Treatment Options For Heroin Withdrawal

There are a variety of treatment options offered by recovery programs and treatment centers that facilitate safe cessation from heroin use, and support sustainable abstinence from heroin. These treatments include withdrawal management, medication-assisted treatment, and detox.

Treatment options for heroin withdrawal are made available to those who are dealing with opioid use disorders and need help with managing opioid withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe.

Withdrawal management is an effective way to make the detox experience less uncomfortable and to mitigate mild to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin addiction is very challenging to overcome, due to the powerful effects of opioids on the body and mind. Opioid dependence is serious and should be treated as a medical condition.

The higher a person’s tolerance to heroin, the harder it is to detox from it. Acute symptoms of withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening if they’re not monitored and medically treated.

Withdrawal Management

Withdrawal management is the medical care of people who are detoxing from heroin or another substance that they are physically dependent on.

Detox refers to medically supervised opioid withdrawal.

It’s the process of helping people safely detox from opioids like heroin using medical management of heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the common and sometimes dangerous side effects of heroin withdrawal are:

  • severe nausea and vomiting
  • severe diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • muscle aches, cramps, and spasms
  • abdominal cramping
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • hot and cold sweats
  • goosebumps
  • restlessness
  • restless leg syndrome (uncontrollable leg movement)
  • insomnia
  • agitation and anxiety
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • hallucinations

Observation and consistent monitoring of withdrawal symptoms are critical during heroin detox, and should be done three to four times per day.

Short-acting opioids such as heroin have an onset of symptoms within eight to 24 hours of last use, and symptoms can last anywhere between four and 10 days.

The Short Opioid Withdrawal Scale (SOWS) measures symptoms to inform decisions about withdrawal management treatment. Symptoms are scored as mild, moderate or severe.

Learn more about the heroin withdrawal timeline.

Medication-Assisted Treatment For Heroin Withdrawal

With prolonged and severe cases of heroin addiction, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be used to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and facilitate sustained abstinence and recovery.

What Is MAT For Heroin Withdrawal Management?

Medication-assisted treatment is the use of medications along with other treatment approaches to manage the physical symptoms and psychological effects of heroin withdrawal.

MAT can continue indefinitely due to the chronic nature of heroin addiction. There are three FDA-approved medications that are used for MAT: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.

Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Suboxone and Subutex are both brand names of buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist (which activates opioid receptors) used for detox and management of heroin withdrawal symptoms.

The key difference between the two brands is that Suboxone is an agonist that contains buprenorphine and naloxone, and Subutex contains buprenorphine only.

Buprenorphine can only be prescribed through outpatient and office-based opioid programs.


Methadone is a full opioid agonist that is used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevents drug cravings. It can only be prescribed and administered by licensed opioid treatment programs.

Methadone works by acting on the same opioid receptors in the brain as other opioid substances, but to a lesser, slower effect.

As a result, methadone helps to reduce the pain of heroin withdrawal and blocks the euphoric effects of opioid drugs.


Naltrexone, which is also known by the brand name Vivitrol, is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks opioid receptors. It can effectively reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

There are no restrictions on prescribing naltrexone. It cannot be administered until after detox from heroin is complete, and it is not recommended for pregnant women detoxing from heroin.

Other Medications Used For Withdrawal Management

During and after detox, side effects like anxiety, restlessness, and hypertension may be managed with clonidine or similar medications.

Clonidine is an antihypertensive and sedative drug used to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Sedation can make heroin withdrawal symptoms less uncomfortable.

Inpatient Detox For Heroin Withdrawal

Inpatient heroin detox treatment provides medical care to manage abrupt withdrawal. Detox can last between five and 10 days, depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox providers use buprenorphine and methadone to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Naltrexone may be recommended and prescribed once detox is complete.

What Causes Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin abuse over prolonged periods of time causes the body to develop a tolerance and physical dependence on the drug.

The greater the tolerance for high doses of heroin, the harder it is to stop using and the more acute the withdrawal symptoms are.

Learn more about heroin withdrawal here.

FAQs: Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

Heroin withdrawal treatment is critical to the recovery process. Severe withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening and should be medically managed and monitored during and after detox.

❓ Can I Detox From Heroin At Home?

✔️ Attempting to detox from heroin alone and without medications can be dangerous. It is advisable to first consult with a healthcare professional about withdrawal management options.

❓ What Medication Is Best For Withdrawal?

✔️ The choice of medication for withdrawal management depends on the severity and duration of heroin addiction. An addiction treatment specialist can provide medical advice on medications.

❓ Does Heroin Increase Or Decrease Stress After Withdrawal?

✔️ Heroin withdrawal is worst during the detox phase and can cause considerable physical and mental stress. Stress decreases after detox and can be managed with medication and therapy.

Find A Treatment Program For Heroin Addiction

Detoxing from heroin is an extremely difficult but essential phase of the addiction treatment process. The anticipation of heroin withdrawal can deter some people from getting treatment.

Fortunately, there are many recovery programs that offer MAT and other withdrawal management options to make detox less arduous and abstinence more successful.

If you or someone you love is dealing with a heroin addiction, contact Spring Hill Recovery Center to learn more about maintenance therapy and treatment for substance use disorders.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Recovery is Possible
  2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment
  3. Healthline – Home Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information – Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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