What Is the Timeline for Heroin Detox?
Detox is the first step in recovery for many people. As they stop using drugs or alcohol, their body goes through a period of adjustment and experiences withdrawal symptoms. In a detox facility, these symptoms are managed and treated by medical professionals.
Those starting their recovery journey after being addicted to heroin (or other opioids) will start at the detox level. After making the decision to enter a detox facility, they may be asking themselves what heroin detox looks like and how long it takes.
Who Needs a Heroin Detox?
As a highly addictive drug, heroin requires detox. This is because of how much damage this drug does to a person’s brain chemistry and function.
When a person tries to stop using this drug, they may experience intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These can be so intense that they may lead a person to relapse instead of trying to fight through it. However, in a professional detox center, that does not happen.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin has a very short half-life, meaning withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after the last dose was taken. The severity and length of withdrawal symptoms vary due to a variety of factors, including:
- Length of time the person has been abusing heroin
- Quantity and potency of the heroin they have been using
- Administration method
- History of previous addictions, relapse, or withdrawal symptoms
- Presence of mental health disorder or other co-occurring disorders
- Quality of health or other health conditions
- Whether or not they have been abusing other substances in addition to heroin
While symptoms are most often not life-threatening, they can create health complications. For example, the symptom of diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous. Depression during detox may also lead to suicidal thoughts.
The first symptoms an individual can expect to feel during the early stages of heroin withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Watery eyes
Later stages of heroin withdrawal, which typically occur between two to five days after the last dose, include more severe symptoms such as:
- Abdominal cramping
- Intense cravings
- Confused Thinking
How Long Does Heroin Detox Last?
Medical detox often starts before heroin completely leaves the system and usually takes between five and seven days. For someone more heavily dependent on heroin, detox may last longer — up to ten days.
However, some less severe symptoms, such as fatigue, cravings, and some minor discomfort, may persist for up to one month after an individual last uses heroin.
Depending on the level and length of use, those recovering from heroin addiction may suffer post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), including:
- Poor sleep
- Poor concentration
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
PAWS can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months. The effects on mood and behavior can last months after other withdrawal symptoms pass. However, as time goes by and the individual remains drug-free, the symptoms will slowly begin to diminish.
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
The timeline for heroin withdrawal typically looks like:
- Days 1-2: Symptoms may begin as soon as six hours after the last dose. Pain will start to develop on the first day, typically starting with muscle aches. These will intensify over the first 48 hours. Other symptoms during this period include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, shaking, and diarrhea.
- Days 3-5: By the third or fourth day, withdrawal is in full swing. Symptoms during this time often include abdominal cramping, sweating, shivers, and nausea or vomiting.
- Days 6-7: A week is typically the end of what’s known as acute withdrawal. During this time, the common muscle aches and nausea will taper off. Physically, those detoxing from heroin will start to feel more normal. However, they may still feel worn down and tired.
- PAWS: Symptoms of withdrawal may continue inconsistently for months after acute withdrawal. These are caused by the neurological changes from heroin use.
The Importance of Medical Detox for Heroin Withdrawal
When deciding to stop using heroin, a medical detox provides a safe space for individuals to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Many detox facilities can prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. These medications help with the recovery process by minimizing withdrawals and cravings. These medications often include:
- Buprenorphine: This is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for heroin withdrawal. It reduces cravings and physical symptoms like vomiting and muscle aches.
- Naltrexone: This medication blocks receptors in the brain that react to opioids like heroin. It is neither addictive nor sedating. Over time, it may reduce cravings. Naltrexone works best in patients who have already completed detox.
Heroin detox can be frightening to see and experience for patient and those around them alike. If you are currently struggling to overcome addiction, then the time to get help is now. It all begins with detox.
When you visit DetoxNearMe.com, we will help you educate yourself on the best recourses available for detox within your community. We can also help you find conventional or holistic treatments including experiential activities and other therapies that can aid you after you have become sober and are on the path to recovery.
Our goal is to provide you with the best opportunities to care that will speak to your individual needs. We can also help you find detox centers that offer 24/7 admissions, so you can get help when you need help. We are here to show you that you are not alone in your community. Visit our website today to learn more.