If you’ve ever been addicted to heroin, you know just how painful the withdrawal symptoms can be. Although it’s unpleasant, detox and withdrawal are necessary if you ever want to get sober. How long heroin withdrawal lasts depends on several different factors, so it’s difficult to say exactly how long you will feel symptoms. By understanding the different factors that dictate the duration of heroin withdrawal, you can be better prepared and know what to expect before you go to detox.
Understanding Heroin Withdrawal: Causes and Symptoms
People who use heroin in large amounts or on a regular basis may become physically dependent on the substance. This happens when a person’s body adapts to having a certain amount of a particular substance in the body. Heroin is an opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain. After long-term abuse, when heroin wears off, the body struggles to produce its own naturally-occurring chemicals as it normally would. When the brain and body begin adapting to the absence of opioid chemicals, the body reacts with withdrawal symptoms.
Each person who experiences withdrawal may have different symptoms. The most common symptoms you can expect when detoxing from heroin include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Chills and sweating
- Drug cravings
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Stomach cramping
- Muscle and bone aches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and depression
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
Factors that Determine How Long Heroin Withdrawal Lasts
The duration of heroin withdrawal will vary from one person’s experience to the next. One major factor that influences how long withdrawal symptoms will last is the length of use. Someone who has been using heroin on a regular basis for five years will generally experience a longer withdrawal period than someone who has only been addicted to heroin for a month. Similarly, people who are used to taking heroin in higher doses may experience withdrawal for longer than people who take small doses.
The method of use is another factor that will determine how long heroin withdrawal symptoms last. For example, people who inject the drug will experience a faster onset of symptoms but they may not last as long. On the contrary, people who snort heroin may not experience symptoms as quickly, but they can last longer than they do in people who inject the drug.
Other factors that will determine how long your heroin withdrawal symptoms last are personal ones that are unique to each individual. People with exceptional liver and kidney function may process heroin faster and thus experience withdrawal symptoms for a shorter amount of time. On the other hand, women usually take longer to process substances than men, so women may experience withdrawal symptoms for longer amounts of time.
People who have experienced withdrawal in the past or have co-occurring mental or physical health issues may also experience longer heroin withdrawal timelines than other people. Ultimately, withdrawal timelines come down to a bunch of unique factors that differ from one person to the next.
How Long it Takes to Withdrawal From Heroin: A Timeline
While the duration of heroin withdrawal varies from one person to the next, it usually lasts a week or two at most. Some minor symptoms may linger for several weeks and even months, however, the most intense symptoms should subside within one week to 10 days. So, exactly when does heroin withdrawal begin, and how long does it last? Let’s take a look at a general timeline. Remember, this is only an estimate – everyone is different.
- 6-12 hours after the last dose – heroin withdrawal symptoms should begin during this timeframe. Individuals may experience cravings, anxiety, depression, nausea, diarrhea, yawning, watery eyes, and runny nose. These symptoms will continue throughout the heroin withdrawal timeline.
- 2-3 days after the last dose – this is the point in time during which withdrawal symptoms will peak and be most intense. Individuals may experience fever, chills, sweating, vomiting, cramping, rapid heart rate, restlessness, insomnia, sleep disturbances, and high blood pressure.
- 5-10 days after the last dose – after 5-10 days, most severe symptoms should begin to subside. Individuals may be left feeling discomfort, depression, cravings, having vivid dreams, and difficulty sleeping.
- 10+ days after the last dose – most symptoms should begin wearing off after 10-14 days. Some minor symptoms, like cravings, depression, and sleep disturbances may linger for several months. Further treatment can help alleviate these symptoms.
If you are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms after two weeks, you should speak with your doctor as you may have another condition that is making you feel ill. In addition, participating in a medical detox program and then an addiction treatment program can help you overcome heroin withdrawal and stay sober. By staying sober, you can prevent yourself from ever worrying about how long heroin withdrawal lasts ever again.
Reduce the Duration and Severity of Heroin Withdrawal With Help From a Medical Detox Center
While heroin withdrawal can last up to 10-14 days, there are ways to stay safe, reduce your symptoms, and even shorten the withdrawal timeline. The standard treatment for opioid withdrawal involves opioid replacement therapy (ORT), better known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a medication that can help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms by weaning users off of drugs like heroin.
Medical detox centers can prescribe Suboxone and other medications that will help reduce your withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Suboxone works by binding to opioid receptors and blocking them from the effects of other opioids. As a result, the brain doesn’t experience withdrawal but a person is unable to feel the euphoric effects of opioids.
When you first start taking Suboxone, you may feel some minor discomfort. This should fade in time and your dose will slowly be reduced until your body is able to function without having opioids in the system. When a Suboxone taper is done correctly, you may not experience any withdrawal symptoms once you begin taking your first dose. That being said, Suboxone isn’t for everyone, and every case is different, so you should always speak with a healthcare provider before starting a detox.
Get Help for Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal Today
Worrying about how long heroin withdrawal is going to last or how severe your symptoms are going to be is a waste of time. Not only will you be unable to predict exactly what will happen, but you will be ignoring the fact that you have options available to assist you with the detox process. The truth is you never have to suffer through withdrawal alone.
At PAX Riverbend Rehab Center, our dedicated treatment specialists are here to connect you with the detox and rehabilitation resources you need to get sober and stay sober. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, pick up the phone and give us a call today.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.