Safe Harbor Treatment Center

How Long Is Heroin Withdrawal?

The quick answer is that it depends.

Just like everyone has a different reaction to heroin itself, everyone will experience withdrawal for varying lengths of time.

While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount of time you or a loved one will be dealing with withdrawal, it’s easier to say that it won’t be pleasant.

No point in sugarcoating it.

What Is Heroin?

Instead of jumping right into withdrawal, let’s lay down some groundwork about the drug itself.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin”.

You no doubt noticed a keyword that will likely help paint the picture of how difficult withdrawal can be: opioid.

Heroin is an illicit, or illegal, opioid. We all know the devastation that opioids have rained on the country and heroin has been a culprit.

NIDA points out that misuse of prescription opioids can lead to heroin use, adding, “data from 2011 showed that an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids switch to heroin and about 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that “nearly 130,000 people died from overdoses related to heroin from 1999-2019”.

What Are the Signs of Heroin Withdrawal?

It’s a well-known fact at this point that kicking opioids, illegal or prescription, is a tough task that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The high level of discomfort associated with going through withdrawal is part of the reason why.

Generally speaking, a user will start to experience withdrawal symptoms anywhere from 6 to 12 hours after the last hit of heroin.

The signs of withdrawal are typically:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle spasms and aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Bone pain
  • Agitation
  • Extreme cravings

You can think of it as the worst flu you’ll ever have.

How Long Is Heroin Withdrawal?

The million-dollar question: how long is heroin withdrawal?

As mentioned at the top, there’s no definitive length but you can expect it to last about a week or so with the worst of the symptoms on the second or third day.

The severity and duration of withdrawal depend on a few factors:

  • How long you were addicted
  • How large the doses you took were
  • How often you used
  • Method of ingestion i.e., smoked, injected, or snorted

Bear in mind, this is just the “main” withdrawal so to speak. Heroin addiction and recovery are often accompanied by post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). UCLA describes it as “a set of impairments that can persist for weeks or months after abstaining from a substance of abuse…The condition is marked by symptoms similar to those found in mood disorders and anxiety disorders, including mood swings, insomnia, and increased levels of anxiety even without any apparent stimulus.”

They continue, “it is estimated that 90% of recovering opioid users experience the syndrome to some degree”.

What Is the Best Way to Withdraw from Heroin?

Given all the above, the best way to make it through withdrawal successfully is to do it under the support and watchful eye of trained professionals. Going it alone is tough when it comes to kicking any addiction but it’s demonstrably more difficult when it comes to heroin.

At Safe Harbor, we can help you detox from heroin, get you through the withdrawal and into a specialized heroin treatment program that helps you overcome your addiction fully.

To learn more, get in contact with us.