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What to Expect During Heroin Withdrawal

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When someone decides to get help for their heroin addiction, it is understandable they want to know what to expect during heroin withdrawal. They may already be familiar with the withdrawal symptoms they experience when heroin wears off. However, instead of continuing to use heroin to offset the withdrawal symptoms, once someone starts recovery, they will go through medical detox to purge all traces of heroin from their body. 

Signs of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal signs can range from mild to severe depending on the individual’s health and length of use. Common physical heroin withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Experiencing muscle aches, joint pain, and cramping in arms and legs
  • Hot or cold sweats
  • Having difficulty sleeping or an inability to sleep for more than a few hours at a time
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Cravings for opiates, including heroin
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, congested chest, sore throat, and sneezing

In addition, psychological symptoms often appear during heroin withdrawal, like intense cravings for the drug. It is recommended individuals detox under medical supervision, where they will receive medication that can help minimize the unpleasant physical withdrawal effects while providing a safe, supportive, and comfortable environment to detox. 

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

There are different stages one will experience as part of heroin withdrawal, including:

Stage 1: 

6 to 12 hours: Individuals may experience early signs of withdrawal, including body aches and pains, restlessness, agitation, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. 

Stage 2: 

12 to 24 hours: Symptoms increase, including increased physical pain, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and cold sweats. 

Stage 3: 

24 to 48 hours: Symptoms increase in severity, such as fever and chills, cravings for heroin, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, and anxiety and depression may manifest. Some individuals may also experience an elevated heart rate, lasting up to 72 hours after heroin was last used. 

Stage 4: 

48+ hours to 2 weeks: This stage can be the most debilitating during heroin withdrawal as the symptoms peak. As they do, hallucinations, severe confusion, and mood swings are very common. Most individuals will feel weak due to a lack of sleep throughout all stages prior to this one, combined with extreme fatigue from prolonged withdrawal over an extended amount of time. 

Stage 5: 

2 weeks or more: Most, if not all, of the physical withdrawal symptoms should have subsided after they peaked. Many people will still experience some psychological withdrawal symptoms, like cravings, for several months or longer. However, with ongoing treatment, cravings and other symptoms are manageable until they, too, subside. 

It is important for individuals who want to transition through each withdrawal stage with potentially less intense withdrawal symptoms to complete detox at a medical detox center under supervision. 

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and include physical, psychological, and behavioral changes. Common physical symptoms are flu-like, such as muscle aches and pains, restlessness or irritability, nausea, vomiting, sweating, difficulty sleeping, joint pain, and cramping arms and legs. 

Psychological symptoms may also manifest during these intervals, including depression, anxiety, and intense cravings for heroin, along with the inability to think clearly or concentrate on simple tasks. Behavioral signs of heroin withdrawal may include compulsively seeking out drugs even after discontinuing use. more signs include hostility, aggression towards others, and panic attacks, for example. 

It is best if individuals detox under medical supervision, where they will receive medical care. This includes access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help minimize unpleasant physical withdrawal symptoms while providing comfort and support throughout the detox process.

Treatments for Heroin Withdrawal

The most common treatment for heroin withdrawal is medication-assisted therapy (MAT). This involves using medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to lessen withdrawal symptoms while stabilizing brain chemistry. These drugs block opiates from binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. They decrease cravings, minimize physical side effects, and help individuals achieve sobriety safely. 

Other treatments, such as counseling and behavioral therapies, can be beneficial to those that experience psychological aspects of heroin use and withdrawal. These often include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and relapse prevention planning. 

Treatment methods for heroin withdrawal provide an individualized approach tailored specifically to each person’s recovery needs, which leads to more successful outcomes and long-term abstinence. It is crucial for individuals ready to stop using to seek professional support where they have access to multiple resources necessary for a safe heroin detox process. 

Heroin withdrawal is a complex process to go through, both physically and psychologically. Common physical symptoms include body aches, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and intense cravings for opiates may also be present during this time. 

Treatments like MAT, counseling, and behavioral therapies are available to help those quitting heroin succeed in recovery. Individuals ready to end their addiction are highly recommended to seek professional support at a qualified medical detox and rehab treatment center, where they have access to multiple resources necessary for safe heroin detox.

Get Quality Heroin Detox in Orange County, CA

IMS and JCAHO-accredited Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, California, offer support heroin rehab programs tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Our goal is to help people start a new life free from drugs. Our knowledgeable staff is equipped to offer quality hands-on care.

For more information and to get the treatment you deserve, contact us today.


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