How Long Does It Take To Detox from Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive opiate drug that can quickly cause physical and psychological dependence. It suppresses central nervous system functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and temperature regulation. It also increases the release of chemicals responsible for pleasure.
From 2002 to 2013, heroin-related overdoses in the United States increased by almost four. For most people, heroin use begins with prescription painkillers. As it has become cheaper and more accessible, it is thought that more people have switched to using heroin instead.
Heroin abuse can lead to significant organ damage, loss of close relationships, decreased mental health, cognitive changes, and even death. However, once psychological and physical dependence has developed, quitting heroin is very difficult, mainly due to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Seeking addiction treatment can be difficult. It can be helpful to know the answer to some questions beforehand, such as what is detox, how long does heroin withdrawal last, what sort of support is available, and where can I get it?
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a semi-synthetic substance made from morphine, found naturally in the seeds of particular opium poppy plants.
While morphine is a schedule II controlled substance, heroin is a schedule I controlled substance. While both opioid drugs have a high potential for abuse, morphine is recognized for medical use, whereas heroin is not.
Heroin, therefore, does not have a legal market and is unregulated means that it can include impurities such as quinine, ketamine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and crack cocaine.
What Is Detox?
Detox is the removal of drug toxins from the body while managing withdrawal symptoms.
Types of detox process:
- Cold turkey – stop taking heroin entirely with no substitute.
- Tapering – gradually reducing the amount of heroin used until you are free from it; this may include an opioid maintenance drug.
Quitting heroin cold turkey is not recommended as heroin withdrawal symptoms are not managed using this method. With tapering, withdrawal symptoms can be reduced.
How Long Does Detox Take?
The length of detox mainly relates to heroin withdrawal symptoms. The severity and length of these symptoms are affected by how long you have been using, how much you use each time, how frequently you use it, and which method you take, e.g., smoking or injecting. It also depends on general physical and mental health and whether you have experienced heroin withdrawal symptoms previously.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal symptoms and how long heroin withdrawal last will not be the same for every person, and severe symptoms are more likely in people who have been using for a long time and have underlying mental health issues.
Suppose you have not yet become physically and psychologically dependent. You may experience minimal symptoms, and withdrawal may be shared for longer after your last dose than if you are a heavy user.
Common Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal includes both psychical and psychological symptoms.
Mild withdrawal symptoms
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Bone and joint and muscle aches
Moderate withdrawal symptoms
Severe withdrawal symptoms
- Drug cravings
- Muscle spasms
- Impaired respiration
Heroin Withdrawal Timeline
How long heroin withdrawal lasts from your last heroin dose depends per person but typically lasts for five to seven days and can last up to ten days if you have a heavier dependency.
Heroin is a short-acting opioid. Effects have a rapid onset, from fifteen to sixty minutes, from the last dose, peak effects last only one to two hours, and overall effects wear off in three to five hours.
Days One To Two
Due to it being short-acting, the heroin withdrawal process can start within six to twelve hours of your last dose. Typical heroin withdrawal symptoms on the first day are muscle aches which tend to intensify over the next forty-eight hours. In the first one to two days, other symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, shaking, and diarrhea.
Days Two To Three
Symptoms usually peak between forty-eight and seventy-two hours. Common withdrawal symptoms at this stage often include abdominal cramping, sweating, shivers, and vomiting.
Days Six To Seven
By days six to seven, symptoms start to decline. Heavier users may find that it takes up to ten days to decline.
However, post-acute heroin withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or months. These can include depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. The likelihood of these symptoms occurring is based on the level and length of heroin use. The longer and heavier your drug addiction has been, the more likely it is to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms. It is also more likely to experience this if you have underlying physical health issues or mental illness.
Home Detox vs. Medical Detox Program
It is generally recommended to detox at a detox center as an inpatient as this is the safest option with the highest chance of success. However, this is not always possible due to work, studies, or family commitments. There are options to get medication-assisted treatment as an outpatient for those who cannot attend an inpatient detox.
Detoxing alone at home is not advised due to the risks associated with detox.
Risks Associated With Detox
- Relapse – due to how unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are, the chances of relapsing are very high. Overdose is also easier and more accessible if you have detoxed due to reduced tolerance.
- Dehydration and asphyxiation – heroin withdrawal symptoms can include vomiting and diarrhea, leading to severe dehydration or asphyxiation from choking on vomit.
- Self-harm – psychological symptoms include depression. These, along with the discomfort from physical symptoms, can lead to self-harm.
- Environment – if the environment in which you detox is one where people are still taking heroin, this can make it especially difficult not to relapse.
Treatment Center Support
There are several ways that a heroin addiction treatment program can support the recovery process.
As an inpatient at a treatment center, twenty-four-hour medical supervision means monitoring and supporting the withdrawal symptoms. Psychological symptoms must be assessed to reduce the risk of self-harm.
With outpatient treatment, you will also receive medical support and advice about detoxing at home. During the first week, when withdrawal symptoms are challenging, you will receive regular meetings to make sure that you are managing.
At a treatment center, as both an inpatient and an outpatient, you are offered substitute drugs that help to reduce heroin withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Substitute drugs include:
- Buprenorphine – blocks opioid receptors, preventing heroin from binding to them. It is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for heroin withdrawal, helping to reduce cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms like vomiting and muscle aches.
- Methadone – is an opioid agonist that, like buprenorphine, reduces drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
If symptoms are still present after detox, adjunctive medications can be prescribed to help reduce them.
An inpatient treatment center also provides a safe environment in which to detox. Not having access to heroin prevents the risk of relapse.
What Is The Treatment Process?
For those with heroin addiction, detox is always the first stage of recovery, whether at home or in treatment centers.
However, detox is generally not enough on its own to stay sober long term, so ongoing support is needed. Therefore, treatment centers usually offer therapy sessions to help recover from the psychological effects of drug addiction.
There is evidence that support from friends and family reduces the chance of relapse significantly. Therefore, if family circumstances allow, it is also advisable to have family therapy sessions so that your family has the information needed to provide support.
Ebb Tide Treatment Center understand that reaching out for support is complex and that detox is different for everyone. If you would like to learn more about our person-centered approach or speak to a staff member, please visit our website or call us at 561-508-8330.