All About the Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
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To understand the heroin withdrawal timeline, we must first begin to understand what heroin dependence in itself is. Simply put, heroin dependence (or heroin addiction) is the condition where an individual continuously craves and is physically dependent on heroin or other similar opiates. A person addicted to Heroin is usually unable to act normal or function properly unless the drug is present in their system.

Addiction forms after continual, regular use of heroin. Depending on the intensity of the addiction, tolerance of heroin in the system is likely to be rather high. This means that the user will require more and more of the drug to reach their originally desired “rush” or high from heroin. Dosing heroin is difficult, as it’s a powder or tar-like substance. Most users inject the drug into their veins using needles. However, it can also be smoked as a vapor. Either way, heroin addiction can be deadly. Clearly, this addiction can be rather dangerous, as heroin overdose is increasingly on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (National Institue of Health), in the year 2017, there were nearly 16,000 deaths from heroin overdose in the United States alone. 

Heroin withdrawal can last  for as little as one week to as long as a few months. The heroin withdrawal timeline is based on the individual and will not be the same for every heroin addict.

If a heroin addict does not get his or her “heroin fix” within a specific amount of time, then that said the individual will experience heroin withdrawal. These are the symptoms that one experiences when heroin is suddenly discontinued or when the level of heroin in the blood begins to fall below a certain amount.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin withdrawal can go on for as little as one week and as long as a few months. The heroin withdrawal timeline is based on the individual and will not be the same for every heroin addict.

The severity of heroin withdrawal mainly depends upon how long the addict has been abusing the drug, and how it was abused. In other words, it can depend on what method the user abused heroin as well. For example, heroin is injected into the veins on a daily basis as well as how much of the drug had been taken each day would influence how difficult of a withdrawal a user might experience.

Different factors such as these influence how dependent you or your loved one is to the drug as well. Another key factor for influencing the severity of a heroin withdrawal timeline has to do with whether or not the person is a dual-diagnosis patient, which simply means that if the patient has a history of mental illness as well as drug addiction. If this is the case, he or she will most likely be at a higher risk of having a more severe form of withdrawal and the duration will be much longer than normal.

Heroin withdrawal can start as soon as 4 hours after last use or 72 hours after the addict has been off of the drug.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Mild Withdrawal Symptoms Moderate Symptoms  Severe Withdrawal Symptoms 
Abdominal Cramps Trouble concentrating Extreme cases of anxiety
Nausea Relentlessness Deep depression
Excessive yawning Agitation Fatal increase in heart rate
Muscle and bone aches Fatigue Insomnia
Teary eyes Goosebumps / chills Respiratory failure
Chills Vomiting Irritability
Flu-like symptoms, including runny nose Diarrhea Trouble with being able to feel pleasure
Excessive cold sweat Tremors Extreme craving for heroin
Loss of appetite Hypertension / abnormally high blood pressure
Muscle spasms

The table shows the some of the symptoms that individuals may experience during their heroin withdrawal period. Again, most of these symptoms are completely dependent on how long and how much one has been on the drug.

Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?

Although it is not particularly common, heroin withdrawal does have the ability to cause death. Factors such as side effects and the overall health of a heroin addict do influence how life-threatening withdrawal from heroin can really become. A few factors that influence how fatal withdrawal can become include:

Dehydration

Since vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of heroin withdrawal that are most common, it is not a surprise that these can lead to severe dehydration. Symptoms such as these dehydrate and weaken the body. They can also potentially cause the individual to not be able to keep down any food or liquids so their body is not getting the nutrients that it needs to help them stay healthy and alive. In addition to that, vomit may enter the lungs and may cause a deadly lung infection.

If extreme vomiting results in the inability to keep water or food down, medical attention should be sought. There are options such as a saline bag or banana bag to offer adequate liquids for the body to maintain without entering the stomach. 

Stimulants

Heroin is a stimulant drug which acts on the nervous system by multiplying the number of “pleasure” chemicals released throughout the brain and body. During the heroin withdrawal phase, if the individual uses any other stimulant drug (for example, painkillers) to help with headaches, then this can make the withdrawal symptoms worsen rather than helping the situation. Some examples of stimulant drugs certain users switch out include methamphetamine (crystal meth) or Ritalin. In instances such as this one, the heart rate will severely increase as well as blood pressure. Therefore, it has the ability to lead to a seizure which can become very fatal.

Epilepsy

While epilepsy is not a symptom of heroin withdrawal, it can be triggered due to high-stress levels within a heroin addict. Other high-stress symptoms that come with heroin withdrawal include panic, paranoia, anxiety, and insomnia. For a heroin addict experiencing withdrawal, though it may be hard, it is encouraged that they avoid anything that may cause them to feel stressed at all costs. Extreme anxiety and stress such as this have the potential to trigger epileptic seizures which cause complications to the respiratory system and if not closely monitored, will lead to coma or death.

Dangers of Heroin Withdrawal

In the phase of withdrawal from heroin, you or your loved one’s brain and body begin to try and adapt to no longer having the drug present anymore. With this occurring, the individual must learn to react normal again and readjust to daily life. While this is a positive effect, there is a potential downside. Since the individual’s tolerance for heroin will be severely decreased or non-existent, then even the smallest dose of heroin during a relapse can cause a fatal overdose.

Since the body is no longer accustomed to this foreign substance heroin any longer, injecting what used to be a “normal” amount could be particularly dangerous. The user doesn’t know how his or her body will react not that the body has begun to detox from it. Nor does the brain know what dose may or may not be safe.

Heroin addiction can be a serious and fatal issue. We also recommend contacting a professional or accredited facility such a heroin drug rehab, substance abuse treatment center or residential drug treatment center.

Treatment of Heroin Withdrawal

There are several heroin drug rehab treatment options and medication assisted treatment including new medications for opiate addiction. This can include the assistance of pharmacutical drugs like Zubsolv, Suboxone and Methadone. Many inpatient and outpatient derug and alcohol rehab treatment centers offer these medications as an option. it’s important to follow the guidelines from your doctor or mdical professional, as some of these drugs can become addictive. This would compltely defeat the purpose of using it as a tool to help during recovery.

If you or someone you love need help in recovery, contact us at Prevail Intervention. We have caring prfessionals who can talk to you in person and answer any of your questions. We have an Addiction Helpline available 24/7 so we can help you find the right treatment center, interventioist, support group, or whatever other resources you find helpful. Recovery is possible and we see individuals get sober all the time. The key is to be ready and willing to put in the work, commit to recovery, and receive the help and support for your best interest.

Heroin Addiction Resources

Drug Addictions

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Heroin Addiction Effects and Recovery 
Heroin Drug Rehab – Heroin Treatment and Recovery 
Will My Health Insurance Cover Rehab? 
Getting Help for Addiction 
How to Better Understand Coping with Addiction 
What is Dual Diagnosis? 
Top Ten Signs of Drug Addiction 

Sources

Heroin and Other Drug Overdose Death Rates

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