Heroin Withdrawal - Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment
The rise of heroin in the United States
Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from the opium poppy. Historically, opium was reduced to morphine and used for its medicinal properties. However, right before the turn of the 20th century, heroin was found to be more powerful and effective than morphine for pain relief. Although initially hailed as a ‘wonder drug’, it quickly became apparent that physical dependence on heroin was a concerning (and common) side effect.
While the US government sought to crack down on street heroin, patients receiving heroin in a clinical setting discovered an immediate increase in its effects when taken intravenously. Soon after, heroin substance abuse skyrocketed.
The majority of heroin on the market in the United States is imported from overseas and is often impure. Dealers cut heroin with dangerous substances such as fentanyl, which can be 50-100 times more potent than morphine. In recent times, the increase in heroin overdoses has been significantly driven by the presence of fentanyl.
What is heroin withdrawal?
Users may begin to experience tolerance to heroin as a result of extended use. When this tolerance occurs, many will turn to higher doses to achieve the desired feelings of pleasure. Before long, as the user continues to abuse the drug, dependence can set in, whereby the user feels they cannot stop taking the drug. If the user does decide to quit the drug by tapering off or stopping cold turkey, they will experience a host of negative side effects known as withdrawal. Withdrawal is often what exacerbates dependency, as the user feels that discontinuation of the drug may be too painful or uncomfortable to bear.
a user becomes dependent and wants to quit but feels they can’t, the best course of action is to seek clinical care and medical supervision. This way, the person experiencing withdrawal can undergo withdrawal management and treatment of drug dependence in controlled settings, surrounded by resources that will reduce the risk of and provide the best chance of success.
- Over the past decade, heroin use has almost doubled in Americans aged 18-25, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Street names for heroin include smack, dope, black tar, snow, and China white.
- The majority of heroin is produced in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where the opium poppy grows naturally.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal
Heroin is a central nervous system (CNS) suppressant. This means that it can slow bodily functions such as respiration, heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. The drug’s primary function is to bind to opioid receptors in the brain, causing a spike in the production of chemicals responsible for euphoria and pleasure. When withdrawal occurs, the opposite effect takes place. Rather than experiencing euphoric feelings, slow heart rate, and numbness, the user may instead experience irritability, anxiety, depression, and rapid heart rate. While uncommon, there is still a risk of death when undergoing the withdrawal process, so it is always advised to seek medical attention or a heroin detox program when dealing with the consequences of opioid abuse.
Other common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, fever, sweats, chills, and headache.
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
- Abdominal cramping.
- Dilated pupils.
- Muscle pain, aches, and cramps.
- Muscle spasms.
- Bone pain.
- Insomnia or changes in sleeping patterns.
- Shaking, shivering, and tremors.
- Lethargy and fatigue.
- Respiratory depression and difficulty breathing.
- Exacerbation of pre-existing mental and behavioral health disorders such as bipolar disorder.
- Opioid drug cravings.
Heroin withdrawal & opioid dependence – recovery timeline
Withdrawal from heroin and the recovery process will ordinarily last just under two weeks. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will differ from person to person. The symptoms a person experiences are largely influenced by personal factors such as their height, body weight, pre-existing health level, and mental health. External factors that can influence heroin withdrawal symptoms include the nature of the person’s drug abuse, how long the abuse endured (or if it is still happening), and the form of treatment they use (if any). The ANR rehab method is the fastest addiction and opioid drug withdrawal treatment, with most patients recovering in just a few days.
Other factors that can influence the heroin withdrawal timeline include:
- The method used to take the drug (pill/tablet, intravenous injection, snorting, etc).
- If the substance abuse was part of a co-occurring disorder with other prescriptions painkillers, drugs, and alcohol.
- The dose of the drug the user has been taking.
Patients will begin to experience symptoms of opiate withdrawal between 6 and 24 hours of their last dose of heroin. Effects range from psychological symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia to more physical symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, muscle aches/spasms, and flu-like symptoms.
Days 1-3 (acute heroin withdrawal)
At this point, the patient will likely begin to experience acute withdrawal, where severe withdrawal symptoms their peak. Symptoms include intense nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, mood swings, and depression.
Days 3-12After just a few days, patients may experience physical withdrawal symptoms diminishing. Despite this, they are often left with the emotional aftermath of the actions they undertook while high, or during acute withdrawal. Because of this, psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression can end up becoming more intense, furthering the risk of relapse. It is vital that the patient receives the emotional support they need during this time—not only from medical professionals but also from family and friends.
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) & long-term recovery
Despite many experiencing from common withdrawal symptoms in less than two weeks, the heroin withdrawal timeline may be much longer for others. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition that leaves patients with opiate withdrawal symptoms for additional weeks, months, or even years. PAWS symptoms can be physical, however, psychological symptoms are far more common. Symptoms to be expected are anxiety, depression, mood swings, attention deficit, insomnia, indifference, lethargy, mood swings, and other mental health disorders such as eating disorders or bipolar disorder.
While PAWS can last a long time for certain individuals, it can be overcome as the patient finds ways to deal with their symptoms. It is always best to seek help from medical professionals when dealing with any symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including PAWS.
Heroin withdrawal treatment at a medical detox centerANR treatment is currently the only medical treatment that can bring the endorphin-receptor imbalance back to regular levels. While many detoxification treatments attempt to counteract the symptoms of opioid withdrawal (such as medication-assisted treatment like buprenorphine therapy), ANR treatment attacks the problem at its core by targeting the physiologic mechanism behind dependency and substance use disorder. Consequently, ANR detoxification allows patients a full recovery from opioid withdrawal symptoms and addiction in a amount of time, so that they can return to their daily lives without fear of further symptoms or risk of relapse.
ANR Clinic has health care facilities to provide the medical detox process in:
- DeSoto Memorial Hospital, Arcadia, Florida
- ANR Europe Thun, Switzerland
- New Vision University Hospital, Tbilisi, Georgia
Heroin Withdrawal FAQ
Medication-assisted treatment using other opioids such as methadone, buprenorphine, or Subutex is a popular method that physicians use to reduce the risk of symptoms of addiction and withdrawal from stronger opioids such as heroina much higher risk of overdose). However, although not a major risk,can have the opposite effect, causing the patient to develop a dependence on the new drug. If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid use disorder and may require medically assisted treatment, it is always best to explore your options.
The withdrawal process will last up to 12 days for most people. Some outliers may continue to experience symptoms for weeks, months, or even years. The road to recovery often depends on a host of individual factors as well as the nature of the patient’s drug use. The method of treatment that the patient uses is also influenced by the time it takes to detox from opioids. The recovery period lasts only a few days at an ANR treatment center.
At the ANR Clinic, we offer an opioid drug dependence and addiction disorder treatment program. is an extremely effective treatment that treats addiction by restoring the endorphin-receptor balance to regular levels. It is a much faster addiction treatment than other programs such as cognitive behavioral therapy, intensive outpatient rehab, and even medically assisted treatments such as methadone maintenance treatment.
Many signs help identify opioid use disorder and addiction to heroin. See here to learn more about the signs of heroin addiction.