Heroin is a highly addictive semi-synthetic opioid that causes tolerance and physical dependence to form rapidly with sustained use.
If you become dependent on heroin, you will require the drug to function normally. If you moderate or discontinue use, you will experience intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
How long does heroin withdrawal last, then?
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
So how long does it take to withdraw from heroin? This depends on many factors, including:
- Duration of heroin abuse
- The extent of heroin abuse
- Frequency of heroin abuse
- Route of administration (smoking, snorting, or injecting)
- Underlying physical health conditions
- Co-occurring mental health disorders
The acute phase of heroin detox and withdrawal involves the presentation of physical symptoms within 6 to 12 hours after the last dose of heroin.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically last for 5 to 7 days.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms normally peak within 2 to 3 days of the last use, gradually subsiding over the following few days. Common physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
The post-acute phase of heroin withdrawal may last for weeks or even months. Symptoms that present during this period will be less severe and longer-lasting and may include:
PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) can last for up to two years after discontinuing the use of heroin in those who are heavily dependent on the illicit narcotic. Symptoms of PAWS include:
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
Here is a typical heroin withdrawal timeline:
- Days 1 and 2 of heroin withdrawal: The first symptoms of heroin withdrawal may present just 6 hours after the last use. Muscle aches and pains will develop during the first day of detoxification, intensifying over the following 2 days. You can also expect symptoms including panic attacks, anxiety, tremors, diarrhea, and insomnia.
- Days 3 to 5 of heroin withdrawal: Acute heroin withdrawal is underway with symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, sweating, shivers, and abdominal cramps.
- Days 6 and 7 of heroin withdrawal: Acute heroin withdrawal normally lasts for a week. Muscle aches and nausea start subsiding toward the end of the first week. Although you may feel fatigued, you will also start feeling more normal physically.
- Week 2 and beyond of heroin withdrawal: If you experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome when detoxing from heroin, symptoms may linger for months or years. Symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia are triggered by the neurological changes brought about by chronic heroin abuse.
A supervised medical detox program provides the safest and most comfortable approach to heroin withdrawal. Benefit from medical monitoring, medications to streamline withdrawal, and emotional care as you detox from opioids.
Heroin addiction, like all opioid use disorders, requires ongoing treatment after detox to help manage the psychological and behavioral aspects of heroin abuse. Treatment typically involves a continuation of MAT (medication-assisted treatment) combined with psychotherapy and counseling. We can help you with this here at California Detox in Southern California.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive semi-synthetic opioid that is derived from morphine. Morphine occurs in the seed pods of the opium poppy plant.
The drug was first synthesized by a British chemist in the late 1800s and was subsequently marketed worldwide as a painkiller and cough suppressant. It was later discovered that heroin is fiercely addictive, with its sustained use triggering the development of tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of use. Today, heroin is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. Like all substances under this schedule, heroin has a high potential for abuse and is likely to lead to severe dependence, both physical and psychological.
Illicit heroin is typically sold as a brownish or off-white powder, although it can also be found in a black, tar-like form (mainly trafficked by Mexican cartels). Darker heroin typically has more impurities and is less potent. Black tar heroin is almost completely unrefined. Increasingly, street heroin is becoming adulterated with fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
Heroin may be snorted, smoked, or injected. The route of administration impacts the speed and intensity of the effects experienced. Injecting heroin intravenously is the most dangerous method of use, carrying a high risk of overdose and transmission of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
Some of the most pressing dangers of long-term heroin use include:
- Overdose: Perhaps the most significant danger of heroin is the risk of life-threatening overdose. When you ingest heroin in any form, the substance binds to MOR (mu-opioid receptors) that occur naturally in the brain, triggering a release of dopamine and a surge of euphoria. Taking too much heroin can provoke respiratory depression, with breathing slowing and potentially stopping altogether. This may cause hypoxia, a condition in which insufficient oxygen reaches the brain, resulting in permanent brain damage, coma, or death. The risk of overdose is dramatically increased if heroin is cut with fentanyl. Fortunately, rates of heroin overdose are declining in the United States.
- Addiction: Heroin is powerfully addictive, and the risk of addiction increases with habitual use. Data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) indicate that of the 1.1 million U.S. adults who used heroin in 2021, over 1 million developed heroin addiction (opioid use disorder) in the same year. Tolerance to heroin forms rapidly, prompting those who repeatedly use the drug to increase consumption to achieve the same euphoric effects. This will hasten the onset of physical dependence on heroin. Addiction often but not always follows. Heroin addiction is a chronic brain condition characterized by compulsive use of heroin in the face of obviously adverse outcomes.
- Physical health complications: Heroin use can lead to a range of physical health problems, including infections, collapsed veins, abscesses, and liver or kidney damage. Sharing needles or other drug equipment can also increase the risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
- Mental health problems: Heroin use can also have a significant impact on mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Those who use heroin long-term may also experience the presentation of paranoia, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms.
- Social and financial problems: Heroin addiction can also lead to significant social and financial problems. People who are addicted may struggle to maintain relationships, hold down a job, or meet other responsibilities. They may also experience legal problems, including arrest and incarceration.
The symptoms of heroin use vary according to the route of administration, the frequency, and the amount of use. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Euphoria: Taking any form of heroin provokes an intense and almost immediate euphoric high. This surge of euphoria is the primary reason for people abusing heroin.
- Drowsiness: Using heroin may cause extreme drowsiness or sedation lasting for several hours.
- Constricted pupils: Heroin use can cause pupils to constrict, making them appear smaller than normal.
- Dry mouth: Taking heroin leads to a dry mouth, potentially causing dental problems over time.
- Itching: Those who use heroin may experience itching or a sensation that bugs are crawling on their skin.
- Nausea and vomiting: Heroin use can cause nausea and vomiting, especially during the initial stages of use. This occurs as the body rejects a poisonous agent. Repeated use causes your body to become accustomed to this toxin, ultimately requiring the substance to function normally.
- Slowed breathing: Heroin overdose can cause breathing to slow or stop which can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases.
- Confusion: Ingesting heroin is associated with confusion and disorientation, making it difficult to think clearly or make decisions.
- Constipation: Using an opioid like heroin can cause constipation, possibly prompting the development of bowel problems over time.
- Injection site problems: Those who inject the drug may experience problems like abscesses, infections, and collapsed veins.
Heroin Rehab at California Detox
If you have an addiction to opioids, we offer a variety of heroin addiction treatment programs at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.
Connect with our supervised medical detox program to access medications that will mitigate and streamline the heroin withdrawal process. After detoxing, you can transition directly into one of the following programs:
- Inpatient program (residential rehab)
- PHP (partial hospitalization program)
- IOP (intensive outpatient program)
- Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for co-occurring disorders)
All treatment programs at our luxury Laguna Beach facility provide individualized heroin addiction treatment that combines science-based treatments and holistic therapies that include:
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapy
Call admissions at 949.694.8305 for immediate assistance beating addiction to heroin or any other opioid.