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Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a phenomenon characterized by a set of symptoms that occur when a person stops using a substance that their body has become dependent on, such as heroin. Someone who is physiologically dependent on heroin will experience unpleasant heroin withdrawal symptoms if their heroin intake is stopped or significantly or suddenly reduced. Heroin withdrawal symptoms treatment is available to help safely manage the adverse effects of withdrawal and keep the person as comfortable as possible during the process.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine. It is a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southwest and Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a brown or white powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. People sniff, inject, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing [1]. Careful planning can assist a person experiencing heroin withdrawal, requiring professional assistance from experts like addiction specialists and therapists.

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [2], heroin is often the first opioid individuals use. In a study of those entering drug treatment for opioid use disorder, approximately one-third reported heroin as the first opioid they regularly used to get high

Heroin can lead to addiction; a form of substance use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms heroin include severe bone and muscle pain, sleep problems, vomiting and diarrhea, and severe heroin cravings. Different types of treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapies and medication-assisted treatment (MAT), are effective in helping people stop heroin use. However, treating drug addiction should be individualized to meet the needs of the client.

Effects of Using Heroin

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [3], heroin consumption more than doubled among the age group of 18–25 in the past decade. More than 9 in 10 people who used this drug also used at least one other drug. 45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

If heroin is abused over a long period of time, a person may suffer from physical and psychological effects. Individuals who use heroin over the long term may develop:

  • Insomnia
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
  • Lung complications, including pneumonia
  • Irregular menstrual cycles for women
  • Sexual dysfunction for men
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Heroin Drug Facts

Heroin

a highly addictive analgesic drug derived from morphine, often used illicitly as a narcotic producing euphoria.


Street Names of Heroin

Common street names for heroin include:


  • Big H
  • Black Tar
  • Chiva
  • Hell Dust
  • Horse
  • Negra
    Smack
  • Thunder

Legal Status

Heroin is a Schedule I substance under the
Controlled Substances Act meaning that it has a
high potential for abuse, no currently accepted
medical use in treatment in the United States, and
a lack of accepted safety for use under medical
supervision.

Common Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Individuals who use heroin report feeling a “rush” (a surge of pleasure, or euphoria). However, there are other common effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious


Common Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Individuals who use heroin over the long term may develop:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications, including pneumonia
  • Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction for men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles for women

What is Heroin Withdrawal?

People using this drug regularly (example: daily) over a long period of time are expected to experience heroin withdrawals when stopping or reducing their heroin use. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) [4], In 2018 in the United States, about 808,000 people reported using heroin during the past year. In the same year, about 11.4 million people used narcotic pain relievers without a prescription. Careful planning can assist a person with heroin withdrawals, and this requires professional assistance from experts like addiction specialists and therapists.

Heroin use can result in tolerance to and dependence on the drug. When tolerance happens, it means that individuals need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Dependence on heroin means that people need to use heroin to prevent withdrawals from heroin. The major risk associated with heroin withdrawal is subsequent overdose due to loss of tolerance.

What Causes Heroin Withdrawal to Happen?

All opioids, especially heroin, can become habit-forming. When you build a tolerance to heroin, you need to take more of it to feel high. Eventually, you can become psychologically and physically dependent on the drug.

Chronic heroin use changes the nerve receptors in your brain. They come to depend on opioids to function. If you stop using heroin or reduce the amount you take, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms from heroin represent your body’s physical response to the absence of the drug.

Heroin Withdrawal
If you stop or cut back on these drugs after heavy use of a few weeks or more, you will have a number of symptoms. This is called heroin withdrawal
If you stop or cut back on these drugs after heavy use of a few weeks or more, you will have a number of symptoms. This is called heroin withdrawal

Can Heroin Withdrawal Be Deadly?

Can heroin withdrawal kill you? Withdrawing from any kind of opioid can be lethal. That is why the safest way to get rid of this drug from your body (detox) is under medical care. As uncomfortable as heroin withdrawal symptoms are, they aren’t usually life-threatening. However, they are painful and uncomfortable enough to make at-home detox dangerous. Can you die from heroin withdrawals? It is during an at-home detox that a person starts to crave heroin while also experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Home remedies for heroin withdrawal may not be enough.

Can heroin withdrawals kill you? To ease their pain, they use heroin. However, now that they are clean, their body is no longer accustomed to the drug. They may return to using the same amount as they previously did, but it can be overwhelming for their body, causing an overdose and death.

Can you die from heroin withdrawal? Another reason why people die from heroin withdrawal is due to excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Untreated, these symptoms can rapidly dehydrate the body and cause dangerously high levels of sodium to accumulate in the blood (hypernatremia), and the heart can fail. Such incidents happen when people withdraw from heroin on their own. Such deaths can be averted by medical supervision in a professional detox facility.

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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms of heroin usually last about a week. However, the experience is different for everyone. Factors that play a role in how your body reacts to withdrawal from heroin symptoms include the amount you take during each dose, how long you’ve abused heroin, and how you ingested the drug. Heroin withdraw symptoms may also be influenced by underlying mental health problems or a prior history of opioid misuse.

What are heroin withdrawal symptoms? One of the many reasons heroin can be dangerous is that it suppresses the normal functions of the central nervous system (CNS). It can impair your breathing, body temperature, blood pressure (heroin withdrawal symptoms hypertension). Since opioids like heroin bind to opioid receptors in your brain, you can end up with changes in brain chemistry that affect how you experience pleasure and pain. What are the signs of heroin withdrawal? When you go through heroin withdrawal, you experience sensations that are the opposite of the highs you previously enjoyed. Your heart rate can slow, and you may feel anxious or depressed.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of heroin? Here are some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from heroin:

Fever

Body temperature differs from one person to the next, as well as factors like time of day and menstrual cycle, but usually, a temperature of 99–99.5 F (37.2–37.5 C) is considered to be a fever in adults. A fever is one way your body fights infections and disease, but when you are going through heroin withdrawal, the fever is not serving a helpful purpose in combating infection, so there is unlikely to be the harm in taking steps to control it.

Ask medical assistance immediately if your temperature goes above 103 F (40 C), and doesn’t come down with treatment. If you have a severe medical condition, such as diabetes, heart problem, sickle cell anemia, HIV, or cystic fibrosis; or if you have a seizure.

Heroin Cravings

What are the symptoms of heroin withdrawal? Most individuals who are undergoing heroin withdrawal experience a strong urge to take more heroin. This is known as experiencing cravings and is very common among individuals withdrawing from many addictive substances. Part of the craving is motivated by the wish to reduce the symptoms of heroin withdrawal, and part of it is the urge to re-experience the pleasure of the heroin high.

heroin withdrawal timeline
A specialized treatment facility with medically assisted detox is the safest method for quitting heroin and avoiding relapse

Mood Changes

Feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable, also known as having a dysphoric mood, is a common symptom of heroin withdrawal. Even without a traumatic past, these mood changes would be expected, but many individuals who use heroin experience long-suppressed feelings related to abuse or past trauma when they come off the drug. This is why it is important to have emotional support while you are going through withdrawal. These feelings tend to become less intense once the withdrawal stage is over.

Diarrhea and Stomach Pain

Diarrhea or watery and frequent bowel movements are also common with heroin withdrawal. These withdrawal symptoms may be accompanied by stomach pain caused by spasms in the digestive system. The discomfort of diarrhea stomach pain may make it difficult to go about your regular routine.

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Pains and Aches

One of the main roles of heroin works is to block the body’s pain pathways. When you go through heroin withdrawal, there is a rebound effect, and you feel achy, particularly in the legs and back, and feel more sensitive to pain.

Excessive Bodily Fluids

As you undergo heroin withdrawal, you may encounter an overproduction of bodily fluids, such as sweat, tears, and a runny nose. You may also notice your hair standing on end. As with other physical withdrawal symptoms, these responses are part of your body bringing itself into balance.

Nausea and Vomiting

Although these symptoms are distressing, vomiting and nausea are a normal part of heroin withdrawal. It wears you out, makes you feel very uncomfortable, puts you off your food, and keeps you close to the bathroom.

Restlessness and Sleep Problems

Individuals going through heroin withdrawal usually experience restlessness, which, coupled with insomnia and anxiety, can make you feel agitated and tired at the same time. Heroin withdrawal often causes sleep problems, particularly insomnia. Yawning is also common.

Coping & Relief

While heroin withdrawal can be uncomfortable and intense, the worst of the symptoms usually pass within a week. During this time, there are some things that you can do to help yourself feel more comfortable.

When Does Heroin Withdrawal Start?

Heroin withdrawal symptoms begin within the first twenty-four hours (sometimes as soon as four hours) from the last use, peak within 36 to 72 hours, and last seven to ten days for most people. How long does heroin withdrawal last? The duration and severity of withdrawal may depend on how long the person used heroin, as well as the amount and method of heroin use. Individuals who use heroin may experience some withdrawal for up to 3 or 4 weeks. While withdrawal from heroin is a necessary effort when addressing heroin addiction, there are options available to detox in a comfortable and safe way.

Heroin Withdrawal
Heroin withdrawal symptoms treatment has helped many people overcome heroin addiction withdrawal safely.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

What does heroin withdrawal feel like? Withdrawal symptoms of heroin may develop rapidly. For instance, a person with a strong physical dependence might begin to experience them in hours. Over the following days, the withdrawal symptoms become more intense before peaking and then gradually subsiding. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that while heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to improve after a week, they may sometimes stay for months.

How long is heroin withdrawal? The terrible withdrawal symptoms may peak after about a week of no drugs and typically last up to 14 days. So you initially start feeling symptoms within a day, which is why someone with an addiction to heroin wants to have this drug in their system at all times. But the symptoms can get progressively worse for up to a week and then last up to two weeks until it’s totally out of their system.

Day 1

The body metabolizes heroin rather quickly, leading one to experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms within 8-24 hours of last use. The earliest symptoms of heroin withdrawal can include muscle aches, yawning, runny nose, insomnia, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, fever, and anxiety.

Day 2 to 3

People feel the worst symptoms between 48-72 hours after the last use – including severe muscle aches, excessive sweating, lethargy, anxiety, and restlessness. Cravings are usually very strong during this period too.

Day 4 to 10 

Withdrawal can last between 5 and 10 days, depending on the person and how long they used heroin, but some psychological symptoms can stay for months. The terrible withdrawal symptoms may peak after about a week of no drugs. After that, they typically last up to 14 days. So, you initially start feeling symptoms within a day, which is why people with addiction want to have this drug in their system at all times. But the symptoms can get progressively worse for up to a week and then last up to two weeks until it’s totally out of their system.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

When heroin enters the body, it is immediately metabolized. This happens so fast that most of the drug is out of the system within 30 minutes. The half-life of heroin is about three minutes. For instance, if someone injects 20 mg of heroin, then 10 mg is left after three minutes, 5 mg after six minutes, etc. This drug will be completely clear from the body in about 15 minutes for many people. However, some individuals metabolize heroin more slowly. In this case, heroin can stay in the system for thirty minutes or longer. How long does it take to withdraw from heroin? Drug tests can measure heroin in blood, saliva, urine, and hair for different lengths of time.

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How Do You Taper Off of Heroin?

Now that we answered, “how long do heroin withdrawals last?” You may be wondering about tapering. A tapering regimen is all about lessening tolerance and dependence over time. Taking less and less of the heroin allows the nervous system and the body to self-correct and, eventually, heal itself. By keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay, it is more likely that an individual will continue the recovery process. This is one of the primary reasons replacement therapies is used as well. A person’s environment will play a vital role in deciding how to taper off heroin.

Is Quitting Heroin Cold Turkey a Good Idea?

Quitting cold-turkey is not advised as it is the most dangerous and difficult way to try to address addiction. Medically-assisted detox with withdrawal medications, counseling support, and symptom management make the experience much safer, easier, and more likely to result in a successful recovery.

Quitting heroin “cold-turkey” brings about a speedy onset of heroin withdrawal symptoms, which are very hard to endure. The risk of undergoing a setback during withdrawal is high as the desire to use and stop the symptoms can be overwhelming. When individuals try to self-taper their heroin use on their own, they are rarely successful. A relapse during withdrawal sometimes leads to overdose [5].

Find the Right Addiction Treatment at We Level Up NJ

Heroin addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated like other chronic diseases. Like those, it should constantly be monitored and managed. Heroin is a type of opioid. Opioid addiction treatment is different for each individual. The main purpose of heroin addiction withdrawal treatment is to help the person stop using the drug. Heroin addiction treatment can also help the person avoid using it again.

The body does go through specific symptom stages known as the heroin withdrawal symptoms. The heroin withdrawal timeline varies from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of heroin used, how long it was used, and any other substances that may have been used in conjunction with heroin. Medically managed withdrawal heroin detox ensures the individual remains safe and stays as comfortable as possible.

Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

The first step in heroin withdrawal treatment is medical detox rehab. It will help you navigate the complicated withdrawal process but doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to heroin addiction withdrawal. Various heroin withdrawal treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can give necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves changing both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis programs treat both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. This strategy treats both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or your loved one is struggling with heroin withdrawal, indeed, help is just a phone call away. Professional heroin addiction treatment is necessary for fast and effective recovery. To learn more, contact us today at We Level Up NJ Treatment Facility. We provide utmost care with doctors and medical staff available 24/7 for life-changing and lasting recovery. We provide an enhanced opportunity to return to a fulfilling and productive life.

Heroin Withdrawal
Withdrawal heroin symptoms treatment is available to help safely manage the impact of withdrawal and keep an individual as comfortable as possible during the process.

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Sources

[1] [2] NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
[3] CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html
[4] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
[5] We Level UpHeroin Addiction
[6] Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin and Effective Treatment Options (welevelup.com)