odds of recovery and makes an easier transition into healthy living.

Replacing Depleted Amino Acids

Replacing depleted amino acids requires diet, nutrition, and, at times, medical assistance. IV amino acid treatments are a popular method for reintroducing amino acids to the body. Amino acids also reduce withdrawal cravings and make them more manageable.13

Support Brain Health

Amino acids improve and maintain brain performance. Neuroplasticity – meaning how our brains change and adapt to problems and changes – plays a vital role in our brainpower as we age. The more elastic our brains are, the better they can think and maneuver around complex issues, remember events, and remove harmful chemicals. Amino acids improve neuroplasticity and contribute to lifelong brain health.14

Support Physical Health and Immune System

Amino acids improve all physical systems such as muscle, hair, nails, and bones. They also play a role in how efficient our immune system is at filtering out infections and recovering from illnesses.15

Other Ways Amino Acids Help with Heroin Withdrawal

Amino acids better the odds of overcoming heroin dependency in virtually every way. Amino acids help one get better sleep, improve energy levels, and heal.16

Treating Heroin Withdrawal and Addiction with Amino Acids

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab provides constant medical monitoring to ease withdrawal symptoms, limit illicit drug activity, and provide long-term recovery plans. Inpatient treatment lengths can vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the program.

Executive Wellness Centers

Executive wellness centers benefit individuals who lead busy lives in executive, management, or multi-pronged positions. Executive wellness includes a controlled, serene environment for healing while also providing limited access to the outside world for significant events.

IV Amino Acids

IV amino acids are injected directly into the bloodstream to counteract amino acid deficiency. IV amino acids provide all the same benefits as amino acids obtained through diet. This procedure occurs in a controlled environment.

Other Treatments

Other treatments include addiction counseling, family therapy, talk therapy, and outpatient care. These methods center around teaching healthy coping mechanisms, building a stable support system, and educating a client about the nature of addiction and how it affects them.

Overcoming heroin requires time, medical care, therapy, and above all else – willpower. Do not hesitate to get help if you or a loved one is at risk for substance dependency. Recovery is not easy, but it is worth it.

Resources

  1. https://depts.washington.edu/psychres/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/100-Papers-in-Clinical-Psychiatry-Substance-Use-and-Addiction-Psychiatry-Management-of-drug-and-alcohol-withdrawal..pdf
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
  3. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20669601/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5755382/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234922/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22329304/
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/tyrosine-hydroxylase-deficiency/
  9. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/142/12/2231S/4630852#:~:text=Acute%20tryptophan%20depletion%20is%20associated,stress%20in%20animals%20(21)
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1504/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12417998/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22684569/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22397264/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27510492/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17403271/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224629/#:~:text=To%20function%20adequately%2C%20the%20central,et%20al.%2C%201994)