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Heroin Withdrawal

If you were involved in a D.A.R.E program as a kid, you were probably told that heroin was the most dangerous and deadly drug on the planet. Well, the leader of that group was not lying. 

Heroin is one of the primary contributors to the current opioid crisis that affects the United States and abroad. In 2017 alone, 15,482 people died as a result of overdoses involving heroin. Heroin is an extremely addictive drug, and when it circulates on the street, it can contain a number of contaminants. The most common drug cut with heroin is the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than the natural opiate.

Due to this new startling revelation, a hit of heroin can become deadly. To avoid the consequences of a heroin use disorder, it’s crucial to achieve sobriety immediately. To do so, you will have to face uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal is one of the hardest drugs to overcome, but it can be treated with the right help.

What Are the Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Heroin works in the brain and binds to opioid receptors throughout the body. The receptors bind with endorphins, which occur in the body naturally. When opioid receptors activate, it will help the body manage pain symptoms by blocking signals headed to the brain. Heroin, however, is much more potent than your natural endorphins.

When you become dependent on a drug like heroin, your body will rely on the substance to maintain its neurochemistry. When you stop consuming the drug, you will experience a chemical imbalance, which is typically only temporary. Heroin affects our body as a whole, and withdrawal symptoms will be felt all over.

Former heroin users describe the withdrawal symptoms similar to the flu. Many describe it as the worst flu they’ve ever had. While withdrawal is not life-threatening, the symptoms are extreme, and withdrawal is commonly a barrier to treatment. The most common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Joint aches
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Changes in heart rate

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Stages of the Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

As humans, we all possess unique characteristics. The withdrawal process will be predicated on these individual factors. Some of these include your height, weight, size of a standard dose, how long you’ve used heroin, and the last dose you consumed. The withdrawal process is going to be different for everyone, but we will provide you with a generalized timeline below to see how you can prepare.

Due to the short half-life of heroin, it wears off quickly. You will experience your first set of symptoms within 12 hours after your last dose. Some individuals report symptoms as early as six hours after their last dose. Early symptoms will feel as though you are coming down with the flu. These include a runny nose, body aches, and fatigue.

The first two days will be the most intense before they hit their peak. Once you’ve reached that level, you will experience sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and headache. The peak occurs around 48 hours but can happen as early as 24 hours.

Once the symptoms peak, they will gradually decrease in intensity. Typically, the end of the first week will provide you with noticeable relief. Most of the physical symptoms will be gone, but it can sometimes take up to 10 days. Other psychological symptoms may persist, which includes anxiety or depression.

Some psychological symptoms will continue for the foreseeable future if you struggle with a severe disorder. It will require ongoing addiction treatment that addresses your needs and will help you with cravings and learn how to cope with issues like depression

Why Should I Detox?

The flu-like symptoms will, at times, feel unbearable, but will rarely be life-threatening.

In some cases, opioids may cause deadly medical complications. Excessive sweating or vomiting may lead to dehydration, which has shown to be fatal in the past without proper medical attention.

You must consider a medical detoxification center to bypass any of these potentially deadly outcomes.

Heroin addiction is linked to contracting deadly diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV.

Paper figures on a syringe

The medical conditions must be addressed and treated in a NCBI. Medical professionals will oversee your care beyond detox as well.

What Is The Next Treatment Step?

Once you complete medical detox, clinicians will work tirelessly to help you find the next level of care. If you have specific medical needs after detox, you will continue to receive 24-hour treatment in a residential program. If you can live alone, you might go through an outpatient program. No matter the scenario, you will attend therapy geared toward your wellbeing. They will help you learn how to cope with life and address underlying factors contributing to addiction.

Sources

Darke, S., Larney, S., & Farrell, M. (2016, August 11). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal – Darke – 2017 – Addiction – Wiley Online Library. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13512

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

Waldhoer, M., Bartlett, S. E., & Whistler, J. L. (2004). Opioid receptors. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15189164

The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, June). Why does heroin use create special risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/why-are-heroin-users-special-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-b-c

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