Drug & Alcohol Detox Services

Heroin Detox: Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment

In recent years doctors have reduced opioid prescribing, causing many people to turn to street dealers for drugs. Prescription narcotics can be more expensive here than through a doctor because you cannot apply for health insurance benefits.

Heroin has been popular among street addicts because it’s several times more potent than morphine. It reaches the brain more quickly, causing a rush of dopamine and a euphoric rush when injected intravenously. So, many people have switched to heroin (diacetylmorphine) from prescription opioids.

Today street heroin is commonly laced with an even more dangerous drug: fentanyl (50x more potent than morphine.) Due to its risks, it is recommended to quit heroin only under medical detox supervision.

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Signs of Heroin Detox/Withdrawal

Heroin acts on the brain’s reward system, increasing a person’s tolerance to the drug’s effects over time. When someone taking heroin stops, withdrawal symptoms begin. Eventually, they will need a high dose to reach the same “high” as before.

It’s common for people to continue taking heroin to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms. Because heroin is a form of morphine, it is often more intense to detox from than other opioids such as prescription painkillers. 

People taking heroin usually begin to feel symptoms of heroin withdrawal six to 12 hours after their last dose of heroin. Heroin withdrawal symptoms resemble opioid withdrawal symptoms. But, because heroin leaves the body at an increased rate compared to opioids, the withdrawal symptoms set in faster. 

Symptoms and Side Effects of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin detox can be painful and potentially fatal. Making medical detox a vital treatment step. 

Here is a list of common heroin withdrawal symptoms:

  • muscle and body aches
  • goosebumps
  • fever
  • increased sweating
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset 
  • watery eyes and runny nose 
  • excessive yawning 
  • anxiety 
  • agitation
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • depressed mood

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Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Though there is no standard time it takes to purify the body from heroin completely, heroin detox can be broken down into two parts: acute symptoms and post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Acute heroin withdrawal symptoms last about a week. 

Days 1 and 2: Symptoms start anywhere from six to 12 hours after the last heroin dose. Pain and body aches start the first day and slowly worsen over the next 48 hours. Other possible acute symptoms include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, shaking, and diarrhea. 

Days 3 to 5: By day three or four, withdrawal symptoms are at their worst. Symptoms during this time include abdominal cramping, sweating, shivers, and nausea/vomiting. 

Days 6 and 7: At the week mark, acute withdrawal symptoms begin to dwindle. At this time, the muscle aches and nausea will slowly decrease. People will start feeling better physically but remain tired and worn down. 

Heroin PAWS: 

Withdrawal symptoms may continue on and off for months after acute withdrawal ends. Symptoms that tend to stick around include anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and irritability. These symptoms are caused by the changes to the brain caused by heroin abuse.

Because there are many different substances and combinations of abuse, there are an equal variety of drug detox program types. No one detox program fits every situation, so it is vital to consider your situation and what would help most. 

How Long Does Heroin Detox Take? 

The length of detox will depend on several factors, including: 

  • How frequently does someone abuse heroin.
  • The amount of heroin used each time. 
  • The length of time someone abused heroin. 
  • The form of heroin consumed (pill, powder, injection)
  • If there is a co-occurring mental health disorder. 

The longer someone has abused heroin, the more likely they are to suffer post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). PAWS include: 

  • poor sleep 
  • poor concentration 
  • increased anxiety 
  • depression 
  • panic attacks 
  • fatigue 
  • hypersensitivity 
  • irritability
  • mood swings 
  • restlessness
  • memory loss 

These physical symptoms can last between 18 and 24 months. And the behavioral symptoms that affect moods can last month after other withdrawal symptoms pass. However, if someone remains drug-free, they can eventually see all symptoms fade. 

Heroin Detox During Pregnancy

Being pregnant can increase the desire to get clean and quit heroin. Consuming heroin during pregnancy can cause harm to the mother and fetus. Detoxing, especially sudden detox, can cause severe stress and lead to preterm labor or severe fetal damage. 

Medical detox is essential for pregnant women to prevent loss of life.

Detox for Heroin Abuse: What to Expect 

Heroin detox sets on quickly, and medical supervision is crucial during acute withdrawal. Although everyone will have their own experience during detox, there are three parts to the withdrawal process: 

1. A team of nurses will screen incoming patients for physical and mental health concerns. Blood tests measure the amount of drugs in a person’s system. These tests help determine an individualized heroin recovery plan and any medications they may need. 

A comprehensive review of medical, drug, and psychological histories, is a crucial step in ensuring the patient receives appropriate long-term heroin treatment. 

2. The main goal of stabilization is to prevent harm. Individuals are stabilized using a combination of medical and psychological therapies. 

In some cases, prescription medications reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms. 

3. The third step in the heroin detox process is to prepare for inpatient treatment. Because heroin withdrawal symptoms can continue for so long, people are more likely to relapse. Completing an inpatient treatment program increases someone’s chances of a continued successful recovery. 

Dangers of Improper Heroin Detox 

If someone chooses not to enroll in a treatment program after detox, they are much more likely to begin to use heroin again. This can be especially dangerous because people tend to start abusing heroin at the same dose they took before they got clean. 

This situation can cause a toxic overdose reaction that severely affects their respiratory system and can cause them to stop breathing and potentially die. 

Important Drug Heroin Detox Questions

While choosing a heroin detox program, it’s essential to consider the following questions: 

1. Are you abusing more than one substance?

Detoxing from heroin becomes more complicated if someone abuses another drug in addition to heroin. It’s vital, to be honest with yourself and your care provider about your situation. This also ensures you’ve chosen a detox center that can help people come off multiple drugs at a time.

2. Is a co-occurring mental health disorder present?

The link between mental health and substance abuse is substantial. Many people start abusing drugs due to a mental health disorder, and many more develop mental health issues after using substances like heroin. 

3. How severe is the heroin use disorder?

Heroin is one drug that doesn’t take many uses before developing a dependence on it. Because of this, the severity of the heroin addiction can play a part in the recovery process. The more severe the heroin abuse, the more likely someone will need to follow detox with an inpatient treatment plan for a successful recovery. 

Discover the Heroin Detox Program For You

You do not have to face this alone. Heroin can be tough to quit but not impossible. You can return to living a life you love with the proper support. A Desert Rose Detox addiction specialist is available to talk 24/7 by calling (844) 427-3509 or requesting information online.





Trusted Addiction Treatment

At Desert Rose, drug and alcohol detox is only the beginning. We offer a complete addiction treatment program here. Unlike most Florida rehabs, we feature all 5 primary ASAM levels of care you need within a single program.

Desert Rose Detox has earned Joint Commission Accreditation. We also enjoy membership in NAATP, state licensing and are associated with certified recovery residences (FARR).

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