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How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?


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Heroin is an illegal and highly-addictive drug.

Heroin binds to and stimulates certain receptors in the brain, which in turn produce dopamine. Once addiction develops, stopping is hard, as heroin withdrawal can be difficult.

How Heroin Affects the Mind and Body

Once heroin binds to brain receptors, a ‘rush’ is experienced. This is usually accompanied by a warm, flushed feeling, dry mouth, itchy skin and sometimes nausea. After this initial ‘rush’, mental functions are slowed, drowsiness occurs, and heart rate and breathing are slowed. This slowed heart rate and respiration rate can lead to brain damage, coma, and death.

The use of heroin and death from overdose in the United States has skyrocketed over the last decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin related overdose deaths increased five-fold from 2010 to 2016, and in 2016, there were roughly 15,500 drug overdoses that involved heroin. In just one year’s time, from 2015 to 2016, the heroin overdose death rate increased by almost 20%.

Long-term use of heroin changes the physical makeup and physiology (normal functions) of the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA,) recent research suggests that important white matter in the brain is damaged by heroin use, resulting in impaired decision making abilities, compromised stress responses, and even behavior management issues. Chronic, long-term use can lead to damage of the lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain, as well as risks for Hepatitis B and C and HIV infections.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe, based upon usage factors and time from last use.

Mild Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from heroin often has symptoms mimicking the flu. As the length of time from the last use increases, so does the severity of the withdrawal symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Chills/Sweating
  • Watery eyes and dilated pupils
  • Lethargy
  • Body aches
  • Nausea

These withdrawal symptoms usually occur in the beginning stages of withdrawal, sometimes just hours after the last dose was taken.

Moderate Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

As time from the last dose of heroin increases, symptoms become more difficult to manage:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irritation and agitation
  • Tremors
  • Inability to focus

Severe Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Severe heroin withdrawal symptoms are the most challenging to manage, especially without proper supervision and treatment. Severe heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Severe cravings for heroin
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle cramps and bone pain

Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

Withdrawal from heroin can be extremely difficult to manage, and even life threatening. This is why finding an addiction treatment center with highly trained medical professionals and addiction counselors is crucial.

Certain medications are used to help treat the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. These medications can aid tremendously in safely getting through withdrawal, when administered by a healthcare professional.

Which Heroin Treatment Option is Best?

Heroin addiction treatment depends on each individual. As the reasons for addiction vary, as well as usage factors, the best treatment also differs person to person. It’s vital to discover the best treatment option. Take into consideration different factors, including how progressed the addiction to heroin is and the level of motivation for recovery. Here are some other important questions to consider when choosing a heroin addiction treatment:

  • How long has the addiction been occurring?
  • Is supervision, both medical and other, required?
  • Are medications needed to get through withdrawal?
  • Does inpatient (or residential treatment) or outpatient best suit needs at hand?
  • Is it best to be near home and family or further away?
  • Is time off from work or school required?
  • What is the cost of each treatment option?
  • Is financial assistance needed and/or available?

Recovery from heroin addiction can be difficult, and without the right treatment program, relapse often occurs. It’s essential to find the best treatment option for each case of addiction and take the first step to long-lasting recovery and a life free from addiction.

Getting The Help That’s Needed

At Futures, we provide reliable, safe and effective treatment services. Our treatment program involves a comprehensive, integrated, multi-disciplinary approach that helps those struggling with heroin addiction uncover and address the underlying issues driving the addiction. Co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are also treated in conjunction with addiction treatment. Call us today for a confidential assessment.


Our team is here to guide you through your path to recovery.

call now CALL NOW
(866) 351-7588
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