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What Does It Mean to Be Dope Sick?

Bill found John curled up on the couch; he looked miserable. Bill asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m sick, man. You got any?” was John’s weak response.

As Bill suspected, John was in withdrawal. An active heroin user, John was low on cash and hadn’t been able to get his fix tonight. Six months sober himself, Bill knew all too well what John was going through. He also knew it was necessary in order to get clean.

“Yes, you’re sick—dope sick,” Bill started, “and I’m here to help you get better, but not that way.” It would be a long few days, but Bill was committed to helping his friend through this. “Let me tell you about a place we can go…”

The Dope Sick Timeline

If Bill can convince John to go to the rehab facility and face his dope addiction, he’ll receive professional treatment to help him through the detox process. This is the best option, since dope sickness can cause serious dangerous effects on the body and mind.

You may be wondering what the meaning of dope sickness is. Over time, John’s repeated use of heroin has affected his body, causing it to become dependent on the drug. Now, in its absence, his body is experiencing heroin withdrawal. This is commonly referred to as “dope sickness.” The user experiences many of the same symptoms of a flu or other illness, hence the name. However, the only cure for this sickness is time and sobriety.

Dope sickness typically hits after someone goes without their drug of choice for 6 to 12 hours. You may be wondering, ‘how long does dope sickness last?’ The symptoms of dope sickness usually peak within 3 to 4 days. This period of purging the body of drugs is called detox.

Once a user has detoxed, they’re over the worst of the immediate physical withdrawal symptoms and can begin dealing with the other mental, emotional and physical side effects of addiction.

What Are the Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal?

You may be wondering, ‘what does dope sickness feel like?’ Symptoms of being dope sick—and their intensity—can vary by person, drug of choice and the amount of drugs used on a regular basis. However, common signs of dope sickness include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Loss of appetite/huge return of appetite
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Muscle aches and spasms
  • Sensation of bugs crawling on or under skin
  • Hyper-awareness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

These physical effects of dope sickness are often accompanied by mental and emotional withdrawal symptoms. Those who are dope sick may also experience:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Despondency

What’s the Cure for Dope Sickness Symptoms?

Due to the seriousness of some of the symptoms of dope sickness, it’s best to deal with dope sickness in a medically supervised setting. It’s also helpful for friends and family to help by providing a solid support system during this time.

The unpleasant symptoms of being dope sick typically drive users to continue abusing drugs; going back to using can feel like the only “cure” for dope sickness. More drugs might temporarily relieve withdrawal symptoms, but the drugs will inevitably run out again and the sickness will return. In truth, this cycle of sickness will never end if the user doesn’t go through the detox process and achieve sobriety on the other side. Outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation treatment that meets your specific needs will help you to stay sober long-term and prevent relapse.

For help with alcohol or drug addiction, you can contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . You can also use the form below to check your insurance coverage and determine whether your health insurance will cover addiction treatment.

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