Understanding the Timeline of Heroin Withdrawal

Understanding the Timeline of Heroin Withdrawal

Substance use disorder (SUD) is unfortunately prevalent in the U.S. today. Among the more severe addictions is heroin overuse. People who repeatedly use heroin may quickly develop a tolerance and strong physical dependence on this drug. Quitting heroin on one’s own can be difficult, even dangerous. Severe withdrawal symptoms may require medical monitoring and intervention. Understanding what happens during detox from heroin can help demystify the process, making people more willing to seek treatment.

The Prevalence of Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal

Heroin is among the more popular illicit opioid drugs circulated in many communities. It is a substance derived from morphine, which is a natural extract from the poppy plant. Heroin is often cheaper than prescription opioid drugs, making it easily accessible. In the past decade or so, heroin use in the U.S. has more than doubled. Use of and addiction to this drug often starts as a dependence on prescription opioids.

Regular use of heroin may lead the body to adapt to the drug’s presence quickly. This is because addictive substances attach to the brain’s opioid receptors, activating chemical changes. When a person tries to reduce their intake or quit using heroin, they experience withdrawal symptoms.

Common Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to fatal if not treated properly. Many opioid drugs have the same effect. Difficult withdrawal symptoms are the main reason why quitting opioid drugs on one’s own can be difficult.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms have short-term and long-term manifestations. Usually, people will experience the short-term effects in as little as eight hours of their last dose of heroin. These symptoms include a fast pulse, increased breathing rate, high blood pressure, elevated body temperature, and sweating. Some people may experience muscle spasms, bone pain, nausea, or vomiting. These are acute withdrawal symptoms.

After a few days of abstaining, the individual can experience long-term heroin withdrawal symptoms. These include fatigue, anxiety, memory problems, intense cravings, and impaired decision-making abilities. Effects like these are known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms. 

Heroin Withdrawal and the Risk of Relapse

Few people successfully quit heroin independently due to these acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms. They are tempted to return to the drug to alleviate their physical discomforts and pains. It takes a long time for the brain to heal from the impact of heroin use.

An individual attempting to quit heroin use alone is at a high risk of a heroin overdose. Upon eliminating heroin use, their brain and body experience a decrease in tolerance. If that person returns to using heroin after abstinence, using the same dosage they achieved previously may have disastrous consequences. 

Treating Heroin Addiction While Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

The best and safest way to treat heroin addiction is to begin detox followed by residential treatment at a highly-qualified facility. A medically-assisted detoxification process can provide full support for someone going through acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms. People must understand the timeline of heroin withdrawal, so they know what to expect during the process.

Acute heroin withdrawal symptoms usually last around a week. However, the first 24 hours can be the most painful. These symptoms arise because the brain reacts to the absence of the drug while releasing built-up toxins. 

Within two days of detox, heroin withdrawal symptoms such as physical pains may intensify, making these days a “make or break” phase of the journey. Health professionals may use nonaddictive medication to help recovering individuals cope with their symptoms. 

Within about six days after quitting heroin use, the substance should be fully detoxed from the body. There may still be lingering symptoms since the brain takes longer to achieve normalcy. Cravings, anxiety, and depression become the individual’s new normal for a while. Even after the brain’s functions are restored, the mind and body need additional recovery time. 

Managing Heroin Withdrawal and Long-Term Recovery

Withdrawal symptoms may affect people’s post-detox treatment stage. Medical professionals may prescribe medications to help recovering individuals reduce cravings so they can focus on treatment. For example, buprenorphine is a partial opioid that helps people cope with the craving without returning to heroin use. Other common medications to support people’s treatment journey include suboxone and naltrexone. 

To heal the brain from the long-term impact of heroin, individuals may combine psychotherapy with medications and holistic methods. Like all types of substance addiction, people need a relapse prevention plan to help them post-treatment. People who used heroin may also need an overdose prevention plan. While continuing to monitor emotional and mental health, individuals must actively reinforce a healthy routine to reduce stress. 

Heron addiction may lead to intense heroin withdrawal symptoms. The body and the brain need medical care while detoxing from heroin. Individuals should collaborate with health professionals who can design treatment and relapse prevention plans unique to their circumstances and needs.

If you or your loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, learn more about the withdrawal process when stopping using this substance. Do not attempt detox on your own because it can be dangerous. Heroin is a potent substance that requires medical assistance during detox. It is time to reach out for some help. Laguna Shores Recovery offers a full range of addiction treatment programs, including medically-assisted detox, psychotherapy, 12-Step groups, self-care coaching, life skills lessons, and holistic methods. Our compassionate health professionals are experts in this field. You will feel supported on this journey. Call us at (866) 774-1532 and allow us to help you take that first step toward freedom.