Heroin Withdrawal & Detox

Heroin is an illegal and very addictive opioid. Those who have an opioid use disorder (OUD) or are dependent upon an opioid like heroin will likely experience unpleasant and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they stop using.1

An estimated 60% of people who have used heroin at least once in the last 12 months will experience withdrawal symptoms.2

 like heroin is rarely fatal; however, dehydration, anxiety, and other medical complications can arise during withdrawal.3

Additionally, a person’s tolerance lowers the longer they haven’t actively used, increasing the risk of overdose after relapse.3 Medical detox at a facility or hospital can help you stay comfortable through the withdrawal process and provide an entry point for treatment.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

As with any addiction, the intensity, duration, and ultimate resolution of detoxing from heroin is going to vary among individuals. Factors that affect the withdrawal timeline include a person’s age, how often they use heroin, how long they’ve been using heroin, how much heroin they use, the presence of mental health issues and other pre-existing medical conditions.3

What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Although the symptoms experienced during heroin withdrawal are usually not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable and relapse is common without professional treatment. Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:3

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Insomnia.
  • Perspiration.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Stomach aches.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

How to Detox from Heroin Safely

How can you cope with heroin withdrawal? It is not recommended to attempt detoxing from opioids like heroin on your own or from home. Although heroin withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, it can be painful and uncomfortable. Many are tempted to use again so that symptoms and cravings subside. Relapse after a detox and withdrawal period, when a person’s tolerance is reduced, puts a person at risk of an overdose.

Instead, safe detox from heroin can happen in a detox facility, a hospital, or an addiction treatment facility that also offers detox. Medically supervised detox includes 24/7 care and supervision by qualified medical professionals who can mitigate the risk of complications.

Medical Detox for Heroin

Many heroin detox experiences include medication. There are a few medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that help alleviate cravings or painful symptoms of withdrawal from heroin.

Methadone, a full opioid agonist, or buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, can help a patient feel more comfortable by reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms and cravings during detox.3

Methadone for Heroin Detox

Methadone helps reduce or eliminate heroin withdrawal symptoms drug cravings. It blocks the euphoric effects of illicit opioids like heroin by binding to the same opioid receptors in the body that heroin binds to.

Like any medication, methadone does have side effects, which include:6

  • Constipation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sedation.

Methadone is a schedule II controlled substance. This means it has a fairly high potential for abuse and dependence and should only be taken as prescribed.7 However, when provided in a healthcare setting and with appropriate patient education, it is much lower in risk that taking an illicit opioid like heroin.8

Buprenorphine for Heroin Detox

Buprenorphine can reduce or block the effects of other opioids like heroin. Buprenorphine is a schedule III controlled substance with a moderate risk of dependence. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist with a ceiling effect on opioid activity, which means it’s less likely than methadone to cause respiratory depression. For this reason, it can be prescribed to patients outside of opioid treatment programs.6

Most common side effects include:6

  • Constipation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Blurred vision.

Buprenorphine is commonly found under the brand names Suboxone (a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) and Subutex.

Heroin Addiction Treatment After Detox

It’s not uncommon for those who have developed a dependence on heroin to focus solely on the withdrawal phase.

However, following medical detox, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation can prevent individuals from relapsing while giving them tools to ease the psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal.3

Treatment can also be effective at helping individuals develop coping skills for standing firm when facing the same situations that led them to use heroin in the first place.

Many recovery programs also have an intensive outpatient program, which is just about as rigorous as an inpatient program, but the patient lives offsite.

Ultimately, quitting heroin is up to the individual, but family and friends can make it far easier by encouraging treatment and supporting their loved one in recovery. If you or a loved one is ready to take that step, give our admissions navigators a call at .

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