heroin withdrawal symptoms

What You Can Expect from Heroin Withdrawal

Jun 25 Published by

The rate of heroin use in the United States is high and has been growing for the last several years. In fact, in 2016, nearly 1 million people reported using heroin, with 170,000 people reporting using it for the first time.

Whether you’ve been using heroin for a short time or for several years, you know how addicting and dangerous this drug is. To make matters worse, quitting can be just as dangerous due to the withdrawal process.

If you want to get clean but are concerned about the effects of heroin withdrawal, keep reading to learn more about what you can expect when you begin detoxing.

Common Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the first things people want to know when they begin detoxing from heroin is what kind of withdrawal symptoms they’ll experience.

There’s no sugar-coating it — heroin withdrawal is not pleasant. Some of the most common symptoms that people experience when detoxing include:

  • Cravings
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Shaking and sweating
  • General feelings of agitation
  • Overproduction of fluids — sweat, tears, runny nose, etc.
  • Fever
  • Restlessness and insomnia

Everyone’s experience with withdrawal is different, but when you begin detoxing, you should expect to experience at least some of these symptoms.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

People typically start to notice signs of heroin withdrawal very quickly after they take their last dose. For some, symptoms can begin as early as four hours after the last dose.

For long-time users, withdrawal symptoms may take longer to present themselves since the user will usually have quite a bit of the drug built up in their systems.

That being said, even for long-time users, symptoms still tend to show up within 12 hours of the last dose.

Withdrawal symptoms tend to peak within 1-3 days of the last dose and will begin to subside after 5-7 days. It may take longer for chronic users to see their symptoms subside. For some, it takes as long as 3-4 weeks.

The estimated timeline for heroin withdrawal looks something like this:

  • Phase 1: The first 1-3 days. People typically experience headaches, aggression, muscle pain, anxiety, sweating, and insomnia during this period.
  • Phase 2: The next 2-4 days. Symptoms are usually at their worst. Muscle pain, cramping, fatigue, and shivering usually occur during this period.

After the acute withdrawal symptoms peak, many people experience post-acute symptoms that are related more to mental and emotional health.

These symptoms last quite a bit longer than the physical symptoms — sometimes several months — as it takes time for the effects that heroin has on the brain to reverse themselves.

How to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

As you can see, the withdrawal process can be quite intense. Don’t let the list of withdrawal symptoms deter you from seeking relief from addiction, though.

Listed below are some tips that can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms and maintain a positive outlook while going through the detox process.

Remember Your “Why”

Detox is a difficult process, and relapse is incredibly common. In fact, statistics show that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of heroin addicts will relapse at some point.

To minimize your risk of relapsing, it’s important to remember why you chose to get clean in the first place. Think about what opportunities will be available to you when you get clean, consider the impact it will have on your future and your family.

Everyone has a different “why,” but figuring out what yours is will help you stay the course even when things get tough.

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise can help distract you from the withdrawal symptoms and speed up the detoxification process slightly.

Any kind of exercise that you enjoy is great to incorporate into your routine during this period, but gentle, calming workouts like yoga can be especially beneficial.

Build a Support System

Having a support system of family and friends is essential when you’re trying to give up heroin — or any drug, for that matter. It’s easy to feel isolated during this process, so having people to turn to can help you stick it out and feel confident in your decision.

If you don’t have friends or family to lean on, consider attending group meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Being around a group of people who are experiencing the same things you are can be very helpful.

Use Medications to Take the Edge Off

There are a few different medications that your doctor can prescribe that will help you ease off the drugs and minimize your withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors often begin by replacing heroin, which is a short-acting opioid, with a long-acting one like methadone or a partial opioid agonist like buprenorphine. They may also prescribe opioid antagonist drugs like naloxone, which bind to opioid receptors and block opioids from filling them.

Many doctors also prescribe drugs like anticonvulsants and antidepressants to help mitigate common withdrawal symptoms.

Why Work with a Detox Professional?

You should not try to give up heroin cold turkey. The symptoms you’ll experience if you take this approach are powerful and dangerous and could even be lethal.

It’s important to work with a medical professional to control these symptoms and help you safely stick out the detox process.

A medical professional can help you wean yourself off heroin slowly and avoid the serious effects that occur when you try to quit cold turkey.

It’s also beneficial to work with a mental health professional who specializes in helping addicts overcome their addictions.

A lot of mental and emotional work needs to take place when you’re working to give up heroin, and a trained counselor can help you work through the symptoms you’re experiencing. They’ll also help you learn how to manage stress and reduce your chances of relapsing when you’re finished detoxing.

Begin Detoxing Today

Are ready to get clean and give up heroin for good? Do you want a professional’s help in navigating the heroin withdrawal process?

If so, contact us at Clean Life Detox today. We have detox facilities in California and Florida, so we can help you no matter which side of the country you live on.