Heroin Withdrawal: Timeline, Symptoms, Detox & Treatment

Heroin is obtained from the opium poppy, which grows in Asia, South America, and Mexico. This is an illegal and a highly addictive drug. It can be white, brown or look like black tar. Some popular street names for heroin are dope, H, brown sugar, junk, smack, and horse. Once heroin enters your system, it reaches your brain, and you can easily get addicted. Even after using it just once or twice, you may find it difficult to resist yourself from using it again. Addicts become terrified of heroin withdrawal because of its severity which will be explained.

However, if you have gathered enough courage and decided to quit, then you will likely experience some heroin withdrawal symptoms, but remember, withdrawal may also happen after heavy use of this drug. Generally, withdrawal symptoms will start showing 6 to 12 hours after you have had the last dose, it will peak within 1 to 3 days, and after 5 to 7 days, it will start subsiding. Now, let us get to know about the most common withdrawal symptoms that an addict will likely experience.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Mood Changes

A person trying to withdraw is likely to feel depressed, irritable, or anxious. These feelings are very strong during the heroin withdrawal, but they gradually subside when the withdrawal stage is over. If, however, they do not pass, you should consult your doctor for the right treatment.

Pains and Aches

As you take heroin, it blocks the pain pathways of your body. So, when you withdraw, you will experience a rebound effect, and feel achy, particularly in your legs and back, and you will become more sensitive to pain. The slightest scratch can be excruciating.

Overproduction of Body Fluids

During the withdrawal stage, you may experience an excessive production of body fluids, like tears, runny nose, and sweat. You may also find your hairs standing on their ends. This is yet another heroin withdrawal symptom, and your body is trying to bring itself back into balance.

Diarrhea and Stomach Pain

During the withdrawal stage, you may experience diarrhea, or frequent, watery, and loose bowel movements. Together with this, you may also experience stomach pain, and this is caused by the spasms in your digestive system.

Restlessness and Sleep Problems

People going through withdrawal usually experience restlessness, and this is followed by sleep problems, insomnia, and anxiety. Most addicts claim that the lack of the ability to sleep is one of the worst symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Your eyes will be burning and you will be over exhausted but you still cannot fall asleep.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction can be bad for the user, his/her family, society in general, and thus it must be treated at the earliest possible time. The lower the dose and length of time the addict has been on heroin, the more bearable the withdrawal symptoms will be. Treatment basically involves detoxification and behavioral therapies.

One method to get off heroin is by using medications. There are three types of medications that are used for (ORT) Opiate Replacement Therapy. The first is Methadone, which is a narcotic and should be a last resort medication because it has a very long half-life and has many adverse side effects on the body. Second is Buprenorphine, which is also a narcotic and the active ingredient alongside Naltrexone in medications like Suboxone. Suboxone has a reputation to be safer than Methadone but it also has a long half-life. The safest choice out of the three medications is Naltrexone. Naltrexone is NOT a narcotic and can be administered by your doctor in a once a month injection. Naltrexone cannot be abused and one injection blocks the effects of opioids on the body for approximately 30 days. Talk with your medical doctor about the best option for your situation.

Rapid detox is yet another method for detoxifying addicts. In this case, the heroin users are given opioid antagonist, which helps detoxify the body in just three hours. Normal detoxification takes 3 to 4 days, but this method puts a tremendous strain on the body and intensifies the withdrawals. Due the extreme discomfort patients are sedated with anethesia for the whole process.

Apart from detoxification, behavioral therapy is also an important part of heroin addiction treatment. Behavioral and cognitive therapy and contingency management therapy, etc, are popularly used while helping people overcome heroin addiction.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, and one of the hardest to quit. Opiates in general have a propensity to be especially addictive to their users because of how they mimic the body’s natural feelings of happiness and calm.

Nevertheless, there are programs that are aimed at helping users safely manage heroin withdrawal. The question is: how long is that going take?

Basically, how long will it take to detox or completely withdraw from heroin? This will depend on a number of factors, unfortunately, such on the age of the person, how much the person used and the how long the person has been using the substance. For instance, older folks that did the drug for a longer period of time will also take longer to fully withdraw from its influence.

The length and duration of heroin withdrawal

The overall time of withdrawal will basically vary from one user to another, but on average, heroin withdrawal will take a maximum of about 7 days. The withdrawal side effects will start about 6 to 12 hours after your last use or dose. The persist stage of the detox will begin from a day to three after your last use of the drug. The withdrawal will become more effective after about 5 to 7 days. Here, the user will be less intense, but in a gradual process. The sensitive withdrawal will start with craving and anxiety, which will get to its highest point after 26 or 72 hours. These symptoms will reduce gradually in the next 5 days. There might be some PAWS, protracted withdrawal symptoms that may recur for some months after the acute heroin withdrawal.

The withdrawal timeline

The average timeline is expected to take about 7 days, though some conditions can take more.

Here is a breakdown of the normal timeline for heroin withdrawal:

• 1st to 2nd day:

The first and second days of withdrawal are the most challenging to get through. This is because the user will be facing conflicts from within. Also, there are severe symptoms at this point. It starts in between 12 hours, after the last dose. Some of the most common symptoms include muscle aches and pain around the body, insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety and also diarrhea. All this could be caused by the natural panic of the body.

• The 3rd to the 5th day

At this stage, the person is gradually withdrawing from the substance, but there are more discomforts that can be faced at this point. The patient is highly encouraged to eat well, for the sake of improving their immune system. The most common symptoms at this stage are vomiting, abdominal cramping as well as shivers.

• 6th day and beyond

If the person successfully reaches the sixth day of withdrawal, then they are almost getting to a complete of the opiates from their body. For some people, the 6th day will be the last, or will only need one day to completely finish the process. In others, it can take longer, especially if there are no positive signs of withdrawal from the heroin. Some of the common symptoms at this stage are the insomnia and loss of appetite, which can get worse. For other people, anxiety and nausea can occur.

It can take up to 3 or 6 months for the long-term users to completely withdraw from heroin, though in many cases, a week is always enough.