Heroin Withdrawal & Detox: Timeline, Symptoms & Treatment
Last Updated: December 15, 2023
Heroin is an illicit opioid that caused almost 5,000 deaths between May 2022 and April 2023 alone. Many people want to quit heroin but feel overwhelmed at the prospect of withdrawal symptoms and the detox process. However, with medical assistance, withdrawal and detox are manageable, and going through them with help can set you up for a heroin-free life.
For people in need of heroin addiction treatment in Florida, Orlando Recovery Center Drug and Alcohol Rehab offers a full continuum of care.
Our full range of treatment options and personalized treatment plans ensure every client gets expert care that meets their needs.
What Causes Heroin Withdrawal?
The brain, central nervous system and body become dependent on heroin and its effects with repeated exposure. Heroin dependence happens when the body is accustomed to the presence of the drug and requires it to function. When someone tries to stop using heroin after they’ve become dependent on it, the body will react negatively.
As the body tries to return to normal after being dependent on heroin, withdrawal symptoms can occur. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. For most people, a medical detox program is the best way to treat these symptoms and reduce possible complications.
How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?
Heroin is a short-acting opioid, so withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as eight hours after the last usage and can continue for up to 10 days.
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
Just as the severity and intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary for each person, so can the withdrawal timeline. The timeline can depend on the following factors:
- Frequency of use: The heroin withdrawal timeline can be shorter for someone who has used heroin less frequently or in smaller doses.
- Dosage: The heroin detox timeline can be longer for someone who has used heroin in high doses or for a long time.
Because heroin is a short-acting opioid, its effects are felt quickly, and it also leaves the person’s body quickly. This means that heroin withdrawal can occur soon after the most recent use of the drug.
The withdrawal timeline often resembles the following:
- The first heroin withdrawal signs usually start within 8–24 hours after the last dose.
- For most people, the heroin withdrawal timeline ends anywhere from 5–10 days after the last use.
- Some people, particularly those who used heroin for a long time or in large doses, may have symptoms that persist for longer than ten days.
What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity depending upon a person’s extent of use. This can include how long they’ve used heroin, whether they’ve previously detoxed from other opioids and the amount of heroin they were regularly using.
The fear or anxiety people have about heroin withdrawal can be one of the primary reasons they do not seek medical treatment. Going through heroin withdrawal can be extremely difficult, and the discomfort can be intense.
Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
Other withdrawal symptoms that can start later include:
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle spasms
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
As with other drugs, heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to be the opposite of the drug’s effects. For example, heroin can cause drowsiness, and one of the primary heroin detox symptoms is insomnia. Using heroin can also cause relaxation, while a withdrawal symptom of the drug is anxiety.
Managing Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can result in complications. For example, dehydration is one potential complication when someone experiences vomiting and diarrhea.
Psychological symptoms can also present additional risks. For example, someone going through heroin withdrawal may experience severe depression, increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
When someone abstains from heroin and then relapses, they’re more likely to overdose because they often return to their most recent dosage. This is likely to be the highest dose, and their body is no longer prepared for the extreme effects.
A medical detox facility provides opioid withdrawal in a safe, comfortable environment. Some medicines are approved for use during opioid withdrawal that can relieve symptoms and cravings. Some medicines may not be created specifically for opioid withdrawal treatment, but they can treat symptoms as they arise.
Can I Quit Heroin Cold Turkey?
Trying to quit heroin cold turkey is not recommended. Because of the drug’s potency, heroin withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelmingly uncomfortable. This often leads people to give up on the detox process, leading them not only to relapse but also to overdose as their bodies quickly become unused to the amounts of heroin they used to take.
Can I Detox from Heroin at Home?
Yes, but it can be dangerous and is not recommended. Treatment can lessen uncomfortable side effects and make the withdrawal process safer. It’s always advised to consult a professional before beginning any detox regimen.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an expert-recommended strategy for overcoming heroin withdrawal. In MAT, you can be prescribed medications like methadone and buprenorphine to ease the withdrawal process. These medications not only reduce cravings but reduce the likelihood of relapse. When you begin detox, your doctor will decide whether MAT is the right choice for you as you overcome heroin.
Choosing Where to Detox in Orlando
You don’t need to go through heroin detox alone or without medical assistance. There are several opioid detox options available in the Central Florida and Orlando area that provide safe and comfortable treatment options.
We’re here to help. Contact us to learn more about medically-supervised detox programs at Orlando Recovery Center Drug and Alcohol Rehab. We also offer inpatient and outpatient programs, so you can quickly transition to long-term treatment after you’ve completed detox.
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Our Recovery Advocates are here to answer any questions, verify your insurance benefits, and find the best treatment path that fits your needs.
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U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, June 2020. Accessed November 29, 2021.
World Health Organization (WHO). “Withdrawal Management.” 2009. Accessed November 29, 2021.