Heroin and other opioids, such as codeine, methadone, and opium, are highly addictive. Individuals who develop heroin dependence or addiction may find it difficult to stop. Some may develop common withdrawal symptoms like sleeping problems, bone and muscle pain, or cold flashes.
Due to potentially life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal, health professionals advise inpatient or outpatient treatments, not self-help. One of the most common methods of treating heroin addiction and managing withdrawal symptoms is medically supervised detox. Please keep reading to learn how long it takes to detox from heroin.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid substance from morphine with highly addictive effects.1 Various forms of the substance include black powder, white powder, and black tar. Individuals typically inject, smoke, or sniff the substance. Common street names for heroin are smack, brown sugar, and horse.
Heroin is an opioid drug made from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants in Southeast and Southwest Asia. It has significant effects on the brain and body and can make the individual feel relaxed, experience pleasure, and feel less pain. It belongs to the Schedule II drugs alongside other substances like fentanyl, oxycodone, Adderall, and methadone.
Heroin Addiction Signs and Symptoms
Constant use of heroin causes a rush or feeling of euphoria in individuals. Some of the common signs and symptoms of heroin use disorder include depression, anxiety, hallucinations, disorientation, agitation and irritability, paranoia, and shortness of breath.
An individual experiencing heroin use disorder may need heroin detox. In most cases, medically assisted detoxification serves as the first stage of addiction treatment. During detox, the primary goal is to rid the body of the opioid drug while managing the withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Heroin Detox Like?
During detoxification, medical experts prescribe certain heroin detox drugs and devices to suppress the heroin withdrawal symptoms. In a study observing treatment facilities, medications were an important part of around 80% of heroin detox cases.
There are three common process of heroin detox, including evaluation, stabilization, and further treatment. During the evaluation, experts at the heroin detox center perform a thorough evaluation of the individual’s psychological and physical state. Mental health experts may also check medical history.
Stabilization in detox involves following the treatment plan and therapies to help the client experience a safe withdrawal.2 After the use of heroin detox drugs and important therapies, experts foster the individual’s entry into longer-term heroin addiction treatment.
Further treatment is important to sustain recovery and reduce the chances of relapse. Going through the detox process can feel isolating, but recovery is possible. Read on to learn more about the detoxification process.
Methods Used for Detox
There are various methods of detoxing from heroin—all involving different settings and varying levels of intensity. Here are three different methods applicable for heroin detoxification:
This method of detoxification allows individuals to return to their homes after seeking treatment during the day. Most individuals prefer outpatient care to inpatient care because they can return to their daily activities without interruptions. Note that this method is for individuals with a stable and safe home life.
If an individual doesn’t have a safe home environment, outpatient detox may not be advisable. During the detox, the team of mental health professionals comes up with a suitable treatment plan that meets the individual’s specific needs. To reduce cravings and heroin withdrawal symptoms, health professionals also prescribe heroin detox drugs.
Like all methods of detoxing from heroin, acute detox may induce severe symptoms of heroin withdrawal. The method of acute detox is primarily for individuals with a severe heroin use disorder. In most cases, health experts ensure to monitor the process of detox for a full twenty-four hours daily for a week.
The reason for close monitoring during acute detox is that there’s a higher chance of fatal side effects. Examples of such effects include seizures and respiratory failure. Note that the sub-acute detox differs from the acute detox. In sub-acute detox, individuals undergoing recovery have symptoms of heroin withdrawal compared to the typical detox.
During rapid detox for heroin, the individual is typically put under anesthesia between four to six hours of the day. During subconsciousness, the opioid antagonist drug begins to kick in and remove the heroin from the system. Rapid detoxification aims to help circumvent the pain during heroin withdrawal.
When the individual is awake, the drug will be flushed out of the body, and withdrawal should be under control. After this detox method, mental health experts also advise support via therapy and support groups.
Factors Affecting the Length of Withdrawal from Heroin
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can start from six hours after the last dose and last up to ten days. The timeline for detox may take between five to seven days, depending on the method and degree of addiction. The detox incorporates therapy and medications to help provide the best treatment.
How long does it take to withdraw from heroin? There are important factors that determine the heroin withdrawal length. Here are some significant factors that directly affect the timeline of heroin withdrawal:
The Severity of Heroin Addiction
In most cases, the severity of heroin withdrawal symptoms depends on the individual’s level of addiction. Mental health professionals can determine how severe heroin use disorder is by accessing the history of use, frequency, and side effects. Other common aspects experts review includes legal status, family relationships, employment status, and medical status.
Common criteria that help indicate the level of severity of the heroin addiction include:
- Dangerous use
- Lack of responsibility
- Spending too much time to get the substance
- Inability to stop use
- Problems with family relationships or partner
Co-occurring disorders are when an individual suffers from two disorders simultaneously. For example, a substance use disorder such as heroin addiction and a mental health condition such as depression. There’s a strong link between substance use disorders and other mental health conditions. According to a study, half of the people with a disorder eventually develop a minimum of one more co-occurring disorder in their life.3
Heroin withdrawal symptoms are typically more severe with co-occurring disorders. Some mental health conditions that typically follow heroin substance use disorder include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Length of Time Using Heroin
The length of time using the opioid or length of dependency is a strong determining factor of the heroin withdrawal timeline. An individual consuming the substance for a short period may experience lesser severity of heroin withdrawal compared to individuals with long-term addiction.
The Method by Which Heroin Is Taken
Individuals may take heroin through different methods, including injecting, sniffing, and smoking. In most cases, the method of use depends on the purity of the substance and the individual’s preferences. One of the most common methods is direct injection into a vein or muscle in the body.
A common term that describes smoking heroin or inhaling through a straw is “chasing the dragon.” All the methods of intake result in quick effects; however, individuals who inject the substance feel its euphoric effects the quickest. There’s also a higher chance of such individuals experiencing more serious heroin withdrawal symptoms that may extend for a long period.
Polysubstance or polydrug describes the consumption of more than one drug—in this case, heroin and another substance. Combining the opioid with certain drugs can result in the enhancement of the negative effects of heroin and other substances in question.
One of the most common and dangerous polysubstance abuse instances is with opioids like heroin and benzodiazepines.4 Since both substances are antidepressants, they may result in quick respiratory depression. Individuals may experience longer symptoms of withdrawal from heroin for both substances as opposed to one after reduction or a stop in intake.
Heroin Detox Timeline and Symptoms
Although the detoxification process can look different for each individual, there is a general timeline for heroin detox. Here’s a breakdown of the heroin detox timeline and symptoms that may occur:
- First 24 Hours: In some cases, heroin withdrawal may kick four hours after the last dose. Within twenty-four hours, symptoms of withdrawal from heroin may be mild, i.e., sweating and shaking.
- First Few Days: After a few days of detoxing from heroin, individuals may develop other symptoms of withdrawal from heroin, such as nausea, nervousness, and agitation.
- First Week: Coupled with symptoms that occur a few days after use, individuals may also feel signs of depression and cravings for the substance.
- First Few Months: Symptoms may improve after the first few months; however, individuals may still feel anxiety and insomnia. Note that individuals also tend to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), which may last for eighteen to twenty-four months.
What Happens After Treatment?
After an individual’s detox time, mental health experts may advise certain steps to prevent or reduce the chances of relapse. Here are some to note:
- Continuing Care: After treatment, the mental health professional may recommend certain aftercare programs. It aims to maintain recovery from substance abuse and find methods of relapse prevention.
- Support Groups: There are various ways support groups help during recovery, including learning from an experienced individual. These groups also help prevent isolation.
- Holistic Health: Individuals will receive guidance on ways to improve their overall health and change from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Common holistic therapies include yoga, spiritual therapy, counseling, and tai chi.
Get Started with Heroin Detox Today at Great Oaks Recovery Center
Acknowledging the need for help and support is the first stage of treatment and recovery. At Great Oaks Recovery Center, we commit to providing the best help to individuals experiencing heroin use disorder. We ensure each person is emotionally and physically comfortable for detox to ensure the individual reaches a good state.
Great Oaks Recovery Center offers a number of programs, from residential care to aftercare and every service to suit your need in between.
- Tactical Recovery Program: Great Oaks’ Tactical Recovery Program is a veteran-specific treatment service. Our staff is trained to meet the unique needs of veterans, and the program is centered around educational and empowering workshops that help clients recover.
- Family Program: We understand that a supportive and cohesive family unit is essential to healing. Our Family Program seeks to reestablish trust between family members and educate both the client and their loved ones on the process of recovery.
- Ready-to-Work Program: Great Oaks’ Ready-to-Work Program is meant to create an alliance between an employee and the employer during recovery. Clients can move through the healing process while also feeling secure in their job and their livelihood outside of recovery.