What Is Heroin Withdrawal?
Heroin addiction has been impacting the lives of millions of Americans across the nation, and the growing opioid epidemic has seen many individuals succumbing to this addiction through opioid-related overdoses. With the increased risks and dangers associated with heroin abuse resulting from the fentanyl crisis, there is a greater need, more than ever, for individuals to receive support and addiction treatment to help safely remove the harmful effects of this drug and alleviate any physical dependence that has been developed.
For many individuals living with an active heroin addiction, there are often questions or concerns about the initial portion of your addiction recovery process by undergoing drug detox. Whether you have had experiences with attempting to self-detox before or have heard stories about others detoxing from heroin, you want to know that you can do so safely and comfortably. There are methods and treatments available to support you in safely moving through heroin withdrawal and detox.
Heroin withdrawal is the process that occurs as your body eliminates chemical dependency and physical dependence on opioids. Using heroin will bind the opioid receptors in the brain, leading to abnormal signals sent to the brain and the brain stem. This process impacts the brain’s normal functioning, such as heart rate, breathing rate, and sleeping. The longer you engage in heroin abuse, the more your body becomes accustomed to functioning with heroin leading to a tolerance being developed where you will need to use more heroin to reach the same desired effects and levels of functioning. Once a physiological dependence has been created on heroin, it results in a person experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not using heroin.
Withdrawal symptoms are a result of your body attempting to function without the presence of heroin within your system. Withdrawal symptoms will range in severity depending on your history of heroin abuse. Although there are often concerns about what heroin withdrawal will be like, it is essential to remember that heroin withdrawal is temporary. Suppose you were to continue with your use of heroin. In that case, there is an increased risk of developing life-threatening side effects far worse than any withdrawal symptoms, such as significant organ damage or loss of functioning, decreased mental health, and, in some cases, death. Recovering from heroin addiction and overcoming heroin withdrawal is possible. With the proper support and medical guidance of a heroin detox, you can safely and successfully overcome your heroin addiction.
Is Heroin Withdrawal Dangerous?
Although heroin withdrawal may produce unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects, individuals will rarely experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal symptoms will range for each person depending on their circumstances and history of heroin abuse. Many will experience withdrawal symptoms similar to flu-like symptoms and experience gastrointestinal challenges during heroin withdrawal.
In most cases, the gastrointestinal side effects are manageable with the proper guidance and treatment of addiction treatment, medical interventions, and supervision. Some individuals may exhibit dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, resulting in life-threatening side effects if not appropriately treated under medical care. That is why it is suggested that individuals participate in a medically supervised heroin detox to provide them with ongoing medical supervision and appropriate addiction and medical treatment to ensure their safety and comfort throughout their heroin withdrawal.
Learn about the various types of opioids here:
The First Signs of Heroin Withdrawal
As you begin your heroin detox, you will start to feel the onset of heroin withdrawal symptoms within the first 8 to 24 hours after you last used your last dose of heroin. Depending on your specific and unique history with heroin abuse, your withdrawal symptoms will vary within the acute short-term heroin withdrawal symptoms that may occur. Short-term, acute heroin withdrawal symptoms will appear for 3 to 5 days during your heroin detox. The length of time that you will experience this form of heroin withdrawal will depend on your history of heroin abuse, including how long you have been engaging in substance abuse, the frequency in which you would encounter heroin abuse, and the amount you would use each time. A person’s physiological health, genetic makeup, and additional substance abuse may influence the length of time you experience withdrawal symptoms and the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
There are common initial signs and symptoms of acute heroin withdrawal, including:
- Increased pulse rate
- Changes in breathing rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
- Changes in sleep patterns, including experiencing insomnia
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chills or having goosebumps
- Increased body temperature or the onset of a fever
- Heightened reflexes
- Watery discharge from nose and eyes
- Muscle spasms
- Cramping or pain within your muscles and bones
How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?
Each person with heroin addiction has a unique history of substance abuse that will influence their time in heroin detox and experiencing heroin withdrawal. The length of time that you will be within heroin detox and experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms, including acute, short-term withdrawal symptoms and long-term, protracted withdrawal symptoms, will depend on your specific patterns of heroin abuse and the duration of time that you have been engaging in heroin abuse.
The initial short-term heroin withdrawal symptoms will typically last for individuals for up to 7 to 10 days. After you have overcome your acute withdrawal symptoms, individuals will be able to overcome the uncomfortable or unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and begin to undergo heroin addiction treatment to heal from the root causes of your drug addiction.
However, there are some recovering heroin addicts that may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) that are a result of the neurological changes that have occurred during their time in heroin addiction. These withdrawal symptoms can include depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, or irritability. PAWS can potentially have long-term effects and can last up to 18 to 24 months for some individuals. If you are experiencing PAWS, you must continue to receive support through addiction treatment and counseling programs to help you stay on track to achieve your goals for addiction recovery.
Get Help With Heroin Withdrawal and Find Recovery at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab
Recovery from heroin addiction is possible, and at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab, we offer patients a comprehensive treatment program that will support them in safely and effectively overcome their heroin addiction. Through our personalized treatment approaches, patients will be provided with a treatment plan centered around their individual needs and goals for addiction recovery. Patients will be invited to participate in a medically supervised heroin detox program that will allow them to release the harmful toxins of heroin with the ongoing support and treatment from our expert treatment staff, who will provide you with evidence-based therapy approaches, including medically assisted treatment (MAT) programs and leading addiction therapy methods.
A MAT program offers patients medications that support withdrawal management, allowing them to remain safe and comfortable throughout their heroin detox. As you progress through your heroin detox and overcome the short-term, acute withdrawal symptoms, you will be invited to continue within a drug rehab program that will allow you to explore and heal from the root causes of your addiction while gaining the tools and skills to maintain long-term addiction recovery. Contact WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today to begin your recovery journey and discover the possibilities that life offers free of heroin abuse.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.