Heroin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment

heroin withdrawal timeline

Heroin is a powerful, illicit opiate drug that has been a major contributor to the United States opioid crisis. In 2020, about 691,000 people had a heroin use disorder and more than 13,165 people died as a result of a drug overdose involving heroin.[1]

Despite how deadly heroin abuse can be, those who are addicted to heroin have an extremely difficult time getting sober. Part of the reason why is because painful, intense withdrawal symptoms occur when you stop taking heroin after becoming addicted. The heroin withdrawal timeline can be mentally and physically taxing, but the symptoms are usually not life-threatening. The main risk associated with detoxing from heroin is the potential for relapse.

Heroin

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin is an extremely addictive drug, and you can become addicted to it after just a few uses. The more heroin you use and the longer you use it, the more severe and long-lasting your withdrawal symptoms will be.

The symptoms of withdrawal can vary from one person to the next depending on the severity of your addiction, what other drugs you are using, and your personal health. Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:[2]

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning a lot
  • Sweating
  • Goosebumps or chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Drug cravings
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors

Heroin withdrawal is often described as a severe case of the flu, but it is not life-threatening. In severe cases, complications can occur that require medical care, so it’s always best to detox under medical supervision.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

There are many factors that influence the heroin withdrawal timeline, such as:

  • How often you use heroin
  • How long you’ve been using heroin
  • How frequently you use heroin
  • The last dose you took
  • Age, weight, and gender
  • Liver health
  • Metabolism
  • Polysubstance use
  • Method of administration (intravenous, insufflation, inhalation, etc.)

Many people begin having symptoms of withdrawal just 4-6 hours after their last dose. Symptoms may peak between days 2 and 3, and they usually subside after about one week. Some lingering symptoms may persist for several months and are referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Acute withdrawal should be managed at a detox facility, but PAWS can be managed by simple lifestyle changes and comprehensive substance abuse treatment.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

While heroin detox may look different from one person to the next, you may notice that your symptoms follow a general timeline.

  • 4 – 12 hours after the last dose – Symptoms such as yawning, watery eyes, runny nose, and sweating may set in 4-6 hours after your last dose. These symptoms may continue to worsen over the next 12 hours and be accompanied by anxiety, restlessness, muscle aches, body aches, and insomnia.
  • 2 – 3 days after the last dose – Symptoms typically peak 2-3 days after your last dose of heroin. You may experience sweating, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and tremors.
  • 4 – 10 days after the last dose – After 4-5 days, symptoms should begin to subside. On days 6-10, you may still experience some discomfort.
  • 10+ days – Symptoms that persist after 10 days may include depression, anxiety, insomnia, and drug cravings. These symptoms may be classified as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and can be managed outside of a detox facility.

Most people spend about 3-5 days detoxing from heroin in a medical facility before transitioning to a treatment program.

Medical Detox and Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal

If you or a loved one are addicted to heroin, the safest and easiest way to detox is at a medical substance abuse treatment facility. Heroin detox programs in New Jersey offer around-the-clock medical support and supervision to keep you safe and comfortable. 

The standard treatment for heroin withdrawal involves opioid replacement therapy (ORT). ORT is an approach that is similar to tapering a person off of a medication, however, instead of giving you heroin, you may be prescribed buprenorphine or methadone. Both of these medications are approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder, and during detox, they can alleviate your withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.[3]

Detoxification is only the first step toward sobriety. Heroin addiction is powerful, and without comprehensive treatment, you may fall back into old patterns and end up using again. That’s why a substance abuse counselor will meet with you before you leave detox to discuss your heroin rehab options and help you choose the right treatment program for you. Treatment will help you replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones and learn new coping skills that support sobriety.

Find a Heroin Detox and Rehab Center Today

Dying from heroin withdrawal is very rare, but that doesn’t mean you should try detoxing at home. Self-detox often results in continued drug use or relapse due to the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Instead, allow Moving Mountains Recovery to help you through the process and beyond.

Moving Mountains Recovery has close relationships with trusted heroin detox facilities in New Jersey and across the country. When medical detoxification is recommended, we can help you get admitted to the best facility for your needs. Following the completion of detox, we can also help make the transition to our outpatient treatment programs simple and easy.

Call now to get started.

References:

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7385662/
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