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woman in a hoodie with hands against her face experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms

Detoxing from Heroin: What Is Withdrawal Like?

If the fear of heroin withdrawal is keeping you stuck in the addiction cycle, you should know that medical detox can greatly ease the process and make it much more tolerable. Vogue Recovery Center’s heroin detox program is safe and effective. Our medical team makes sure you’re as comfortable as possible with specialized, compassionate care throughout detox and 24/7 nurses. Quitting heroin and living a life free of addiction is possible.

What Are Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms Like?

People who’ve been through heroin withdrawal sometimes describe it as like the worst case of flu they’ve ever had. The intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms depends on several factors. These include:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • How long you’ve been abusing heroin
  • How much heroin you normally use
  • If you’re abusing other drugs and alcohol as well

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be painful and dangerous. It’s important to go through the withdrawal process under the care of medical professionals. They can help make the effects of withdrawal tolerable and safe. Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal cramping and stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Runny nose and other flu-like symptoms
  • Heroin cravings
  • Low body temperature
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Chills
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Despite all the discomfort of heroin withdrawal symptoms, the two most dangerous ones are vomiting and diarrhea. You can become dangerously dehydrated, oversaturating your body with salt. This puts you at risk for heart problems.

Your overall health can also make the symptoms of heroin withdrawal dangerous. If you have conditions like diabetes, heart or blood pressure issues, or auto-immune disorders you’re at greater risk for heart attack or stroke if not properly monitored and treated. 

One of the symptoms of heroin withdrawal is increased heartbeat. When the heart is already at risk, this added stress can push it beyond the limit. With careful medical monitoring and treatment, the risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms is greatly minimized. After the first 48 to 72 hours, that risk further decreases.

Heroin detox in a rehab center won’t eliminate all symptoms of withdrawal. It will make them much more bearable though. Medical detox also ensures you’re safe throughout the drug withdrawal process. 

What Causes Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin and other opiates act as endorphin imposters. They rob your body of the ability to produce feel-good chemicals on its own. Opioid addiction impacts the brain’s opioid receptors and reward system. Heroin attaches to opioid receptors and makes them produce large amounts of dopamine and other chemicals. These are the chemicals responsible for feelings of pleasure. They provide the heroin euphoria that gets many users hooked on the drug.

Your brain eventually becomes dependent on heroin to have even normal amounts of feel-good chemicals. When you quit heroin, the central nervous system goes into high alert because you’re physically dependent on the drug to function. The lack of normal levels of brain chemicals and the efforts to restore them brings on heroin withdrawal symptoms. You have developed a tolerance to its effects and start needing heroin just to prevent withdrawal symptoms. 

How Long Is Heroin Withdrawal?

Detoxing from heroin is rarely easy, and everyone will have some variation in their heroin withdrawal timeline. If you’re abusing heroin, you can typically expect to experience some form of detox symptoms within a day after last use, but the heroin detox timeline can begin as soon as a few hours. 

Typically, peak withdrawal occurs one to three days after stopping heroin use. Although the heroin detox timeline is fairly standard for everyone, the intensity and dangers of detox can differ dramatically. 

Detox from heroin is commonly described as having flu-like symptoms. These include symptoms like chills, aches and pains, sweats, and nausea, among others. In the most severe situations, symptoms such as depression, difficulty breathing, and anxiety can occur.

The severity and duration of heroin withdrawal symptoms depend on:

  • How long you’ve been using heroin.
  • The amount of heroin you’ve been abusing.
  • If you have mental or physical health issues.
  • Your physical make-up. 

Heroin is generally eliminated from the body rapidly. This means opioid withdrawal signs may start just hours after your last use.

First Phase

Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically start within 12 hours after quitting heroin. They’re brought about by the sudden absence of endorphins and noradrenaline. Heroin produces an excess of these chemicals. The body goes into overdrive trying to adjust to the lack of excessive chemicals it’s now become dependent on. Opiate and opioid withdrawal symptoms build over 48 hours. They generally peak the second or third day. 

First phase heroin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Intense heroin cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps and bone pain
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating

Second Phase

Between 3-5 days, the body starts to produce its own endorphins again. The body begins to slowly adjust to life without heroin. Withdrawal symptoms during this period may include:

  • Goosebumps
  • Sudden chills
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting

Third Phase

This phase may feel like the last stages of a bad case of the flu, with lingering aches and pains. It may continue for a couple of weeks. Although the body has partially recovered, psychological symptoms are common. The body no longer has euphoria-producing opiates. Lingering heroin withdrawal symptoms at this point, may include:

  • General malaise
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Mild to moderate depression

It’s important to remember that heroin withdrawal and detox are temporary. Addiction medicine professionals can help you through this first step in recovery. Once you’re feeling better physically, you’ll be able to focus on the treatment that will help you get your life back on track.

Do You Need Medical Detox for Heroin?

While heroin withdrawal isn’t usually life threatening, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, and even painful. Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea are dangerous if you get dehydrated. 

If you try to quit heroin cold turkey on your own, relapse is a significant risk. The withdrawal symptoms of heroin can feel so bad that the temptation to use opioids to stop them is unbearable. Going through medically assisted detox for heroin helps keep you safe if your withdrawal symptoms become severe. Medical detox professionals also ease discomfort and cravings. Detox should always be followed with an opioid addiction treatment program.

What Is Medical Detox for Heroin Like?

Medical detox typically begins with an assessment. A physician will ask you things like:

  • The last time you used.
  • How long you’ve been using heroin.
  • What discomfort you’re having.
  • If you’ve been using other drugs and alcohol.
  • If you have any known medical conditions.

They’ll take your vital signs and determine the best course of treatment. You may be given medications like lofexidine, an FDA-approved medicine that helps opioid withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes you’ll be started on medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These are medications that act on your opioid receptors in similar ways as heroin but do not get you high. They can help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 

The three FDA-approved MATS are:

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol®)
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex®)
  • Methadone (Dolophine® or Methadose®)

In a detox center you’ll usually share a room with one other person or have your own room. You can rest in bed, watch tv, or hang out in common areas as you’re feeling up to it. Nurses will regularly monitor your vital signs and comfort level. They may give you medication to help nausea or sleep.

Heroin Detox at Vogue Recovery Center

Coping with heroin withdrawal on your own is a bad idea. Many heroin users relapse during withdrawal because the symptoms are unbearable. Vogue Recovery Center addiction treatment provides specialized heroin detox to keep you safe and lessen discomfort. Our medical team are experts at managing withdrawal symptoms. We use the latest medications and treatment therapies. You’ll go through detox in a welcoming and comfortable setting with a 24/7 treatment team to monitor you around the clock and attend to discomfort. 

What Happens After Heroin Detox?

Drug detox is the first step in recovery. A heroin addiction treatment program is next. Substance use disorders often develop as a symptom of deeper issues. Some of these include:

  • Trauma
  • Emotional pain
  • Relationship issues
  • Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor coping skills

Overcoming heroin addiction means addressing these underlying issues. Getting to the root causes of drug and alcohol use helps prevent relapse. When you begin healing from the challenges that fuel drug abuse, you feel less of a need to abuse substances. You must also develop healthy coping skills to use when you face triggers back in everyday life. Time in a drug rehab gives you space and distance to focus on these efforts.

Drug addiction treatment programs may include:

Insurance Coverage for Drug Rehab

Your insurance may cover time in a heroin detox center and drug rehab program. Most insurance plans are required by law to cover behavioral health treatment like they do medical conditions. 

Vogue Recovery Center works with several insurance providers. The best way to verify your insurance coverage for drug rehab is to call us. Our recovery advisors will speak directly with your insurance representatives to understand your benefits. We’ll provide you with a detailed explanation and an estimate of out-of-pocket costs. 

Get Help for Heroin Addiction

Entering a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program isn’t an easy decision, but if substance abuse is affecting your health, relationships, and quality of life, it’s the right one. Vogue Recovery Center can help you get sober and turn your life around. 

Opioid detox here is safe and as comfortable as possible. Following detox, our addiction recovery programs take place in home-like settings among staff with years of experience and peers who understand what you’re going through. You’ll benefit from evidence-based, engaging addiction treatment that helps you get to the root causes of heroin abuse and learn the healthy coping skills you need for long-term recovery. Heroin addiction doesn’t get better on its own. Call our treatment center for a free, confidential consultation.



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