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Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs and Detoxification

Heroin withdrawal is common in people who have stopped using the drug suddenly and those who have stopped using it after a long period of use. Heroin is an opiate drug, which means that it stimulates the opiate receptors in the brain. Other drugs in this class include morphine, codeine, OxyContin, and methadone. Heroin is considered highly addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23 percent of people who try heroin become addicted.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically begin a few hours after the last time a user took the drug. This occurs because heroin causes a physical addiction in which the brain adapts to the drug and has trouble functioning normally without it. Fortunately, withdrawing from heroin does not typically cause dangerous side effects in healthy individuals. Cravings for the drug are a major symptom of heroin withdrawal. About 24 to 48 hours after taking the final heroin dose, withdrawal symptoms peak. They continue to persist for up to a week. Cravings can last even longer, sometimes occurring years after the last actual heroin use. Detoxification from heroin is only the first part of an overall treatment plan.

Withdrawing from Heroin: Treatment Methods and Options for Help

Medically assisted detoxification is the first step in heroin withdrawal treatment. In this type of detoxification, a doctor or other medical professional controls the amount and type of drug given to the patient. The dose of heroin is decreased gradually or replaced with other opiates, such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone. These drugs can reduce withdrawal symptoms and ease cravings for heroin. Methadone is the most commonly used drug for treating heroin addiction.

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Detox

In treating alcohol and drug dependence, the detox process does not include the actual removal of the alcohol or drug from a person's body. It is the abrupt cessation from alcohol or substance and then replacing these with cross-acting agents. Detoxification can be completed in two treatment settings: inpatient detox and outpatient detox.

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Treatment using methadone involves tapering off the heroin dose and adding methadone in its place. Withdrawal from heroin can be carried out in an inpatient or outpatient facility. Many people choose to do their follow-up treatment on an outpatient basis because the process can take an extremely long time, up to a few years in some cases. Follow-up therapy is generally begun before detoxification finishes because it takes so long to complete withdrawal successfully.

Detoxing, Addiction Treatment Rehab and Recovery

In general, a combination of medication and therapy are usually used for heroin addiction treatment. This combination is typically more effective than just medication or counseling alone. After detoxification, the focus moves from reducing withdrawal symptoms to developing a plan that can keep the patient clean and sober for life. Some forms of therapy that are used in heroin treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual counseling, and group counseling.

During follow-up treatment, the patient may participate in counseling sessions to explore the psychological issues that led to drug use. This knowledge can help the patient recognize specific circumstances and triggers that may pose a danger. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches the patient to deal with stressful life events without resorting to heroin. Without this sort of follow-up therapy, the recovering addict may find it difficult to stay away from the places and people that supported the heroin addiction. If a recovering addict has a relapse, he or she can repeat the process of detoxification and get back onto the road to recovery. However, individuals who have undergone withdrawal already will have a lower tolerance for heroin, which can be dangerous because it increases the chances of an overdose.

A patient who repeatedly has relapses may need to be placed on a maintenance dose of methadone to avoid future relapses. If you would like to learn more about heroin withdrawal, call us at 1-888-935-1318Who Answers? and speak to an addiction treatment advisor today.

Heroin Information at a Glance
Medication Name, Costs Class of Medicine
  • Generic Name: Heroin
  • Generic Name Variations: N/A
  • Chemical Name: Morphine
  • Brand Name: N/A
  • Brand Name Variations: N/A
  • Cost/Price: In the United States, it is roughly $130 per gram.
  • Used to Treat Addiction? N/A
  • Function or Use at Low Dose: Euphoria
  • Function or Use at High Dose: N/A
  • Chemical Makeup: Processed from morphine
  • System: Opiate
  • Duration of Action: 4 to 6 hours
Form, Intake and Dosage Interactions and Complications
  • Drug Forms: Powder, liquid
  • Administration Routes: Snorted, Injected, Inhaled (Smoked)
  • Dosage: N/A
  • Overdose: Heroin is sometimes cut with other drugs, whether legal or illicit. Because of this, users have no idea how much pure heroin is in a dose until they take it, which can cause an overdose.
  • Alcohol Interaction: It is exceedingly dangerous to mix alcohol with heroin.
  • Illicit Drugs: When heroin is sold on the streets, it is often mixed with other drugs, making it much more dangerous.
  • Prescription Medications: Again, heroin is often mixed with other drugs when sold on the street. It makes it more dangerous.
  • Contraindications: Heroin is highly addictive, so it should be avoided at all costs.
Effects and Adverse Reactions Substance Abuse
  • Short-Term: Euphoria, slow respiratory state, dry mouth, alternately wakeful and drowsy states, cloudy mental function
  • Long-Term: Heart infection, kidney disease, liver disease, pulmonary complications, skin disease
  • Risk of Substance Abuse: It is the highest abused opium drug
  • Signs of Abuse: Neglect, anxiety, overdose
Physiological Problem Signs and Symptoms Dependence and Addiction Issues
  • Withdrawal Syndrome Onset: N/A
  • Withdrawal Symptoms:
  • Tolerance: You can build up a tolerance that will cause you to need more in order to achieve the same high.
  • Cross Dependence: N/A
  • Physical Dependence: Your body gets used to having it in your system, which is what causes it to be so addictive.
  • Psychological Dependence: Your brain thinks your body needs it, even if your body doesn’t need it.
Legal Schedules and Ratings
  • Controlled Substances Act Rating: Schedule I


Questions and Answers (FAQ)

How Long Do Heroin Withdrawals Last?

The timeline of withdrawal is different for everyone. Heroin withdrawals, however, are typically the duration of roughly 7-14 days. Because of the length of heroin withdrawals, professional help is highly recommended.

Do You Have a List of Popular Slang or Street Names for Heroin?

Smack, brain, junk, chiva, chaw, horse, skag

What are Common Misspellings?

Haroin withdrawl, harowin withdrawls, herowin withdrawel, hayroin withdrawels

Are There any Home Remedies for Getting Clean Safely?

If you’re considering a home remedy as a natural alternative to a rehab center, you should consider looking for help. Rehab centers can ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms, and help to relieve the stress that comes from withdrawal. They can’t completely take the pain away, but they can provide a significant amount of relief.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Heroin?

Heroin withdrawals can last for up to 14 days, so looking for options of programs that can help is highly recommended. You can use our online system or call 1-888-935-1318Who Answers?. Please call before it’s too late.

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