Drug abuse is an unfortunately common problem in the United States: almost 21 million people suffer from some sort of substance abuse disorder, which can range from alcoholism to addition to methamphetamines.

Opiate abuse is a particularly common issue with the term “opioid crisis” a common one in today’s news. Sadly, it’s estimated that 115 people overdose and die from opiate use every day.

That’s why it’s so important to get clean and detox from these dangerous drugs, including heroin. Quitting and getting clean might seem impossible, and it’s definitely a real challenge. You’ll go through withdrawal symptoms that will be physically and mentally hard on you.

However, getting clean and off these drugs can and will improve your life and your health. It could even save your life.

But as you go through a detox, it’s important to know exactly what you’re about to experience so you can detox safely. Keep reading to learn the general heroin withdrawal timelines and what you can expect while getting clean from this drug.

Heroin Abuse and Addiction

Heroin use and abuse have increased across all demographics in recent years. The CDC reports that heroin-related deaths have quadrupled in the past 10 years.

Heroin addiction has tripled in recent years as well: an estimated 214,000 people were addicted to heroin in 2002, which increased to a whopping 626,000 in 2016.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal refers to the process in which your body is adjusting to being off of a substance or drug that you’ve been taking or are addicted to. It’s a set of symptoms that you can predict once you stop taking, or significantly reduce the dose of, a substance/drug.

Take caffeine for example. If you’ve had 2 cups of coffee per day for a year and you then stopped drinking coffee, you would experience caffeine withdrawal. Your body is addicted to the drug (in this case caffeine), so you’ll feel cravings and physical symptoms like headaches.

Caffeine withdrawal is tame compared to opioid withdrawal. Opiates like heroin produce some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms you can experience. If not done safely or without all the information, you can become seriously sick, or even die, while detoxing from heroin.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

As we said, heroin withdrawal is severe and has a number of horrible symptoms that will make you feel horrible for at least a week. It’s important to understand exactly what will happen during a heroin detox so you can prepare yourself physically and mentally for the experience.

Before we get into the general withdrawal timeline for heroin, it’s important to note that everyone will have a different experience. The withdrawal experience will depend on your body, how long you’ve been using, how you handle the symptoms, and more.

Now let’s look at the general symptoms you can expect while detoxing from heroin.

Day 1-3

So you or a loved one has taken their last dose of heroin. The first few symptoms will occur within 6-12 hours after the last dose. You’ll start to experience some of the more mild symptoms first with their severity and intensity increasing as time goes on.

These first symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle shakes/trembling
  • Pain
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps/diarrhea

The specific symptoms will vary depending on the individual. Some people will only have a few of these initial mild symptoms while others will experience all of these and more.

Day 3-5

3-5 days after the last dose will be the period of the most severe and intense withdrawal symptoms. Along with the symptoms experienced during early withdrawal getting worse, you may also experience the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Shakes/tremors
  • Agitation/irritability
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Increased pain sensitivity
  • Panic attacks
  • Intense anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite

This is the peak of heroin withdrawal symptoms. As you can see from the range of symptoms, this process is anything but easy and affects both physical and mental health.

Day 6-10

6-10 days after the last dose is usually a bit easier compared to the peak symptoms we just went over. While you’ll still experience mild symptoms, the more intense symptoms will slowly get better and eventually dissipate.

You may still feel nausea, muscle cramps, muscle aches, and cravings at this point. Overall, you’ll mostly feel fatigued and worn out. Withdrawal is a full body experience that will exhaust you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

You may also be hungry and thirsty. Dehydration is a dangerous side effect of withdrawal since you’ll be sweating and likely vomiting having diarrhea that will seriously deplete your bodily fluids.

Loss of appetite is also a common symptom of heroin withdrawal that can leave you without nutrients and energy you need to get through this arduous withdrawal process.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) doesn’t occur in every patient, but it is something you should be aware of. This syndrome refers to when former addicts experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks, months, and even years after getting clean.

These could be consistently experienced or occur in “cycles” of symptoms every few months. These symptoms can range from physical (nausea, cravings, fatigue, aches, pain, etc) to emotional (anxiety, panic, depression, insomnia, etc).

How to Detox Safely

Withdrawal and detoxing from heroin is a hard process, but it can be done. Not only that, but it can be done safely with your health (physical and mental) in mind.

The best way to detox is with the supervision and support of health professionals. They can make sure you’re getting fluids, nutrients, and emotional support.

Contact us to learn more about addiction recovery and detox.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline: Wrapping Up

Deciding to get clean and off of heroin is a difficult decision for people addicted to a drug. It can feel like an impossible task, especially if you don’t know what will happen when you take that last dose.

Understanding the heroin withdrawal timeline will help you understand what will happen during a detox and how you can deal with it safely so you can start living a clean and sober life.

If you have any more questions or want more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.