How Long Does It Take To Detox From Heroin?

Heroin creates strong chemical dependencies. Heroin detox and withdrawal process can take time, and treatments are available.

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Heroin?

Detoxing from heroin can be an arduous process, but it can be done safely under the right conditions. Here we will look at the different stages of detox, what to expect during each one, some common detox symptoms and ways to cope with them. If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, keep reading for information on how to get started on the road to recovery.

Heroin Detox


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Heroin Withdrawal and Detox

As addictions to opiate-based painkillers have increased, so has heroin use, due to the ease of accidentally developing chemical dependencies on prescription opioids leading people to look for more cost-effective options to manage their substance use. Learn more about the substance here.1

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a mind-altering, and highly addictive substance which comes from the opium poppy flower, and as such, belongs to the opioid drug class. Heroin is typically a brown or white powdery substance.2

How Addictive Is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that causes an intense high. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse publication, in 2016, nearly 700,000 people in the United States reported are estimated to have a heroin use disorder.2

What Is Heroin Detox?

Medically monitored heroin detox is a process which allows the body to gradually move through the withdrawal process in the safest way possible. Typically, heroin detox involves medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or maintenance therapy.3

Heroin Detox Symptoms

The symptoms of heroin detox can be excruciatingly uncomfortable. For many, heroin withdrawal is a major barrier between ceasing heroin use.2 Withdrawal symptoms can include:


During heroin detox, restlessness, cold flashes, and chills are common. To combat the physiological effects of heroin, medical professionals closely monitor individuals as they move through the detoxification process.

Muscle and Bone Pain

When a person is detoxing from ceasing heroin use, muscle and bone pain is one of the most often reported symptoms of withdrawal. This symptom may be caused by withdrawal, or by pre-existing and untreated pains – which may have originally led to initial opiate use.2


Trouble sleeping or insomnia is another symptom people experience during detox from heroin. Symptoms of sleep deprivation, such a heightened anxiety or hallucinations, can compound the effects of heroin withdrawal.


Heroin withdrawal symptoms, including diarrhea, can be intensely dangerous due to the risk of dehydration and subsequent electrolyte imbalances. Patients may be unable to drink or retain fluids orally and often may require intravenous hydration.


Vomiting is a common symptom of heroin detox. The combination of nausea, subsequent nutritional deficiencies, and interruptions from sleep may lead to result in weakness, fatigue, abnormal heartbeats, and permanent damage to the esophagus.

Uncontrolled Leg Movements

Tremors and uncontrolled leg movements can be signs of heroin withdrawal. Uncontrolled leg movements may be caused by sodium channel imbalances, resulting in involuntary muscle activation, and painful muscle spasms.

When Does Heroin Withdrawal Start?

Heroin is considered to be a short-acting opioid, which means that the effects are felt quickly as the body readily absorbs the substance. The speed at which heroin is processed by the body is responsible for its fast-acting euphoric effects, but is also responsible for the intense crash which quickly follows afterwards. For individuals using heroin, withdrawal symptoms typically begin approximately eight to twenty-four hours after the last use and can typically last up to ten days.4

Who Needs Detoxification For Heroin Abuse?

Anyone struggling with the side effects of heroin use and/or withdrawal symptoms can benefit from detoxification services. Detox and withdrawal treatment guidelines will vary for each person, depending on a range of factors (overall health status, coexisting chemical dependencies, age, pregnancy, etc.), so you are encouraged to seek specific advice from addiction specialists to find the best treatment for you. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to substance use detox, so it’s important to confer with experts and specialists who can guide you down the best path for you.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

The heroin detox timeline generally lasts about four to ten days. The following sections will discuss what to expect during the first seven days of the heroin detox process. While detox and withdrawal are uncomfortable processes, they should never be life-threatening or injurious processes.

The severity of symptoms, number of multiple symptoms occurring simultaneously, and stress put on the body by stopping heroin can combine to create medically tenuous circumstances, which is why medical supervision from trained providers is so strongly recommended.

Days 1-2

Early symptoms can include aggression, anxiety, muscle aches, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia, cravings, sweating, stomach problems, and runny nose.4

Days 3-5

Heroin detox and withdrawal effects will typically begin to peak around days 3-5. In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, individuals may begin experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and shivering.4

Days 6-7

The most intense symptoms begin to subside as heroin withdrawal begins to taper off from its peak. However, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and depression can remain.4

Factors Impacting Length of Withdrawal

The timeline for heroin withdrawal will depend on a number of factors and individual characteristics.3 No single factor can accurately predict the length, intensity or severity of a person’s withdrawal from ceasing heroin use.

Length of Time The User Abused Heroin

Depending on how long a person used heroin, their withdrawal timeline may be longer or shorter. A person who has used heroin for multiple years will typically have more prolonged symptoms compared to someone who has only recently begun using heroin.5

Typical Amount of Heroin Used

The amount of heroin a person most typically used will have direct impacts on the withdrawal process and timeline.5

How Frequently They Used Heroin

If an individual frequently used heroin, their withdrawal timeline will likely be longer than the withdrawal timeline for a person whose heroin use was only occasional, due to difference in severity of chemical dependency.5

Method By Which They Took Heroin

The route of administration of heroin, such as snorting or injecting the substance, can impact the length of withdrawal, due to the differences in the biological mechanisms employed in different consumption methods.5

Presence of Underlying Medical or Mental Health Issues

A person’s age, physical traits, and psychological characteristics, including medical or mental health diagnoses, can change their length of withdrawal. Coexisting substance use disorders may create additional complexity in ceasing heroin use.5

Medications Used In Detox

Significant advances have been made in the past two decades in substance use disorder treatment. Multiple prescription medications have been approved by the FDA to support patients in preventing substance cravings, inhibiting euphoric or intoxifying effects of opioids, and even reversing overdoses.

Some of these medications include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone and are used during maintenance therapy detox. Keep reading to learn about heroin withdrawal help using medication management.6


Methadone a drug used in ceasing heroin use which can reduce cravings and withdrawals, and mitigate the intoxifying effects of heroin.6


Buprenorphine is a medication prescribed in order to reduce and suppress heroin cravings.6 As Buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist, its effects are diminished compared to full agonists like methadone.7


Naltrexone is another medication used to treat heroin use disorder. This medication can be used to reduce the sedative and euphoric effects of heroin.

Finding Treatment for Heroin Addiction At Concise Recovery

Heroin Detox

If someone you know is showing signs of heroin use, addiction, or relapse, Concise Recovery is standing by and ready to help. Heroin addiction treatment can include detoxification, residential, and outpatient therapies. Some services provided at Concise Recovery include:


A knowledgeable team of addiction specialists at Concise Recovery in Los Angeles are prepared to help individuals struggling with the painful effects of heroin withdrawal symptoms. Medically-supervised detox is the most comfortable, and most importantly, the safest solution for treating heroin withdrawal.

Residential Care

In addition to heroin detoxification, Concise Recovery offers inpatient drug rehab in a highly structured environment. Clients are empowered to achieve lifelong sobriety and sustainable healing using evidence-based therapeutic interventions.


At Concise Recovery we know that substance use disorders rarely come alone, which is why our treatment center offers dual diagnosis treatment (substance use and mental health), partial day programs, and outpatient treatment. There are programs available to suit each individual’s recovery needs. To overcome addiction and begin the journey of healing, contact an admissions counselor today to create a personalized treatment plan.