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Heroin Detox: Withdrawal, Timeline, & Treatment

woman helping her friend with a drug addiction

Heroin Detox & Withdrawal

Heroin addiction recovery is a series of events that begins with detoxing from heroin. When you detox from heroin, this purges your system of heroin and toxic metabolites. As this semi-synthetic opioid leaves your system, intensely uncomfortable heroin withdrawal symptoms will present.

There is a lot of misinformation and myths about heroin out there, but this guide highlights what to expect from a detox of heroin, heroin withdrawal duration, and how to begin drug detox and get the support you need to sustain your recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, it’s important that you reach out for help from an addiction therapist or recovery program. 

Detox From Heroin Safely

We understand the challenges of heroin withdrawal, and are dedicated to providing a safe and supportive detox for your recovery. Call today to break free from heroin addiction.
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What is Heroin Withdrawal?

A heroin detox program enables you to address the issue of physical dependence on heroin and to manage the symptoms of heroin withdrawal.

The chronic abuse of heroin impacts the reward center of the brain. Tolerance to heroin forms rapidly, diminishing the effects of the drug and prompting many people to increase the amount of heroin or the frequency of doses. Abusive patterns of consumption will hasten the development of dependence.

If you are physically dependent on an opioid such as heroin, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will set in when the effects of heroin wear off making drug rehab and detox a valuable resource.

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Withdrawal Process

The heroin withdrawal process occurs similarly to withdrawal from prescription opioids, although the presentation of symptoms is typically more intense. Learning how to withdraw from heroin comfortably safely will minimize discomfort during the detox phase and will reduce the chance of relapse in recovery.

In almost all cases a supervised clinical detox is the most efficient route to detoxing from an opioid like heroin and initiating your ongoing recovery by engaging with inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Many of those who attempt to abruptly quit using heroin at home (home detox) without medical liaison find that withdrawal symptoms are so aggravating that they use heroin to normalize, relapsing before the completion of detox.

The benefits of choosing to engage with heroin detox at an accredited medical detoxification center will:

  • Minimize complications during detox
  • Reduce the intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms
  • Act as a bridge into ongoing inpatient or outpatient heroin addiction treatment

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Most people undergoing heroin detox find that the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are similar in presentation to a severe case of flu. Most symptoms peak during the second and third days of heroin withdrawal. You can expect most heroin withdrawal symptoms to subside after one week – a similar timeline to flu.

Everyone will have a unique experience of heroin detox and withdrawal. These are the most common symptoms of heroin detox:

  • Cravings: Throughout heroin detox and withdrawal, you may experience intense cravings for the drug. Cravings are driven by a desire to reexperience the heroin high. During detox, cravings are also partially triggered by an awareness that taking heroin will mitigate withdrawal symptoms. If you encounter heroin cravings in a non-clinical setting, this may lead to relapse.
  • Diarrhea and stomach pains: During heroin detox, you are likely to experience frequent bowel movements and diarrhea as your body becomes accustomed to the absence of opioids. Diarrhea is frequently accompanied by stomach pains, making it difficult for most people to function normally during this phase of heroin detox.
  • Muscle aches: Heroin disrupts pain pathways in the system. During heroin detox, you might experience a rebound effect as muscle aches present throughout the body. Sensitivity to pain is also heightened during this phase of heroin withdrawal.
  • Fever: Medical intervention is required if your temperature becomes higher than 103F during fever associated with heroin detox.
  • Restlessness and insomnia: Studies indicate that insomnia and general restlessness are commonly associated with heroin withdrawal.
  • Heavy sweating and runny nose: As your body attempts to restore homeostasis during heroin detox, this often triggers an overproduction of bodily fluids.
  • Mood changes: Expect episodes of irritability, depression, or anxiety during heroin withdrawal. If you choose to undertake a supervised medical detox, you can access clinical and emotional care when confronted with emotional distress during heroin detox. If episodes of depression or anxiety persist beyond heroin detox, you may have a co-occurring disorder – a dual diagnosis of heroin addiction and a mental health disorder. Coordinated dual diagnosis treatment will produce the most favorable outcomes for co-occurring disorders.

How long does it take to detox from heroin, then?

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

If you are wondering about the heroin withdrawal duration or “how many days to detox from heroin”, here is an approximate timeline for heroin withdrawal:

  • Heroin detox days 1 to 3: Some heroin withdrawal symptoms may present just six hours after the last use. Pain develops over the first day of withdrawal, typically muscle aches. Pains intensify over the initial 48 hours of detox. Anxiety, panic attacks, shaking, diarrhea, and insomnia may also manifest during the first three days of heroin detox and withdrawal.
  • Heroin detox days 3 to 5: The acute phase of heroin withdrawal is characterized by persistent nausea and vomiting, sweating, tremors, and severe abdominal cramps.
  • Heroin detox days 6 and 7: After one week, acute heroin withdrawal is usually complete. You may find that aches, pains, and intermittent nausea linger for longer. You can also expect to feel fatigued and run down. Overall, you will start to feel better physically at this stage of detox and recovery.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

The duration of heroin withdrawal can vary based on several factors, such as the individual’s level of dependence, the amount and frequency of heroin use, and their overall health. 

Symptoms, which can include intense cravings, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, insomnia, and anxiety, usually subside within a week. However, some individuals may experience lingering symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping for several weeks or even months. It is crucial for individuals seeking to overcome heroin addiction to receive professional medical and psychological support to manage the withdrawal process effectively and ensure a successful recovery.

Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

Heroin withdrawal can be intensely uncomfortable. The idea of heroin detox leads many people to continue taking opioids to avoid the onset of withdrawal. Others attempt to manage withdrawal symptoms at home. Engaging with a supervised detoxification program will make withdrawal as safe and comfortable as possible, improving the chance of sustained recovery without relapse.

Mild heroin withdrawal can be treated with acetaminophen, aspirin, or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen. Medications like loperamide may alleviate diarrhea, while hydroxyzine can ease nausea and anxiety.

More intense heroin withdrawal symptoms may require other medications like clonidine – this medication is chiefly used in an inpatient setting and may significantly reduce the intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone is a combination medication that contains buprenorphine (a milder opioid) and naloxone (an opioid blocking agent or opioid antagonist). Suboxone triggers few of the addictive effects associated with other opioids. Using this medication during heroin withdrawal may reduce physical discomfort and decrease cravings for the drug.

Methadone is a medication that can be effective for ongoing maintenance therapy.

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What is Heroin Detox?

Heroin detox offers those looking to kickstart their recovery from addiction a safe space for the management of withdrawal symptoms.

Some complications that may occur during heroin detox can be dangerous and possibly life-threatening. Acute hydration can set in during heroin detox, and this can be effectively managed at a medical detox center. There is also a risk of vomiting and inhaling stomach contents during heroin withdrawal. In a non-clinical setting, this can lead to asphyxiation.

Those who manage to avoid those complications may still find that withdrawal symptoms feel unmanageable at home and without medical supervision. This can easily cause relapse, derailing your recovery before it gets fully underway and inhibiting future attempts at detox.

If you are dependent on an opioid like heroin, it is inadvisable and potentially dangerous to detox at home. By detoxing in a clinical setting, you will have continuous clinical care and access to emotional support on demand. You can also take advantage of medications to reduce the intensity of cravings and heroin withdrawal symptoms. If you detox from heroin in a non-clinical setting and relapse to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, this can trigger a lethal heroin overdose due to a reduced tolerance for heroin.

How Long Does Heroin Detox Take?

For most people withdrawing from heroin, the first adverse symptoms present during the comedown phase – this is from 6 to 12 hours after the last dose of heroin. As the rewarding effects of the drug wear off, so the first heroin withdrawal symptoms appear.

Most acute symptoms of heroin withdrawal peak from in the first three days of detox. Withdrawal symptoms usually dissipate after 5 to 7 days of detox.

Heroin is classified as a short-acting opioid. This means that the drug takes effect quickly, and leaves the bloodstream quickly, leading to a reasonably short withdrawal timeline.

PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) involves heroin withdrawal symptoms that persist for weeks or months after the last use of heroin.

The average duration of heroin detox is one week, although those who have been abusing the substance long-term can expect to experience a more protracted withdrawal process.

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MAT for Heroin Detox

During inpatient or outpatient heroin detox, treatment providers may administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

These three medications are approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for treating opioid use disorder (heroin addiction):

  • Methadone: Methadone is an opioid agonist that attaches to opioid receptors in your brain, easing withdrawal symptoms during heroin detox. The medication can also be effective during ongoing medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction, although it may cause tolerance and dependence to develop.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist, naltrexone disrupts the euphoric effects of opioids. Naltrexone is not addictive, and it does not have sedative properties. This medication is usually administered after heroin detox. To minimize compliance issues with dosing, naltrexone also comes in monthly injectable form.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine may reduce the symptoms of heroin withdrawal during detox.  The medication can reduce physical withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches and vomiting, and may reduce the intensity of cravings. The partial opioid agonist also blocks the rewarding effects of opioids like heroin.

Heroin Detox Program at Gratitude Lodge

While heroin addiction is incurable, almost all opioid use disorders respond favorably to evidence-based treatment. We can help you unpack the physical and psychological sides of heroin addiction at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

To address the issue of physical dependence on heroin, consider kickstarting your recovery at one of our pet-friendly heroin detox centers located in Newport Beach and Long Beach. Over one week, you will have access to a treatment team dedicated to your safe and comfortable withdrawal from heroin.

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Break Heroin Addiction At Gratitude Lodge

Opioid use disorder (heroin addiction) is a chronic brain disorder characterized by the compulsive use of heroin regardless of obviously negative outcomes. This means that you will need to tackle the psychological aspect of addiction during ongoing treatment after heroin detox. We are happy to offer treatment programs for all drugs at all levels on American Society of Addiction Medicine’s continuum of care. Our most popular programs for heroin addiction are:

  • 30-day inpatient program (residential drug rehab)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program

All Gratitude Lodge heroin addiction treatment programs offer personalized treatment that draws from a combination of science-backed and holistic interventions. These may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies like meditation and mindfulness

While heroin addiction is treatable, opioid use disorder has high relapse rates like all chronic health conditions. Accordingly, your Gratitude Lodge treatment program will include a comprehensive aftercare component that involves:

  • Coping techniques
  • Relapse management and prevention strategies
  • Referral to an aftercare partner where continued treatment and individual therapy will be provided.

When you are committed to detoxing from heroin and beginning your lifelong recovery journey, bring your pet with you and head to Gratitude Lodge in Southern California for holistic detox programs. Call 800-994-2184 for immediate assistance.

Heroin Detox FAQs

Heroin detox is the process of removing heroin from the body and managing the withdrawal symptoms that occur as a result. Detox or detoxification typically involves medical supervision and the use of FDA-approved medications to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings for heroin.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, restlessness, muscle aches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and insomnia. These withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases, which is why medical supervision is recommended during the detox process to effectively manage withdrawal.

The length of heroin detox can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the severity of the addiction, the individual’s overall health status, and the specific detox program being used. Generally, however, heroin detox and the associated withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Attempting to detox from heroin at home can be dangerous and even life-threatening. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and without proper medical supervision, complications can arise. The risk of relapse to ward off withdrawal symptoms is also greater if you detox in a nonclinical setting. It is strongly recommended to seek professional help from a licensed rehab center or detox center when engaging with heroin detox.

Attempting to detox from heroin at home can be dangerous and even life-threatening. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and without proper medical supervision, complications can arise. The risk of relapse to ward off withdrawal symptoms is also greater if you detox in a nonclinical setting. It is strongly recommended to seek professional help from a licensed rehab center or detox center when engaging with heroin detox.

Heroin detox alone is not a cure for addiction. Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Detox is a necessary first step in the recovery process, but ongoing treatment and support are typically needed to address the underlying causes of addiction and to help individuals maintain long-term sobriety. A comprehensive treatment plan may include therapy, support groups, and other services.

After completing a heroin detox program, individuals are typically recommended to enter a rehab program for continued treatment and support. This may involve therapy, support groups, and other services aimed at helping individuals overcome addiction and maintain long-term sobriety. It is important to remember that detox is just the first step in the recovery process.