Because heroin is a short-acting opioid, withdrawal symptoms will come on quickly after the last use. Understanding heroin withdrawal symptoms and detox is crucial to beginning recovery.

Heroin is an illegal opioid that functions similarly to prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl. Examples of opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

For people in need of heroin addiction treatment in Florida, Orlando Recovery Center offers a full continuum of care.

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Our full range of treatment options and personalized treatment plans ensure every client gets expert care that meets their needs.

What Effect Does Heroin Have?

Heroin and other opioids activate opioid receptor sites in the central nervous system and our brains. Heroin may cause a euphoric sensation or other pleasurable short-term feelings.

As the euphoria wears off, drowsiness sets in. This is part of the reason why heroin can relieve pain and provide short-term relaxation. The euphoria and its short-term gratification can easily lead to addiction and dependence.

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.

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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:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Cramping
  • Muscle aches

Other withdrawal symptoms that can start later include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Depression
  • Goosebumps
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cravings

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.

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. There are also medicines that may not be created specifically for opioid withdrawal treatment, but they can be used to treat symptoms as they arise. 

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 used heroin less frequently or in smaller doses. 
  • Dosage: The heroin detox timeline can be longer for someone who 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:

  1. The first heroin withdrawal signs usually start within 8–24 hours after the last dose. 
  2. For most people, the heroin withdrawal timeline ends anywhere from 5–10 days after the last use. 
  3. 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.

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. 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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Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Dhaliwal, Armaan, et al. “Physiology, Opioid Receptor.” StatPearls, July 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.

Kowalczyk, William, et al. “Clonidine Maintenance Prolongs Opioid[…]ntary Assessment.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, March 2015. Accessed November 29, 2021.

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.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.