Withdrawal happens when you cut back or stop taking a drug you have been using consistently (enough to form a habit or addiction). You do not have to be using mind-altering drugs to feel withdrawal effects. Sugar, caffeine, and nicotine are all drugs that can cause negative withdrawal symptoms.
Anything that can cause your mind or body to become physically dependent will create withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using them. In the case of heroin withdrawal, you would need the help of a drug and alcohol detox center to help you get through withdrawal.
At Westwind Recovery®, we understand that heroin withdrawal symptoms can be intense for some people. Our heroin treatment program in Los Angeles can make withdrawal much more comfortable so that you can stay focused on a healthy, sober future. Call us today to learn more about the benefits of recovering at our reputable heroin treatment program.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an illegal opioid drug that is processed from morphine. It is typically sold as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin”. People usually snort, smoke, or inject heroin to get the desired effects, which include a sense of euphoria and pain relief.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. In simple terms, this means that heroin doesn’t have medicinal uses and has a high risk for individuals to develop dependence due to its addictive nature. There are some individuals that consider this substance to have the greatest potential out of the majority of the other drugs to develop an addiction.
Heroin is derived from substances found in poppy plants. Heroin is considered an opioid. Generally, users administer this substance through an injection, even though heroin can be administered in numerous different ways.
When individuals fall into an endless cycle, they are more likely to develop a dependence on a substance. Even when an individual wants to quit, the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that it leads an individual to use again. Just to get the withdrawal symptoms to stop.
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Heroin?
Not everyone experiences withdrawal the same because no two people are the same. Older individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms that a younger person would not. The length of time someone has spent using a drug can also affect the degree and type of withdrawal symptoms experienced. The length of heroin withdrawal may be impacted by:
- How long you have used heroin – If you have been using heroin for many years, your symptoms may be more severe than someone who has been using it for a few weeks.
- Your drug of choice – Heroin is much harder to withdraw from than cocaine and much harder than drugs like caffeine or nicotine.
- The way you use heroin – Snorting it, inhaling it, or injecting it can each lead to different withdrawal symptoms.
- The type of heroin you use – Is it black, white, or laced with other drugs? All of these can mean a different severity of withdrawal.
How you choose to withdraw from heroin can make it difficult for you. People who try to quit heroin cold turkey often relapse and do so quickly. However, those who choose to enter a detoxification program with medical staff tending to negative symptoms have more success.
Psychological vs. Physical Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
When you are physically dependent on heroin, you will experience physical withdrawal symptoms. This means you have used heroin for so long that your body has adapted to the drug and thinks it needs heroin to function normally.
When you have become psychologically dependent on heroin, your mind thinks it needs the drug to function and survive. Your mind obsesses over obtaining heroin before you begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. You may even find it hard to focus on anything other than the drug.
Would It Be Safe to Quit Heroin Cold Turkey?
If you are only physically dependent on heroin, it is possible to quit cold turkey. However, if you are also psychologically dependent on the drug, it is not recommended that you try to quit heroin without medical help.
Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous. Quitting heroin cold turkey without medical supervision can increase your risk of relapse and overdose.
The First 24 Hours of Heroin Withdrawal
Some people report they begin feeling heroin withdrawal symptoms within five to six hours from their last use, while others say withdrawal starts between 15 and 20 hours from their last dose. This time will vary for everyone, although the symptoms seem similar.
In the first 24 hours, you may experience:
- Higher levels of anxiety
- Muscle spasms and aches
- Nausea and vomiting are common
- Sweating excessively
- Sleep difficulties
Symptoms will slowly increase in severity after this point.
Heroin Withdrawal in the First Three Days
Symptoms of withdrawal during the second and third days are why many people relapse and continue to use heroin:
- Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
- Continued sleeping issues
- Stomach cramping
- Lack of appetite
- Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
It is also likely you will feel like you have the flu. Shivers, runny nose, cold chills, hot flashes, and sweating can start to appear. Cravings and urges can be hard to resist during this time.
Heroin Withdrawal on Days Three Through Five
Some may be reaching the peak of their withdrawal symptoms by day three, while others reach it around day five or six. The good news is that after the withdrawal peaks, your symptoms will begin to ease. However, the peak can be extremely uncomfortable, with
- Increased stomach pains and cramping
- Continued flu-like symptoms
- Continued nausea, and vomiting
Your appetite and inability to sleep well may improve slightly, but not completely. Fighting your cravings and urges may seem harder during this time. Psychologically, your mind is trying to convince you to relapse.
It wants to feel high again to get rid of the discomfort. It even misses the process of how you used the drug. Many people report the process of injection being just as addictive as the drug itself.
Withdrawal on Days Six and Beyond
Some heroin withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months after detoxification, which is called protracted heroin withdrawal. Cravings will still exist, although not as intense. You will start to notice environmental and social triggers, both of which make you want to relapse.
You may even have dreams about using heroin. Sleep disturbances, fatigue, and being easily agitated or irritable are symptoms that may continue to appear over time. You may also notice problems with controlling your emotions.
How to Manage Heroin Withdrawal
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, and even dangerous. That’s why it’s important to detox under the care of a medical professional.
They can help you through the process and make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. They will also be able to monitor you for any complications that may arise and treat them accordingly.
Detox is only the first step in recovery, however. After you’ve detoxed from heroin, you will need to enter a treatment program to address the underlying causes of your addiction. Treatment can help you learn how to cope with triggers and cravings, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and build a support system to help you stay on track.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, don’t wait to get help. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of a successful recovery.
How Can I Be Proactive During Heroin Addiction Recovery?
There are many things you can do to support your heroin recovery. Here are a few suggestions:
Treatment is a difficult decision, but it’s essential for recovering from heroin addiction. A good treatment program will address the underlying causes of your addiction and help you develop healthy coping skills.
Support groups can provide invaluable emotional support during heroin recovery. Find a group that meets regularly near you.
Triggers are anything that can cause you to crave heroin or use heroin. Avoiding triggers is an important part of maintaining your sobriety.
Staying busy can help you avoid drug cravings and reduce stress. Find activities that you enjoy and make time for them every day.
If you are struggling with heroin withdrawal, talk to your doctor. They can prescribe medication to help ease your symptoms and make detoxing more comfortable.
The Importance of Getting Help at Westwind Recovery®
An addiction treatment center that offers a heroin rehab, like Westwind Recovery®, will provide the guidance and medical supervision you need to ensure a safe and comfortable recovery process. This also means you have a better chance of preventing relapse. With the help of our medical professionals, you can get the proper help for you and your loved ones. And by extending your treatment to include therapy, your chances of staying sober significantly increase. Call us today to begin paving your road to recovery.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.