November 27, 2023

Heroin Detox: Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment

man looking out at the ocean representing is molly addictive

Detox for heroin is the first step in the recovery process when addressing heroin addiction.

To overcome heroin addiction, the first phase of treatment involves the elimination of heroin and its toxic metabolites from the system through a procedure known as detoxification (detox). While detoxing from heroin, the body undergoes the unpleasant symptoms of drug withdrawal.

The fear of withdrawal often acts as a significant obstacle for individuals trying to break free from addiction, preventing some people from ever engaging with addiction treatment. That said, countless individuals have successfully achieved long-term recovery from heroin addiction, discovering health and happiness in the process.

Now for some good news: the journey of withdrawal and detoxification doesn’t have to be an unbearable ordeal. Participating in an inpatient detox and withdrawal program offers a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to navigate through this experience. Read on to learn more about the following issues:

  • How to detox from heroin safely.
  • How long does it take to detox off heroin?
  • How to engage with heroin addiction treatment in California.

Heroin Detox Symptoms

Need Help Getting
Addiction Treatment?

Withdrawal is a condition marked by a collection of symptoms that manifest when someone discontinues the use of a substance like heroin upon which their body has developed dependence.

Regular heroin consumption prompts the brain to adjust, resulting in tolerance – the need for higher doses to achieve the same effects – and physiological dependence. Dependence manifests through withdrawal symptoms that arise when someone tries to reduce or cease their heroin intake. While withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening, they can be highly unpleasant and even painful, posing a significant challenge for many people attempting to quit heroin use.

Detox from heroin begins with withdrawal symptoms presenting within 8 to 24 hours of the last dose. The onset of acute, short-term symptoms can vary from person to person, lasting anywhere from 3 to 10 days. The duration depends on factors such as the frequency, dose, and duration of heroin use, as well as individual and genetic considerations, physical and mental health, and concurrent medication or substance use.

The uncomfortable and distressing short-term symptoms may lead many people back to heroin use. These signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Accelerated breathing rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Heightened reflexes
  • Cramps
  • Bone pain

Protracted withdrawal, occurring after acute withdrawal, involves persistent impairments. Long-term symptoms may persist, even after the initial withdrawal period. Symptoms that can endure beyond acute withdrawal from heroin include:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Anhedonia (loss of interest in activities)
  • Emotional flatness
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Impaired focus and concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Intense cravings for heroin

Individuals experiencing these distressing post-acute withdrawal syndrome may be tempted to resume heroin use. That said, those who have withdrawn from heroin should be aware of their reduced tolerance to opioids post-acute withdrawal – this increases the risk of heroin overdose if use resumes after a period of abstinence.

image of woman representing what is the heroin detox timeline

Heroin Detox Timeline

How long to detox from heroin, then? While heroin withdrawal is unique to each individual, the general withdrawal timeline tends to follow a similar course. A medical detox program offers the advantage of tailoring a plan to address your treatment needs, guided by therapists and clinicians. This is a typical heroin withdrawal timeline:

First 24 hours

Heroin withdrawal symptoms emerge, varying in intensity based on the individual’s history of abuse and the severity of their addiction.

Within 24 to 36 hours

Withdrawal symptoms escalate, marking the most critical phase of the process. This period carries the highest risk of psychological and physical challenges, representing a decisive point in withdrawal that often leads to relapse in the absence of professional oversight.

Days 4 to 6

The drugs are entirely eliminated from the body, and symptoms gradually diminish. Individuals with long-term use or concurrent health issues may still encounter challenges during this phase.

Day 7 and beyond

In most instances, the majority of biological and brain functions are restored, except in more severe cases. At this point, treatment can start to tackle the physical and mental health issues, contributing to a comprehensive recovery process.

Keep in mind that how long does heroin withdrawals last is contingent on the scope and severity of the addiction.

Heroin Detox Treatment

Heroin detox can serve as the initial step in a more comprehensive treatment plan for heroin addiction (opioid use disorder). In medically supervised withdrawal, clinical professionals, including doctors, provide monitoring, medication, and other interventions to alleviate the discomfort associated with withdrawal signs and symptoms.

The medications normally used during detox include a blend of mild opioids, non-opioid painkillers, and medications designed to address anxiety and depression. These medications can be used during detox and throughout ongoing recovery from heroin addiction. Medications used fall into one of three categories: 

  1. Antagonists
  2. Partial agonists
  3. Agonists

Heroin, along with many other commonly abused opioids, is classified as a full agonist. This category includes methadone (the main maintenance drug). Full agonists directly bind to the brain’s mu-opioid receptors. Methadone is favored for maintenance due to its classification as a milder and more manageable opioid than its frequently abused counterparts.

During a heroin detox treatment program, opioid antagonists bind to receptors, but they do not activate them. This eliminates the rewarding effects and blocks other opioids from binding to those receptors. Antagonists like naloxone (Narcan) are mainly used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Partial opioid agonists are beneficial for detox and maintenance after rehab. Medications such as buprenorphine do not fully bind with receptors, providing sufficient effect to alleviate cravings, but without the potential for abuse associated with full agonists such as methadone. Combination medications like Suboxone combine the buprenorphine (a partial agonist) with naloxone (an antagonist), controlling cravings while inducing an intensely unpleasant reaction when someone ingests a full opioid agonist. Suboxone works much like disulfiram deters alcohol intake after detox.

Aftercare is an ongoing process and may extend for months or years. The best rehab aftercare programs includes continuing support through individual or group therapy, participation in support groups, employment assistance, and access to sober living communities for those seeking stability. Maintenance programs offer opioids such as Suboxone or methadone in low doses to manage cravings and help prevent relapse, usually involving daily dosing of extended-release formulations in a closely controlled clinical environment.

What can you do if you need help right away, though?

An image of a woman using addiction hotline's to find heroin detox symptoms treatment

 Call Addiction Hotline for Help Finding a Heroin Detox

Having established how long does it take to detox from heroin, how can you connect with professional help for heroin withdrawal? By calling Addiction Hotline, you can begin your recovery journey, even if you have no idea where to start.

Call the hotline toll-free at any time of day or night. Trained and experienced staff can help you find appropriate detox facilities near you, allowing you to minimize the intensity of heroin withdrawal and reduce the chances of early relapse.

Although heroin detox treatment addresses the issue of physical dependence, you will need to tackle the psychological aspect of opioid addiction in ongoing treatment. Hotline operators can help you locate the most suitable inpatient and outpatient rehabs in California that specialize in treating heroin withdrawal and addiction.

Call 855-701-0479 right away and move beyond heroin addiction.

Want to learn more?

Table of Contents

Compassionate Care for Substance Abuse Treatment

Read More Blogs

image depicting reasons to go to rehab
June 18, 2024

Top 10 Reasons to Go to Rehab

There are many different reasons people go to rehab, and more people than ever are engaging with evidence-based treatment for

image depicting people talking about drinking to cope
June 12, 2024

How to Stop Drinking to Cope

Drinking to cope with stress or emotional pain is a common yet harmful practice that can lead to alcohol abuse

image depicting how to deal with an alcoholic parent
June 7, 2024

How to Deal with an Alcoholic Parent

Working out how to deal with an alcoholic parent can be challenging. When a parent drinks too much, it can

image of people depicting how to get someone into rehab
June 5, 2024

How to Get Someone into Rehab

If you’re unsure how to get someone into rehab, this guide will help you through the process. We’ll also show

image depicting demerol abuse
June 3, 2024

Demerol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Demerol abuse can happen even when someone takes this opioid as prescribed. Many people don’t realize they can get addicted

image depicting promethazine drug abuse
May 29, 2024

Promethazine Drug Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Promethazine drug abuse is common in young adults, especially when the antihistamine is mixed with codeine and alcohol (lean). Read

Recent Articles

image depicting reasons to go to rehab
June 18, 2024

Top 10 Reasons to Go to Rehab

There are many different reasons people go to rehab, and more people than ever are engaging with evidence-based treatment for

image depicting people talking about drinking to cope
June 12, 2024

How to Stop Drinking to Cope

Drinking to cope with stress or emotional pain is a common yet harmful practice that can lead to alcohol abuse

image depicting how to deal with an alcoholic parent
June 7, 2024

How to Deal with an Alcoholic Parent

Working out how to deal with an alcoholic parent can be challenging. When a parent drinks too much, it can

image of people depicting how to get someone into rehab
June 5, 2024

How to Get Someone into Rehab

If you’re unsure how to get someone into rehab, this guide will help you through the process. We’ll also show

image depicting demerol abuse
June 3, 2024

Demerol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Demerol abuse can happen even when someone takes this opioid as prescribed. Many people don’t realize they can get addicted

image depicting promethazine drug abuse
May 29, 2024

Promethazine Drug Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Promethazine drug abuse is common in young adults, especially when the antihistamine is mixed with codeine and alcohol (lean). Read