Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms and Treatment

The fear of heroin withdrawal keeps thousands of people from recovering from heroin addiction. Given how distressing and painful the symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be, this is entirely understandable.

Still, it shouldn’t stop you from quitting heroin and reclaiming your life from heroin addiction. With the proper guidance, you can overcome opioid dependence quickly, safely, effectively, and pain-free.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine. Like most opioids, it carries a very high potential for abuse and addiction.

However, while many opioids—such as oxycodone, codeine, and hydrocodone—are approved for medical use and can be obtained by prescription, heroin is not accepted for medical use and cannot be obtained legally. Unlike other opioids, it is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Also known by street names such as Dope, Black Tar, and Brown, heroin is often abused by smoking, snorting, or injecting. The latter method of consumption is particularly dangerous, as it exposes users to the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

heroin withdrawal and detox

As a fast-acting opioid, heroin rapidly binds to opioid receptors once consumed, relieving pain and releasing a surge of dopamine. This brings the user an intense euphoria and relaxation, increasing the drug’s addictive potential. Some people also mix heroin with other substances—marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, etc.—to enhance its effects.

Heroin use is closely associated with prescription opioid abuse. Unfortunately, many people resort to illicit opioids when they can no longer obtain opioid medication legally after developing an addiction. A 2013 study found that a staggering 79.5% of heroin users had previously used prescription opioids for non-medical purposes.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are a sign of physical dependence on the drug. They occur when people dependent on heroin or addicted to it attempt to quit or reduce their usual dose.

One of the long-term effects of heroin use is tolerance. People who use heroin build up tolerance to the drug and require larger doses to achieve the same effects as before, as heroin use stimulates the production of opioid receptors. If they stop taking the drug or take a smaller amount than usual, they begin to experience heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are often more intense than those of prescription opioids. These symptoms may be especially intense—and even dangerous—if you stop taking the drug abruptly, which is why you shouldn’t quit heroin “cold turkey.”

While heroin withdrawal looks different for everyone, it typically manifests as a combination of physical and psychological symptoms. 

The most common physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Pupil dilation
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Meanwhile, the most common psychological heroin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dysphoria
  • Heroin cravings
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

The heroin withdrawal timeline varies from one person to another, depending on different individual factors. Some of these include the extent of heroin use (e.g., how long and at what doses you’ve been using heroin), age, and liver health.

With that in mind, let’s see what the timeline of heroin withdrawal symptoms looks like for most people:

Day 1

Most people will experience the first heroin withdrawal symptoms within 6–12 hours after their last dose.

Some common early heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Runny nose, watery eyes, and other flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems

Days 2–3

Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically peak in severity within 48–72 hours after taking the last dose. At this point, you may also experience nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as abdominal cramps, profuse sweating, and shivers.

Days 4–7

Acute heroin withdrawal symptoms begin to diminish after reaching their peak and typically dissipate within 5–7 days after the last heroin dose.

Days 7+

Most people don’t feel any physical heroin withdrawal symptoms by the end of the first week

However, psychological withdrawal symptoms—cravings, depression, etc.—may linger. It’s not uncommon for these to intensify during this time, so you may still be at risk of relapse.

Heroin Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Heroin post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition that leaves patients with heroin withdrawal symptoms for additional weeks, months, or even years. 

While heroin withdrawal lasts around a week for most people, the heroin withdrawal timeline may be much longer for others. Although PAWS symptoms can be physical, psychological symptoms are far more common. 

Most commonly, people with PAWS experience the following protracted heroin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Attention deficit
  • Insomnia
  • Indifference
  • Lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Other mental health disorders, such as eating disorders or bipolar disorder

Although PAWS can last a long time, it is possible to recover from it. It is always best to seek help from medical professionals when dealing with any symptoms of heroin withdrawal, including PAWS. 

If left untreated, this condition may put you at a heightened risk of relapse, which could lead to an opioid overdose and even death.

How to Manage Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

The most effective way to manage heroin withdrawal symptoms is to seek medical assistance. Heroin withdrawal can be potentially life-threatening, especially for those with underlying health problems. For this reason, you shouldn’t attempt to go through it on your own.

Even though certain home remedies may alleviate some of your heroin withdrawal symptoms, it is very dangerous to stop using heroin without medical supervision. Heroin often causes particularly severe withdrawal symptoms, which is why this drug has a very high relapse rate.

Abstaining from drugs lowers your tolerance to them, making relapse dangerous. Due to decreased tolerance, your usual dose may be strong enough to cause a heroin overdose, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. In 2022 alone, more than 5,500 Americans died of heroin overdose.

Moreover, withdrawal from heroin may exacerbate any mental health problems you may have, as well as cause feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Since this can potentially lead to suicidal ideation, it’s crucial to seek medical help as soon as you decide to get sober.

In short, receiving professional heroin withdrawal treatment can help you manage withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of lifelong recovery from heroin addiction.

Risks and Dangers of Taking Heroin

heroin withdrawal and detox

Taking heroin exposes users to numerous risks, including heroin addiction and overdose. A heroin overdose is a potentially lethal emergency that requires immediate medical attention. 

Call 911 immediately if you or someone you love is displaying the following signs of a heroin overdose:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Convulsions
  • Discolored skin, lips, and nails
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Vomiting

Moreover, regular heroin use increases the risk of:

  • Bloodborne diseases (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, etc.)
  • Chronic constipation
  • Collapsed veins
  • Fertility issues
  • Impotence
  • Lung, liver, brain, and kidney damage due to clogged blood vessels
  • Skin abscess

Heroin can also cause various side effects, including but not limited to:

  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Numb limbs
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sleepiness

Since heroin is a depressant, you should never mix it with alcohol and other substances that suppress the nervous system. This increases the risk of overdose, respiratory depression, coma, permanent organ damage, and death.

How to Detox From Heroin

You should always detox from heroin in a medical setting

Heroin detox refers to the process of eliminating the drug from the system, which is often the first step in overcoming heroin addiction. Depending on the type of heroin detox treatment you choose, you can undergo this process in an outpatient or an inpatient setting.

However, heroin detox removes the drug from your body without addressing the underlying causes of heroin addiction. Since it fails to cure addiction, many people relapse after detoxing from heroin.

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is the only opioid addiction treatment that targets the root cause of addiction by reversing the chemical changes that occur in the brain due to opioid use. In doing so, it negates the risk of relapse and helps you make a full recovery from heroin addiction.

Rapid Detox for Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin rapid detox is an anesthesia-assisted medical treatment that can clear heroin from your body within a few days with the help of naloxone or another opioid antagonist. However, this treatment isn’t risk-free.

Many rapid detox centers promise that you’ll overcome heroin dependency in just 24 hours, but in reality, this medical treatment doesn’t guarantee long-term recovery. Since this treatment method only treats the symptoms of addiction and not its root cause, patients who undergo heroin rapid detox are more likely to relapse in the future. Needless to say, this increases the risk of overdose and death.

ANR Opioid Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Conquering heroin dependency can seem like an impossible task, but there’s always hope. No matter how strong of a hold it has on you, the ANR Clinic can help you regain control of your life!

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an innovative opioid dependency treatment designed to help people return to their daily lives opioid-free in a matter of days. 

Unlike rapid detox and other traditional opioid dependency treatments, ANR returns your brain to a pre-addiction state by modifying its endorphin-receptor system. Since it addresses the biological cause of addiction, the ANR treatment helps patients overcome heroin dependency, eliminating cravings and withdrawals.

Our top priority is your health and safety, which is why the ANR treatment is always performed in an ICU setting by expert medical professionals. On top of that, we tailor every treatment to each patient, which makes ANR 100% safe, even for those with complex medical conditions. 

Contact us for a free consultation today. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and guide you through your recovery journey!

Heroin Rapid Detox vs. ANR Treatment

Here are main differences between heroin rapid detox and the ANR treatment:

Heroin Rapid Detox vs. ANR Treatment

Key Takeaways

If you or someone you love is battling heroin addiction, seek medical help before attempting to detox from heroin at home. This way, you can increase the chances of successfully withdrawing from heroin and making a long-term recovery.

Let’s summarize the key points we covered:

  • Heroin is an illegal opioid derived from morphine.
  • Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be physical (muscle aches, sweating, diarrhea, etc.) and psychological (anxiety, cravings, and depression, among others).
  • Although the heroin withdrawal timeline varies based on individual factors, acute symptoms tend to fade away within a week.

Heroin Withdrawal & Detox FAQ

Heroin and morphine are not the same drug, although their effects are very similar. As a semi-synthetic opioid, heroin is a derivative of morphine, which is a natural opioid derived from the opium poppy. Unlike morphine, it is illegal and not approved for medical use. Heroin is also more potent than morphine.

Heroin can get you addicted to other opioids, though it is more common for people to start taking heroin after abusing prescription opioids. However, since heroin is an illegal drug, you may unknowingly buy it laced with other, even stronger opioids (e.g., fentanyl) and get addicted to them.

Heroin withdrawal can begin in as little as six hours after your last dose. At first, heroin withdrawal may resemble the flu (runny nose, watery eyes, chills, etc.). However, long-term heroin users may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms even on the first day of stopping heroin use.

Heroin withdrawal lasts around a week for most people. However, psychological withdrawal symptoms tend to linger longer. Some people may struggle with heroin withdrawal symptoms for several weeks, months, and sometimes even years after quitting heroin, which is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

How many days it takes to detox from heroin depends on individual factors such as the extent of your heroin use, your overall health condition, and the heroin detox treatment of your choice. Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) can help you overcome heroin addiction without experiencing any withdrawal symptoms in just a few days.

Some common signs of opioid use disorder (OUD) include becoming withdrawn from family, friends, and social activities, spending a great deal of time obtaining or using opioids, and feeling unable to stop or reduce opioid use.

Buprenorphine is commonly used to treat heroin use disorder in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Although it can be used to alleviate heroin withdrawal symptoms and reduce heroin use, it’s not unheard of for people to become addicted to opioid replacement drugs, including buprenorphine.

ANR stands for Accelerated Neuro-Regulation, an ultra-modern opioid addiction treatment that has helped more than 24,000 people across the globe recover from opioid dependence. It works by repairing the damage opioids cause to the endorphin-receptor system.

Reclaim your life with the revolutionary ANR treatment.

Dr. Andre Waismann

Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.

Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.

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