What Are Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Health & Fitness

  • Author Patty Bell
  • Published September 14, 2022
  • Word count 494

Freeing oneself from the grip of heroin addiction is a difficult decision to make, especially when considering the necessary detox and withdrawal steps. Being familiar with the unpleasant effects of withdrawal on a daily basis, facing detox is a formidable barrier to treatment.

By preparing mentally for detox you can help to gear up for the process. Here is some helpful information about what to expect in detox and withdrawal, which will help you prepare for this important step toward recovery.

How Heroin Affects the Brain

Heroin is a highly addictive illicit drug that rapidly leads to increased tolerance. Heroin use causes a powerful reaction in the brain’s chemistry, attaching to opioid receptors in the pain and pleasure centers of the brain. The flood of dopamine causes the “rush” that is felt upon injecting, snorting, or smoking heroin, and registers in the brain’s reward system as a pleasurable event.

This powerful drug causes lasting changes in the brain cells, eventually causing the brain to stop producing dopamine naturally. As the individual becomes unable to experience pleasure, it leads to even higher dosing. Chemical dependence eventually takes hold, which leads to the highly uncomfortable flu-like withdrawal symptoms. At this point, the individual needs the drug to avoid feeling sick (referred to as “dope sick”).

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

The level of severity of heroin withdrawal varies based on how long an individual has been using heroin and the usual daily dosage. The symptoms appear as the body begins to react to the absence of the drug, usually within 6-12 hours of the last dose. The withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, but with proper medical and psychological support, they can be managed.

Heroin detox and withdrawal take about one week to complete. It unfolds predictably in three distinct stages, including emerging symptoms, peak symptoms, and subsiding symptoms.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include:



Aching muscles and joints

Bone pain


Cold flashes


Runny eyes and nose


Excessive perspiring

Excessive yawning

Abdominal cramps


Dilated pupils


Kicking motions



Medical interventions can help alleviate much of the discomfort associated with heroin withdrawal.

Help for Overcoming Heroin Addiction

Once you have completed the detox process you are ready to embark on the recovery journey. This involves the completion of a comprehensive treatment program, followed by continuing care and medical support to help maintain abstinence.

Rehab will involve the following treatment protocols:

Psychotherapy. Working with a CBT therapist helps you change maladaptive coping habits, such as relying on marijuana for stress management or sleep.

Group support. Discussing recovery-related topics among peers in recovery can build social support while in treatment.

12-step program. The 12-step program is often integrated into treatment programs.

Classes. Learning new recovery skills, life skills, and coping techniques prepares you for life after rehab.

Complementary activities. Stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or massage further support overall treatment results.

By Patty Bell, Interventionist at Golf Drug Rehab.

Patty Bell is the Interventionist and Family Relations Manager at Golf Drug Rehab by Capo by the Sea, a residential rehabilitation facility in Orange County, CA. Patty specializes in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. https://golfdrugrehab.com/

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