How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?
Heroin addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that can severely impact your ability to function. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 0.3% (or about 902,000 people) aged 12 and older reported using heroin in the past 12 months.
Heroin is one of the most difficult drugs to quit because stopping heroin use after a period of dependency results in painful symptoms of withdrawal. Heroin withdrawal symptoms are often the main obstacle that prevents people from getting sober in the first place. Heroin withdrawal can last up to 10 days, but the exact timeline varies from one person to the next.
While heroin withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful, drug and alcohol detox centers can provide you with medications and treatments to make the process more comfortable.
What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
The severity of withdrawal depends on how heavily you were abusing heroin. For example, if you were abusing this substance for a couple of months, you may have more mild symptoms compared to someone who was addicted to heroin for years.
Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery eyes
- Sweats and chills
- Frequent yawning
- Runny nose
- Muscle and body aches
- Agitation and restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heroin cravings
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle spasms
- Respiration issues
- Having a hard time feeling pleasure
While the symptoms of heroin withdrawal usually aren’t life-threatening, some of them can lead to dangerous conditions. For example, if symptoms of hypertension are left untreated during heroin withdrawal you could suffer from a heart attack or stroke, and psychological symptoms like depression could lead to suicidal ideation.
Because leaving heroin withdrawal symptoms untreated could result in relapse or life-threatening emergencies, you or your loved one must receive help from a medical detox facility.
The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
The exact timeline of heroin withdrawal varies from person to person, depending on a variety of factors like age, weight, metabolism, and overall health. However, most people follow a general withdrawal timeline.
6 to 24 Hours After the Last Dose
Heroin is a short-acting opioid so it affects you quickly and leaves your body just as fast. As a result, withdrawal symptoms can arise as little as 6 hours after your last dosage. If you were not heavily abusing heroin, it could take up to 24 hours for you to notice any withdrawal symptoms.
During the early stages of heroin withdrawal, your symptoms will be mild and only cause slight discomfort. However, most medical detox centers will prescribe FDA-approved medications like Suboxone early on to keep you comfortable throughout the entire process.
2 to 3 Days After the Last Dose
Around 2 to 3 days after your last dose, your symptoms will peak, meaning they will be at their most severe. Medical treatment is extremely important at this stage of withdrawal to prevent relapse and other complications. Symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, body aches, and severe cravings for heroin.
Individuals are most at risk of relapsing during this stage of heroin withdrawal if they try to detox alone. But, by attending a detox program, you will be given medications that soothe your symptoms and prevent your cravings. Additionally, nurses will monitor your vital signs routinely to ensure that you remain medically stable.
5 to 10 Days After the Last Dose
Heroin withdrawal symptoms will begin subsiding 5-10 days after your last dose. It is possible to experience some symptoms past 10 days, however, they are usually mild and easy to manage. Some people develop a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which causes them to experience withdrawal symptoms past the normal timeline.
How is Heroin Withdrawal Treated?
Heroin withdrawal is usually treated using medication-assisted treatment (MAT) techniques.
Rather than allowing a patient to quit cold turkey, medical staff will prescribe FDA-approved medications that alleviate withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. The most common medications used during heroin detox are methadone and buprenorphine. These medications are opioid agonists, which means they bind to opioid receptors in the brain in a similar manner as other opioids, providing relief from symptoms without causing a high.
During heroin detox, you will be slowly tapered off of these medications until your symptoms are no longer present. Once you begin feeling better, you will participate in group counseling and individual therapy to prepare you for further treatment. After you finish detoxing, you will move on to inpatient or outpatient treatment based on your personal needs.
Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction Today
If you or a loved one suffers from heroin addiction, recovery is possible. With a combination of medication-assisted treatment, psychological support, evidence-based therapies, and 24/7 monitoring, you can overcome heroin withdrawal and begin working on building a strong foundation of recovery.
To learn more about our comprehensive men’s heroin rehab programs, contact Next Step Recovery in North Carolina today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of heroin use in the United States?, Retrieved Feb 2023 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
- National Library of Medicine (NCBI): Opioid Withdrawal, Retrieved Feb 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
- National Library of Medicine (NCBI): Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: detoxification and maintenance options, Retrieved Feb 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202507/
- National Library of Medicine (NCBI): New directions in the treatment of opioid withdrawal, Retrieved Feb 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7385662/