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Heroin Detox: Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

It is crucial to understand heroin detox withdrawal symptoms as there can be risks associated with unsupervised detox. Unfortunately, quitting heroin on your own is very difficult and challenging. There can be very severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. As such, heroin detox should occur at a medical detox center. 

What Is Heroin?

Heroin comes from morphine and the opium poppy plant. It is often made into a powder or a black, sticky residue resembling tar. People also “cut” heroin with other illicit substances like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. 

What Is Heroin Detox and Withdrawal? 

Heroin detox and withdrawal occur anytime the substance starts to wear off. The person can exhibit various withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. The extent of symptoms experienced depends on several factors, including:

  • The amount of heroin used.
  • The frequency of use.
  • The length of time it has been used.
  • The overall health of the user.
  • Whether the heroin was cut with other substances or the person is mixing substances. 

Since heroin detox and withdrawal can be quite unpleasant, most people continue using heroin just to avoid withdrawal symptoms. As you can imagine, this is another reason most people are not able to stop using heroin on their own. 

Heroin Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

The heroin detox withdrawal symptoms experienced will vary from one person to the next. Some people can experience all of the withdrawal symptoms, while someone else will only experience fewer symptoms. Keeping this in mind, the most common withdrawal symptoms experienced when detoxing from heroin include the following:

Muscle and Body Aches and Pains

Heroin use blocks pain receptors and signals in the brain. When someone starts heroin detox, the drug is no longer doing this. So, it is common to feel aches and pains in various areas of the body and muscles.

Cold and Flu Symptoms

Some people may feel like they have a very bad cold or flu. They can have a runny nose, fever, headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, and excessive sweating. 

Stomach and Gastrointestinal Cramping and Pain

Regular heroin use can cause these symptoms. When someone stops, the body must take time to heal.

Mental Health and Mood Disorders

Some people experience various mental health and mood disorders, such as hallucinations, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, anger, agitation, and irritability. 

Intense Cravings

The brain remembers the pleasurable effects of using heroin as a positive behavior. When going through detox, the brain will still crave heroin because it does not know how to function without it. 

Heroin Detox Timeline

Generally, detoxing from heroin at a medical detox center takes a few weeks. However, the aforementioned factors can affect the amount of time to withdraw from this drug safely. 

  • Eight to 36 hours: Mild withdrawal symptoms usually start to appear within the first 24 hours. However, sometimes they can take up to 36 hours to appear. 
  • Days Two through Three: The withdrawal symptoms will increase in intensity. This is considered the more dangerous withdrawal phase, as symptoms need to be medically supervised to help the person stabilize and not relapse.
  • Days Four through Six: The symptoms will continue to increase until they peak, sometimes during days 4 to 6. Once they peak, they will slowly start to decrease in intensity.
  • Days Seven through 14: The body can still experience physical withdrawal symptoms until they subside entirely, usually sometime during the second week of detox. 
  • Day 15 and beyond: While the body has been physically detoxed from heroin, some people still have psychological withdrawal symptoms, called PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), that can linger for several more weeks or months. PAWS symptoms can include cravings, depression, anxiety, and other mental health and mood disorders.

PAWS symptoms gradually decrease in frequency and intensity the longer one remains sober. Eventually, they will subside and go away. 

Why Medical Detox May Be Necessary for Heroin Addiction

One should never quit heroin “cold turkey.” It causes a wide range of brain and body changes that require medical supervision to monitor withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox can also include the use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT can be very beneficial for some people to kick heroin and reduce the intensity and severity of their withdrawal symptoms. The treatment uses non-addictive prescription medications that mimic the effects of heroin at less intense levels. MAT also helps the body and brain stabilize and recover faster. 

In addition, MAT can continue after detox when it is beneficial for the individual. Long-term MAT use often helps people maintain their sobriety and avoid relapses. 

Safely Detox from Heroin at our Medical Detox Center in Nashville, TN

Detox Nashville in Tennessee is a medical detox center that offers personalized heroin detox treatment plans. Your personalized treatment can include the use of MAT when appropriate. Start your heroin detox in a caring, supportive, and safe environment by contacting us today. 

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