Heroin Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Learn about the common withdrawal symptoms and recommended treatment programs for heroin addiction.

A Look at Heroin Abuse

Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from the morphine alkaloid found in opium poppy plants. Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted and is typically sold as a white or brown powder. It slows down a person’s heart rate and breathing, creating a feeling of calmness and relaxation.

When a person stops taking heroin, a set of unpleasant physical and mental problems may appear, called withdrawal symptoms. This article will explore the most common withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction and the best course of treatment.

According to statistics, in 2020:1

  • 0.3%, or nine hundred two thousand, people aged twelve and older reported using heroin in the past twelve months.
  • 0.2%, or six hundred ninety-one thousand, people aged twelve and older had a heroin use disorder in the past twelve months.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms


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What Is Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal is a set of unpleasant physical and mental problems that occur when consistent heroin use suddenly stops. Most people choose to stop using heroin gradually by reducing the amount they take each day over a period of time to avoid the uncomfortable heroin withdrawal symptoms.2
Going “cold turkey” is not recommended, as it is unsafe. Although the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are highly uncomfortable, they are manageable with professional help.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

The duration of heroin withdrawal depends on the amount of the substance used, how it was abused, the person’s health, and whether their body can metabolize substances quickly. In addition, people with a history of mental illness or prior opioid withdrawal may experience a more intense withdrawal experience.
Heroin withdrawal usually starts eight to twelve hours after the last dose. Symptoms typically peak during the first twenty-four and forty-eight hours of withdrawal and can last seven to ten days.2

What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

The signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal can range from mild and moderate to severe, depending on how long the substance was abused and how it was taken.

Mild Withdrawal Symptoms

People who did not abuse heroin for a long time and only took smaller amounts can expect to experience mild heroin withdrawal symptoms, such as:3
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Sweats
  • Tearing
  • Yawning
  • Muscle and bone aches

Moderate Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common moderate symptoms of withdrawal from heroin include:
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Goosebumps

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Long-term and heavy use of heroin can produce the following severe withdrawal symptoms:4
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle spasms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Respiratory impairment

Heroin Withdrawal Causes and Risk Factors

Withdrawal is caused by the body becoming dependent on a substance due to repeated use. There are multiple risk factors for heroin withdrawal that contribute to the type and duration of symptoms.

What Causes Heroin Withdrawal?

When the body has been exposed to a substance, such as heroin, for a long duration of time, it becomes tolerant and dependent on the drug. Tolerance means the body needs a higher amount of the drug to produce the same effects the person initially experienced. Dependence means the body needs the substance to avoid experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms.
If a person abruptly stops taking heroin or decreases their intake of the drug, the balance in the brain and body is interrupted, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal. These withdrawal symptoms can range from physical to psychological and mild to severe.

Heroin Withdrawal Risk Factors

Some of the most common risk factors that contribute to experiencing more severe heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
  • How long the person has been abusing heroin
  • How heroin was abused (snorted, injected, smoked)
  • How much was taken each time
  • Whether the person has a history of mental illness
  • Whether the person had a prior opioid addiction and withdrawal experience

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms Treatment

Heroin withdrawal is a complex process and can be difficult to manage without professional help. Medication treatment and support groups have been proven effective in managing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Medication for Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal treatment may involve the administration of medication. Heroin withdrawal medications act by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms that appear when a person abruptly stops taking heroin.
The most commonly administered medication for heroin withdrawal symptoms includes opioid agonists, such as methadone and buprenorphine, and opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone.

Support Groups to Cope With Withdrawal

Support groups are a great way to get support, understanding, and advice for addiction. These groups can help individuals manage their addictions and avoid relapse. They also promote the social support that is often the most difficult to find in other rehabilitation programs. Support groups provide an opportunity for people in recovery to share their experiences with one another, which is crucial when recovering from addiction.
Some of those support groups include:
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • SMART Recovery
  • Heroin Anonymous

Additional Methods of Coping

In some cases, over-the-counter medications can help relieve the side effects of heroin withdrawal. These medications may include:

  • Dimenhydrinate or meclizine for nausea
  • Ibuprofen or naproxen for muscle aches, chills, and fever
  • Imodium for diarrhea

Get Help at Concise Recovery Center

Concise Recovery Center offers multiple treatment programs personalized to meet every patient’s needs. Our team of highly-trained medical professionals is here to help guide and treat each individual with evidence-based therapy and medically-assisted care to ensure a proper recovery.

Our Heroin Detox Program

The Heroin Detox Program at Concise Recovery Center is all about safety and comfort. Our accredited detox programs take place in luxurious facilities staffed by industry leaders and experts in addiction treatment. We make detoxification as comfortable as possible by offering a variety of medications and accommodations.

Immediately after a patient’s arrival, our clinical team will evaluate them to determine the severity of heroin addiction and the level of drugs in their system. We will then create a personalized detox program based on their individual needs to cleanse any toxins out of their system.

A team of nurses will provide twenty-four-seven supervision to safely manage any heroin addiction withdrawal symptoms. At our detox in Los Angeles, our clinical team monitors progress, offers comfort medications when necessary, and works to ease any severe symptoms patients may encounter.

Contact Us Today

If you or a loved one struggles with heroin addiction, a medically assisted detox in Los Angeles can help. Contact us at Concise Recovery today to learn more about medically assisted detox and our comprehensive addiction treatment programs in Los Angeles.