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Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms and Treatment

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Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug that is very difficult to stop using without medically supervised detox treatment. It is hard to kick a heroin habit due to the intensive, painful, and sometimes severe heroin withdrawal symptoms experienced.

Learn more about withdrawal from heroin and why medical supervision is needed to help prepare people for their recovery journey. 

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

When the effects of heroin wear off and leave the body, users start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. To better counteract these, they continue to use the drug, often increasing dosages to address issues with increased tolerance.

Unfortunately, as dosages increase, so too does the intensity and severity of withdrawal symptoms, which include:

  • Intense cravings for heroin
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Body and muscle aches and pains
  • Lack of energy
  • Cognitive problems

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

The heroin withdrawal timeline will vary based on the frequency and duration of heroin use and the dosage taken. Keeping this in mind, withdrawal usually proceeds through the following stages:

  • The first 12 hours: Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within 12 hours after one last used heroin. Initially, it feels like getting the flu or a cold.
  • Days 1 to 3: Withdrawal symptoms will continue to become more noticeable as they increase in frequency and duration. 
  • Days 4 to 7: The intensity of symptoms will usually peak during this period and can be quite unpleasant without medically supervised detox
  • Weeks 1 to 2: The physical withdrawal symptoms gradually subside over the next few weeks. However, psychological symptoms can linger, such as cravings, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
  • Beyond 2 weeks: Some people have protracted withdrawal symptoms that can last for months or longer, such as continued carvings, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and a lack of energy. 

How Long Does Withdrawal from Heroin Last?

Withdrawal from heroin usually lasts about a month as the body begins to heal and recover from addiction. Normally, most people no longer have any physical symptoms, and most psychological symptoms are gone.

When Withdrawal from Heroin Requires Medical Attention

Medical attention is required for anyone who wants to kick their heroin habit. Initially, the withdrawal symptoms may not seem too bad or intense. However, they can become extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant as they increase in intensity.

With medical supervision, various medications can be administered to help alleviate cravings and reduce the severity of withdrawal.

Medications for Heroin Withdrawal

There are several FDA-approved medications used to treat heroin addiction, manage withdrawal, and address cravings. The 3 most common ones are:

  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine

Other medications can also be prescribed to address specific withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, stomach cramps, and insomnia. 

How Are Withdrawal Symptoms Managed at a Detox Center?

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are managed at a detox center using medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is administering various medications to reduce symptoms and cravings. Various evidence-based and holistic therapeutic modalities are also used in individual and group sessions.

These therapies help individuals start to address the underlying causes of their addiction and start developing coping skills. They also help people learn meditation and mindfulness techniques to alleviate stress and anxiety when dealing with cravings and triggers. 

Symptoms During Heroin Detox

As previously mentioned, the extent of symptoms during heroin detox will vary from person to person. Generally, the longer heroin has been used, the more intense and severe the symptoms can become when detoxing. 

For example, the muscle pain and stomach cramps can become very painful. However, with supervised detox and MAT, they can be alleviated so they are less painful and intense. Additionally, psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, can be treated using anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. 

As symptoms eventually subside, the person is then carefully weaned off of any MAT medications that were used during detox. However, naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine can continue to be used for a longer period to help reduce cravings and relapse.  

The Dangers of Coming Off Heroin Alone Or at Home

Coming off heroin alone or at home is extremely dangerous. The withdrawal symptoms will be more severe, intense, and debilitating. The symptoms become too much to deal with alone and usually result in relapse. Next, without medical supervision during detox, relapsing is very easy to do when there is easy access to heroin.

There can also be medical complications, such as dehydration from vomiting and seizures. These can be potentially life-threatening. Furthermore, anxiety and depressive symptoms can be difficult to manage alone and can also lead to relapse. 

Another danger is the lack of support when going it alone or at home. Without support, it is easy to feel alone and isolated. This can lead to thoughts of self-harm, suicide, and relapse. Most importantly, there is a higher risk of overdose when relapsing. When stopping heroin, the body’s tolerance level reduces. As a result, starting heroin at the same level as before could cause overdose and accidental death. 

Start Medically Supervised Detox at Retreat of Broward Today

When you are ready to get help for your heroin addiction, help is available from Retreat of Broward in  Pompano Beach, Florida. Our detox center provides a safe, secure, and relaxing environment to detox from heroin safely. Our caring and compassionate team offers personalized care and treatment plans to help you successfully detox.

Contact us now to lay a solid foundation for a heroin-free future.


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