When you are a heroin addict, withdrawal is just a part of everyday life. When you start to feel sick you pick up the phone and call your dealer, you score, and you get well. In that moment nothing else matters. For me, the spiritual prison called heroin addiction was a daily struggle to feel normal, not high, and every day I wished I could stop but the fear of detox kept me using. However, from the beginning, my addiction pushed me towards allowing for the withdrawal process that is referred to as detox, twice. Detox, by definition, is the process of removing toxins, in my case opiates, from the body. Even though I was detoxing from virtually the same substance on both occasions, the experiences were quite different due to the fact that one of the detoxes occurred while I was incarcerated. Obviously detoxing in a hospital bed for five days was a far better experience than detoxing in jail, but in both cases an experience that I wish I had never had.
The first time I tried getting sober was in the summer of 2010. At the time my drug of choice was Oxycontin, usually around 400 mg a day. After several unsuccessful attempts at getting sober on my own, I went to see a detox specialist in Los Angeles to discuss what method would work best for me. I was told that I had 3 options. One option would be to go on Suboxone maintenance. Suboxone contains a combination of Buprenorphine, an opiod, and Naloxone, an opiate blocker that makes you unable to feel the effects of opiates and alcohol. When taken regularly, it works really well to get rid of withdrawal and cravings; however the problem is you can simply stop taking it and go back to using opiates again. For an addict like me this was not an option. Plus, if used for more than seven days the eventual detox from Suboxone, I’ve been told, is far worse than detoxing from other opiates. My second option was to do an in-patient detox in a local hospital for five days while getting Vivitrol injections. Vivitrol is exactly like Naloxone and acts as an opiate blocker but lasts for thirty days when injected instead of one day when taken orally. You have to be careful as to not have any opiates in your system when you get the full dose of Vivitrol because it forces the opiates out of your system and you could go into immediate withdrawal; far more painful than the already excruciating gradual withdrawal you normally experience. I was then presented with the final option of being put under with anesthesia and going through a rapid eight hour detox where I would be opiate free when I woke up, completely bypassing the withdrawal experience.
Obviously this was the option I wanted but it was really expensive and my parents wanted me to feel the pain of detox so that I would never want to go through the experience again. The next day I was checked into the Los Alamitos Hospital where I spent five relatively painless days on Clonidine, Imodium, and Seroquel and was released to a drug rehab facility in Northern California for four weeks of treatment. I would go into more detail about my physical detox but the truth is that the worse part about it was that I shared a room with an elderly man that for some reason would always need his diaper changed right before my food would come. Needless to say I lost a few pounds over the course of those five days.
Detoxing in jail was quite the opposite experience. About a year and a half after my first detox I was locked up on felony charges and spent what I will describe as an “eventful” week in county jail. At the time of my arrest, which occurred at seven in the morning, I believe I had ingested over the course of the prior night and morning combined 5 Xanex bars with a couple beers, as well as shooting a gram and a half of heroin. My memory of being picked up, the car ride over to the jail, being in the holding cell, and being booked is basically nonexistent. After a few hours I was given detox medication that consisted of a cocktail of pills that I still to this day have no idea what they were. I was given this cocktail for two days and was basically knocked out the whole time. I was so out of it that I was given my own cell. Then, on the third day, the medication stopped and I was dressed out in red and white stripes and put into housing unit C. This is where the nightmare began.
The housing unit consisted of rows and rows of bunk beds stacked 3 beds high. When I walked in I was greeted by a few other white inmates and brought to the row reserved for “woods” only, or whites. I immediately laid down making sure to keep to myself from vomiting because I was starting to feel sick. During withdrawal you experience flew like symptoms that can consist of a fever, vomiting, upset stomach, and fatigue just to name a few. In jail there were only three toilets I could use, all of which were completely out in the open with no privacy what so ever. When you sat on the toilet you were staring directly into the shower, which also did not have any sort of walls or privacy so you can imagine the view I had. This added even more to the already awkward situation of having loud explosive diarrhea in a room full of 100 inmates you just met. I also had a hard time holding down any food and would sometimes throw up. However I’m not sure if this was from withdrawal or simply the quality of the food.
One other symptom you experience is restless legs, where your legs feel as if you just ran a marathon and it makes you feel like clenching your entire body. This feeling combined with insomnia made the time in jail pass really slowly because I did not sleep even one minute for the remaining five days I spent in jail. It wasn’t until I made bail and checked into rehab that I actually slept and that was only because I was put on 100mg of Trazadone.
Overall both of my experiences with detox were extremely hard but jail was far worse. Obviously the physical aspect of it was bad, but also dealing with the mental obsession that comes along with addiction was extremely hard. I would recommend trying to get sober before you end up in jail because in our addiction there are only three places we will end up; jails, institutions, or death, and after the picture I just painted for you I think it’s safe to say you will want to avoid detoxing in jail.
Filed under: Alcohol and Drugs, Featured, Recovery, Treatment · Tags: Addiction, detox, Detoxing in Jail, Heroin, institutions, opiate detox, oxycontin, physical detox, prescription pills, rehabs, xanax