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Heroin Detox & Withdrawal

Posted in Heroin Addiction Treatment on November 1, 2016
Last modified on May 11th, 2019

Withdrawal symptoms from opiates occur in patients who have developed tolerance and addiction. Heroin and other opiates act as endorphin imposters, robbing the body of the ability to produce natural endorphins (feel-good chemicals). After a short time, a person can become addicted to the drug due to the opiate’s pleasure- and analgesic-inducing effects. Opiate dependence also impacts the brain’s opioid receptors and mesolimbic reward system.1

The processes involved in heroin detox and heroin withdrawal are similar to other opiates and opioids. However, different drugs remain in the body for varying lengths of time, which influences withdrawal onset. For instance, heroin is generally eliminated from the body more rapidly, so withdrawal symptoms can start within 12 hours of last use. For addicts who have been on methadone-maintenance therapy, symptoms may not begin for 36 hours.2 Factors such as duration of use, comorbidities (mental and physical health issues), co-occurring drug abuse and DNA influence the manner in which a person experiences detox and withdrawal, including specific symptoms and their severity.

First Phase

Many symptoms, which can start within hours of last use, are due to the sudden absence of endorphins and release of excessive amounts of a chemical called noradrenaline. Symptoms can build over the first 48 hours, generally peak the third day, and then lessen during the next seven to 10 days.1,2 Withdrawal symptoms during this period may include:

  • Drug craving
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps and bone pain
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating

Second Phase

During this phase, the body starts to produce its own endorphins and as the body adjusts, the following symptoms can occur.1,2

  • Goosebumps
  • Sudden chills
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting

Third Phase

This phase may feel like the last stages of a bad case of the flu, with lingering aches and pains. Although the body has partially recovered, psychological symptoms are common in the absence of euphoria-producing opiates, which may have masked underlying psychological issues.1,2

  • General malaise
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Mild to moderate depression

The nervous system of a heroin user’s body is so accustomed to chronic exposure to the opiate that abruptly stopping it can cause painful withdrawal symptoms. At The Right Step, clients withdraw from opiates safely and comfortably through carefully supervised administration of Suboxone® and Vivitrol®medications that can reduce opiate cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms from opiate drugs such as heroin, codeine and morphine, and opioids like OxyContin.If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, call us today. We can help. 844-877-1781

  1. Opiate and opioid withdrawal. MedlinePlus website. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm Updated April 20, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
  2. What Is Opiate Withdrawal? Healthline website. http://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal#Symptoms3 Published October 20, 2015. Accessed October 4, 2016.
  3. Opiate Addiction Treatment & Suboxone Detox. Promises website. https://www.promises.com/treatment-programs/suboxone-opiate-detox/ Accessed October 4, 2016.
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