Heroin Withdrawal Timeline: How Long Does It Last?
Heroin withdrawal lasts anywhere from four days to several months. There are early, peak, and later stages of withdrawal. The length of time of withdrawal depends on many factors, such as substance abuse history and health.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms are one of the many signs of heroin use.
Based on a person’s history of heroin abuse and other factors, the symptoms of withdrawal can last about four days or up to several months.
The detox process is safest under the supervision of healthcare providers. Treatment centers utilize medical detox procedures like medication and behavioral therapy to help recovery.
How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Heroin withdrawal symptoms take place because the body and brain are adjusting to the absence of the strong opiate.
Symptoms usually begin 6 to 12 hours after the last use of heroin.
Typically, the more someone has engaged in heroin use, the longer and more severe withdrawals will stay present in the body.
The withdrawal timeline has three stages:
- Early stage
- Peak stage
- Later stage
Early Stages Of Withdrawal
Early withdrawal symptoms appear within 6 to 12 hours from the last dose of heroin.
Heroin is a short-acting opioid, meaning it leaves the body quicker than other opioids, such as methadone.
Within the first 12 hours, you may experience:
- muscle aches
- increased tearing
- runny nose
You may also experience the following psychological symptoms:
- drug cravings that increase as the heroin withdrawal process
Peak Stages Of Withdrawal
The peak stages of withdrawal begin 24 hours to 72 hours after the last dose of heroin.
This is when physical and psychological symptoms are the strongest. The peak stage has been described as feeling like a very bad flu with extreme psychological discomfort.
On day one through day three, you might have opioid withdrawal symptoms such as:
- abdominal cramping
- dilated pupils
- high blood pressure
- fast heart rate
As physical symptoms peak, you or your loved one will feel the strongest drug cravings.
This is because on days one through three, the desire to alleviate physical discomfort will be intense, often leading to relapse.
Psychological symptoms felt during the peak stages of withdrawal include:
- increased anxiety
Drug and alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. The body loses much of its water supply during the detox process, sometimes leading to fatal dehydration when left untreated.
This is why it’s suggested that detoxification from opioid addiction happens in a safe environment with proper care, such as a detox center.
Later Stages Of Withdrawal
The later stages of withdrawal begin after about four to 10 days. At this point in the withdrawal timeline, heroin has mostly or completely left the body.
During this time, the physical and psychological symptoms decrease drastically, and the body’s craving for opioids will die down. But this doesn’t mean that psychological cravings go away.
In many cases, psychological symptoms can persist for multiple months. These symptoms are called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Factors Affecting Withdrawal Timeline
Heroin withdrawal is affected by many factors. In most cases, there are two main factors that determine how harsh withdrawals are felt.
The most important factors are:
- the amount of heroin abused
- the duration of heroin use
Other factors that affect the withdrawal process:
- Pre-existing health conditions
- Method of heroin abuse (if smoked, injected, or snorted)
- Coexisting substance abuse or drug addiction
- A person’s gender
- Type and purity of heroin
Can You Shorten The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline?
Shortening the heroin withdrawal timeline is not possible, but you can make the detox process more comfortable.
While some choose to detox outside the healthcare system, this has the highest chance of extending symptoms and can also be life-threatening.
You can ease the symptoms of withdrawal through:
- healthcare monitoring and check-ins from friends and family
- medication-based treatment
- drinkings lots of water
- vitamin B and C supplements
You can also manage the later stages of withdrawal with:
- medication-based treatment (MAT)
- behavioral therapies
- 12-step groups
MAT programs use medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to curb physical symptoms.
Along with medication, addiction treatment centers will also focus on mental health with social interventions (behavioral therapies) such as group and individual counseling.
Learn more about heroin withdrawal treatment.
Heroin Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts
Heroin withdrawal is uncomfortable, but we at Spring Hill Recovery Center can help you find the right treatment program to ease the process.
Call us today if you or a loved one want information on drug and alcohol detox programs in Massachusetts.
- Medline Plus — Opiate And Opioid Withdrawal https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
- National Center For Biotechnology Information — Clinical Guidelines For Withdrawal Management And Treatment Of Drug Dependence In Closed Settings https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
- Semel Institute For Neuroscience And Human Behavior — Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS