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Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Written by Opiates | Published on December 17, 2018 | Updated on August 1st, 2022,

For those who are addicted to heroin, the cycle of addiction can seem too strong to escape. Many people who are addicted to the drug attempt to quit to get their lives back on track. Often, they return to active use due to the painful withdrawal symptoms. Even with professional treatment and medical supervision, heroin withdrawal can be a nightmarish ordeal. Because of that fact, many heroin users are hesitant to receive help.

While heroin withdrawal symptoms are both uncomfortable and painful, users must work through them to begin the recovery process. For many who try to quit heroin, they often employ self-detox methods. Without proper medical supervision, heroin withdrawal symptoms can be potentially life-threatening. This is especially the case for those who have underlying medical conditions or may be abusing other drugs alongside heroin.

The following article details the symptoms that are associated with heroin withdrawal. Additionally, you will learn about the importance of drug treatment in breaking the cycle of addiction. If you have further questions on the dangers of heroin withdrawal symptoms, call us toll-free right now.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Short-Term Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

It is important to note that the severity of withdrawal symptoms is dependent on several factors. These factors include the following:

  • The length of time heroin is used
  • The quantity of heroin used
  • The presence of other drugs in a person’s system
  • Age
  • Underlying physical and mental health issues

Once someone stops using heroin, the short-term symptoms can begin as soon as six to twelve hours after the last dose. The most common short-term physical and psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia/lethargy
  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle aches and spasms
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to concentrate

Long-Term Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms felt in the first wave of withdrawal often lasts up to 72 hours after the last dose of heroin. After that initial period, a second wave of more intense symptoms appears. These long-term withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Drug cravings
  • Relapse

The longer-term withdrawal symptoms of heroin will start to subside once the body slowly adjusts to not having the drug in the system. In many cases, users will start feeling better 1-2 weeks after their last dose. While users will feel their health and vitality return, they are not out of the woods. The psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal can persist for months—and even years—after they quit using the drug.

Known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), these symptoms can be felt for several days at a time and can cycle for up to a year. The common symptoms associated with PAWS can include the following:

  • Hostility or aggression
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Intense cravings for heroin
  • The resumption of using behavior and active heroin use

The reason PAWS occur in heroin users can be attributed to several factors. Because heroin significantly changes brain chemistry, it takes a significant amount of time for the user’s brain to be able to produce neurotransmitter on its own. Secondly, it also takes time for body functions to return to normal. Since heroin is a potent depressant, its effects are most noticeable on the cardiovascular and digestive system.

Additionally, the body goes through tremendous amounts of stress when people quit using drugs. The stress can often lead to prolonged symptoms—and even relapse.

The Importance of Drug Treatment

As already stated, heroin withdrawal symptoms are powerful and potentially dangerous. While many users understand the importance of getting professional help, they make the choice to employ methods of self-detoxification. While appealing and less expensive then intensive drug treatment, self-detox methods fail and have the potential to make things worse. That is why its crucial to seek the help of experienced treatment personnel.

When a heroin user enters drug treatment, they undergo a rigorous medical detoxification program to rid their body of the drug. Through medication-assisted treatment (MAT), nutrition and other interventions, medical detox helps minimize the impact of heroin withdrawal symptoms. During medical detox, staff will perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose any underlying medical and/or mental issues that may complicate recovery.

Once a newly recovering addict is both physical and psychologically stable, they will transition into intensive drug treatment. In an inpatient treatment setting, users are separated from the distractions and temptations of the outside world. In the comfort and safety of the treatment center, treatment staff works with patients in creating an individual treatment plan that fits their unique and specific needs. Patients will be exposed to therapy, 12-step support, life and coping skills training and a variety of traditional and holistic therapy programs.

Once formal treatment has been completed, users are strongly encouraged to attend intensive outpatient treatment. Whether it is continued therapy or sober living, graduates of inpatient treatment can continue to work on the life and coping skills that are needed to sustain a healthy recovery once they resume day-to-day activities. The primary focus of intensive outpatient treatment is understanding relapse triggers and how to minimize the risk of relapse.

Get Help Today

If you, a family member or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, there is no doubt that you fear the physical and psychological pain associated with heroin withdrawal. While it is completely normal to feel fearful, undergoing professional treatment will help make heroin withdrawal symptoms manageable. Additionally, you will receive the tools and support needed to make long-term recovery a reality.

You may be ready to make the step to enter drug treatment but are unsure where to turn. With so many options that are available to you, you may not know what your best options are. Give us a phone call toll-free today and speak with one of our experienced professionals. We will take the time to find the treatment programs that best fit your unique needs. Do not wait another day; call us now and begin on the road to heroin recovery.