Heroin Withdrawal & Detox

Man injecting heroin into his forearm with a spoon and tablets laying on the table.

Heroin is an opioid, meaning the drug activates opioid receptor sites in the central nervous system and on the brain. When someone uses heroin, they may feel a euphoric sensation or have other pleasurable short-term feelings. The person then will often feel drowsy as the euphoria wears off. Heroin can also relieve pain and provide short-term relaxation.

The euphoria and pleasant effects of heroin can result in addiction. Addiction develops as someone’s reward response in the brain is activated. With heroin, this reward response can lead to an addiction. A heroin addiction is defined by compulsive use of the drug and the inability to stop using it, even in the face of negative or unpleasant side effects.

Along with addiction, dependence is another risk that can occur when someone uses heroin. The brain and the entire central nervous system and body become dependent on heroin and its effects with repeated exposure. Heroin dependence means that if someone tries to stop using it or reduce the dosage amount, their body will react negatively due to becoming accustomed to the drug’s presence. As the body tries to return to normal functionality following a heroin dependence, 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 the symptoms and reduce possible complications.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity depending upon a person’s extent of use. This can include how long they’ve used heroin for, whether they’ve previously detoxed from other opioids and the dosages of heroin they were regularly using. The fear or anxiety people have about experiencing 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. However, there are prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help someone who’s experiencing heroin detox symptoms. Some of the common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

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

Other symptoms that can start later in the heroin withdrawal timeline 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 symptoms of using the drug. 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.

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The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can result in complications. For example, dehydration is one potential complication of heroin withdrawal when someone experiences vomiting and diarrhea. Psychological symptoms can also be problematic. For example, someone may experience severe depression, which can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. When someone abstains from heroin and then relapses, they’re also more likely to overdose because they often return to using their most-recent dosage, which is likely to also be the highest, and their body is no longer prepared for the extreme effects.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline and the Heroin Detox Timeline

Just as the severity and intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary for each person, so can the withdrawal timeline. The heroin withdrawal timeline can be shorter for someone who used heroin less frequently or in smaller doses. The heroin detox timeline can be longer for someone who used heroin in high doses or for a long time.

Heroin is a short-acting opioid. When someone uses the substance, 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 first heroin withdrawal signs usually start within six to 12 hours after the last dose. The peak symptoms of heroin withdrawal, which are usually the most intense, will usually occur within two to three days. For most people, the heroin withdrawal timeline ends anywhere from five to 10 days after the last use. Some people, particularly individuals who used heroin for a long time or in large doses, may have symptoms that persist for longer than 10 days.

Heroin Detox in Orlando

If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin, participation in medical detox is recommended. Doing so reduces the risk of any complications and increases comfort. There are medications that can reduce symptoms, which increases the likelihood of a patient successfully completing detox and beginning a heroin addiction treatment program.

Unlike many substances, there are medications specifically approved for heroin withdrawal. For example, Suboxone is a brand-name medication that contains buprenorphine, which mitigates opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduced cravings while someone is in detox. Methadone and naltrexone are two medicines that are also approved for opioid withdrawal and detox. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved another medicine, lofexidine, which is specifically designed to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and doesn’t have habit-forming potential. Lofexidine is marketed under the brand name Lucemyra.

During a medical heroin detox in Orlando, or elsewhere, over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements and hydration therapy may be provided, depending on the needs of the patient. During a professional detox program, patients’ vitals, such as heart rate and blood pressure, are monitored. Psychological symptoms, whether pre-existing or stemming from heroin withdrawal, can be treated during a medical detox.

You shouldn’t have to go through heroin detox alone or without any medical assistance. There are medications and other treatment protocols that can help you successfully detox from heroin. Detoxing is a necessary first step that you need to complete to get on the path to a drug-free life. If you would like to learn more about heroin detox and withdrawal, as well as heroin detox in Orlando, contact Orlando Recovery Center.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center 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.