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Heroin Withdrawal: An in Depth Understanding


male patient sitting with doctor while experiencing heroin withdrawal

Understanding heroin withdrawal can be hard, but knowing it has physical symptoms such as seizures, dry mouth, racing heart rate, and drug cravings is a start.

Every person’s experience with heroin is unique, but withdrawal plays an important role in every recovery.

Understanding Heroin Addiction

Although advances in science have changed how the medical community views addiction, the understanding of the general public has lagged behind. However, it’s important to realize that heroin is a highly addictive substance. Regular use can also lead to tolerance, requiring people to use more to get the same effect.

A substance use disorder (SUD) is the continued use of a substance even when it begins to impact health and interferes with work and family obligations. SUDs range from mild to severe, with addiction being the most severe form.

Heroin is derived from morphine, a prescription pain reliever, and works to depress the central nervous system. It reduces the ability to feel pain while also producing euphoria and a profound sense of satisfaction. This high can be incredibly pleasurable despite the deadly risks.

Heroin Addiction Statistics

An estimated 4.2 million people in the United States have used heroin, and over 23% of those people become addicted. It’s the predominant opioid abused in the United States, and opioid use makes up 18% of those who receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Heroin?

The heroin detox timeline depends on how much heroin a person has been using, how long they have been using, and how severe withdrawal symptoms become. The more heroin a person has in their system, the longer it will take for it to leave the system fully and the longer a detox will take.

Similarly, if withdrawal symptoms are severe, detox should be done more slowly to better manage psychological symptoms and withdrawal effects.

What is Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin addiction is a complicated matter, and continued use can be driven in part by fear of going through withdrawal. To be able to help and offer support, you need to understand the answers to the question “How does heroin withdrawal make you feel?”. This is a difficult process with a number of symptoms, effects, and influences.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include a variety of physical symptoms, including muscle aches, abdominal cramps, a runny nose, hot and cold flashes, sweating, and more. Many people also experience a significant drug craving when they begin going through withdrawal. This makes heroin even harder to stop using without help.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms is dependent on how long a person has been using heroin, how much heroin they have been using, and individual factors that can’t be readily measured.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin is a short-acting opioid, meaning it takes effect quickly and leaves the system quickly. The National Institute of Health has determined that withdrawal symptoms can begin 8 to 24 hours after the last use and can last from 4 to 10 days. The length of withdrawal symptoms is driven by many of the same factors as severity.

Effects of Heroin Withdrawal

There are more effects of heroin withdrawal than just physical symptoms. As heroin is flushed out of a person’s system, their heroin tolerance is reduced, putting them at greater risk of overdose. In addition, after the withdrawal symptoms that are seen acutely after heroin is withdrawn, people can experience a more protracted form of withdrawal.

This extended withdrawal can include strong heroin cravings and feelings of reduced well-being. These effects contribute to relapse events, and some people need to undergo a form of opioid substitution to aid in their recovery. Heroin withdrawal can also reveal the long-term or permanent effects of chronic heroin use that may have been masked before.

Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?

The withdrawal process is more than just unpleasant; many serious complications can occur. Contrary to popular belief, however, heroin withdrawal has a very low fatality rate.

Despite the risks associated with heroin withdrawal, the majority of heroin deaths are due to overdose. However, withdrawal should still be supervised by an addiction specialist to manage any complications as they arise to prevent them from becoming life-threatening.

How Is Heroin Addiction Treated?

Heroin addiction is treated with a combination of different types of therapy. 

  • Addiction treatment center- Agape Treatment Center can provide professional support from clinical staff to assist with medical therapies and help develop individualized plans.
  • Medication therapy- Helps manage withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. This can also be referred to as medical detox.
  • Behavioral therapy- Addresses the psychosocial symptoms that contributed to the addiction and provides healthy alternative coping mechanisms to help reduce the likelihood of relapse. Both of these therapies also work to help manage the long-term effects of heroin abuse.
  • Peer Groups- Groups like Narcotics Anonymous can provide much-needed support and social validation.

Our resort-like rehab can offer specialized treatment for drug addiction. We are also equipped to handle acute withdrawal symptoms and any complications that may arise during the detox process. So reach out today and speak to a specialist to begin your path to recovery.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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