Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

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Withdrawal Symptoms After Heroin Abuse

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are one of the unfortunate roadblocks on the road to recovery from the abuse of heroin and other opioid medications. This form of drug abuse is unique in the fact that the opioid withdrawal symptoms are intense and drawn out, often taking weeks to fully conquer.

Another challenge is the fact that most heroin has either been fully replaced or heavily adulterated with fentanyl, making it difficult to establish any form of medication assisted treatment for those experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The severe withdrawal symptoms often get worse because of the presence of fentanyl and other substances when users attempt to take Buprenorphine for relief.

If you or someone you know is suffering from heroin addiction and looking for a way to combat heroin withdrawal symptoms, this article contains important information that might help you achieve recovery.

An Overview of Heroin

An Overview of Heroin

Heroin is produced through the process of extracting morphine from the poppy plant, which is a completely legal opioid drug prescribed by doctors. When used, it creates a state of relaxation that can be triggered by the activation of certain receptors that release endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals.

When this binding effect takes place, the heroin, which turns back to morphine after crossing the blood-brain barrier, blocks pain signals received by the brain. This causes the pain relieving properties of any opioid prescription drug. Most heroin users inject the drug via IV use, but it’s also inhaled and snorted.

Heroin triggers an intense rush of pleasurable feelings after it’s ingested. The intensity of this sensation depends on how much is used and how fast the drug enters the brain. Since the immediate impact of this substance on the user’s body is so intense, addiction generally takes place quickly.

Heroin is normally found as a brown, grey, or white powder. These are generally the purest forms of the drug, although other types do exist.

Other types of heroin, which are also known as black tar heroin, have a black sticky consistency. This form is often less pure than powder heroin, but it’s also much cheaper. Since street-level users can’t identify the purity or the exact amount they’re ingesting, users are prone to overdose. Most recently, high levels of fentanyl present in black market batches of heroin are causing overdose death numbers that were unfathomable just a few short years ago.

What Leads to Heroin Addiction and Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

There’s no definitive answer for what causes heroin addiction specifically. However, several driving forces are known to contribute to drug abuse.

Those with a family history of substance abuse are more prone to developing a heroin addiction. Others believe that heroin addiction is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

This imbalance leads to depression, which could lead to an increased risk of drug abuse as a coping mechanism. Those exposed to parents or guardians who have an active heroin addiction have a much higher chance of developing a heroin addiction themselves later in life.

Helping someone you love overcome heroin withdrawal symptoms means knowing what to look for in someone that’s engaged in substance abuse. Sometimes heroin withdrawal symptoms are easy to recognize. However, what if you never see the person during heroin withdrawal? You need to understand what the symptoms of heroin addiction look like.

Symptoms and Signs of Heroin Dependence

Symptoms of heroin addiction can be broken up into several categories. The immediate signs include:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Suddenly losing interest in a hobby
  • Small pupils
  • Constant “nodding out”
  • Periods of high alertness or extremely low alertness – no in between
  • Shallow breathing

These behaviors are indicative of simple use. When someone progresses into full-blown addiction, symptoms of heroin use might manifest as the following physical symptoms:

  • Flushed skin
  • Cottonmouth
  • Heavy feelings in the legs or arms
  • Feelings of nausea

Common behavioral symptoms might include:

  • Pushing away family and friends and a feeling of hatred toward yourself
  • Frequent arguing with family and friends or being defensive
  • Stealing from family and friends
  • Wearing long sleeves in hot weather to cover track marks
  • Constantly lying
  • Becoming hostile or going on the offensive frequently
  • Constant itching

Psychological symptoms might include:

  • Loss of balance of priorities
  • Neglecting all responsibilities
  • Extremely irritable
  • Frequently depressed
  • Anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Becoming restless

Why Does Heroin Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Why Does Heroin Cause Withdrawal Symptom

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are triggered because the brain gets used to the opioid receptors being activated. This creates a constant flow of dopamine, serotonin, and other feel-good chemicals in the brain.

When these receptors are suddenly starved of opioids and the release of these chemicals is shut off, the body’s response is violent withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal has a wide variety of side effects.

Understanding the presence of heroin withdrawal symptoms is extremely important. Although heroin withdrawal symptoms may not be considered as life-threatening as benzodiazepines or alcohol, opioid withdrawal is still dangerous. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can cause severe dehydration and a fluctuation of the body’s vital signs.

When someone is going through heroin withdrawal, you may notice any or all of the following signs:

The Initial Stages of Heroin Withdrawal

For many users, the initial stages of heroin withdrawal begin just hours after their last injection or use. During this stage of heroin withdrawal, users may experience the following:

  • Intense sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Early stages of nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Runny Nose
  • Yawning
  • Body aches

Mental Stage of Heroin Withdrawal

These symptoms generally last anywhere between one and two days, with increasing severity as time goes on. Around day two or three, the mental symptoms of heroin withdrawal may become more prevalent. Look out for:

  • Problems getting a full night’s sleep
  • Extreme irritability
  • Challenges concentrating
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Intense anxiety
  • Mood swings without warning
  • Extreme depression

The most intense stage of heroin withdrawal occurs on the third day when a second set of physical symptoms begin to manifest. This stage includes:

Third Stage of Heroin Withdrawal

  • Extreme stomach cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Shivering with cold chills and goosebumps while sweating
  • Hypertension
  • Body aches
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

During heroin withdrawal, many people attempt to overcome these challenges at home without any medical professionals. This is strongly discouraged for several reasons.

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Heroin Withdrawal at Home: Cold-Turkey Detox

Opioid withdrawal at home has multiple risk factors. First and foremost, your risks of relapsing are extremely high. When the symptoms of withdrawal become too severe to tolerate, it’s too easy to make a phone call to purchase heroin and stop your symptoms.

Attempting to overcome your drug addiction at home via cold turkey detox also poses the following risks:


If someone going through detox at home decides to relapse because they can’t tolerate withdrawal any longer, there’s a significant risk of overdose – especially if they’ve been sober for a couple of days. Even though it seems like a short time, going two or three consecutive days without heroin can significantly lower your tolerance. If you attempt to ingest the same dose as you did prior, the chances of a fatal overdose are extremely high.

Remaining In the Same Environment

Those attempting to start the withdrawal process may not succeed if they’re in close proximity to people they used to get high with. In order to have a successful detoxification, it’s important to remove your triggers. A treatment facility can help you remove these triggers and give you a solid strategy to overcome withdrawal and the mental illnesses at the center of your addiction.

Collateral Damage of Withdrawal

One of the most common issues that people encounter during detox is severe dehydration. If the withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, you might need medical attention. IV fluids can help keep you hydrated, and there’s always a risk of choking involved if you vomit in your sleep. Blood pressure and heart issues can become a problem as well.

Managing Heroin Withdrawal With Medically-Assisted Detox

Managing Heroin Withdrawal With Medically-Assisted Detox

Entering our medically-assisted detox at Resurgence Texas gives you much higher odds of experiencing a safe withdrawal period and a -successful treatment process. You’ll have access to the following advantages by opting for medically-assisted detox:

Having the right conditions in place is important to ensure that detox is successful. Medical professionals can provide support and prepare you for the next phase of rehab during medical detoxification. Having someone with previous experience during the process can help reduce your anxiety.

In order to minimize withdrawal symptoms during detox, different maintenance medications are used. Two of the most common are Buprenorphine and Naltrexone.

Although these medications occupy the same parts of the brain as heroin, they do not produce the same results. Compared to other opioid drugs, the effects of Buprenorphine and naltrexone are nearly non-existent. These symptoms stay in the users’ body longer than heroin, but they don’t produce the same withdrawal effects. In fact, they help combat the withdrawal experienced from heroin.

These medications can help individuals reduce their cravings in combination with reducing withdrawal symptoms. During the use of these drugs, users can slowly be weaned off of heroin while they learn to function and live a normal life again.

A physician may start with a low initial dose to prevent precipitated withdrawal symptoms. For people who have already had multiple relapses and are still struggling with their addictions, continuous use of these drugs can be extended for periods of six months or more. After the client feels comfortable, they can then be weened off of the Buprenorphine over a period of several months.

Additional Medications Used

Clonidine may be used to help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, giving you a calming feeling that can reduce sweat and other negative feelings.

Initially, Clonidine was not officially approved to treat heroin withdrawal. However, a brand name for the drug, Lucymera, was released to combat withdrawal symptoms and was the first drug of its kind.

Robaxin is a muscle relaxant prescribed during heroin withdrawal. This may help with muscle aches and restless legs to help you get more rest. One of the most unsavory effects of withdrawal is restless legs syndrome. This is what generally causes the long, sleepless nights spent tossing and turning.

Promethazine may also be prescribed to help relieve nausea and vomiting. Because promethazine causes drowsiness, this may also have a positive impact on your ability to rest during the detox process.

How Can I Help My Detox In a Healthy Way?

How Can I Help My Detox In a Healthy Way

Certain things you can do to help promote detox in a healthy way can significantly impact your withdrawal symptoms. Use the following tips to help relieve the severity of your withdrawal symptoms:

  • Eat balanced meals consisting of healthy foods. It’s important to get your essential vitamins and nutrients as your body is drained of these elements while engaging in heroin use.
  • Try and get restful sleep. Don’t oversleep or spend too much time in bed, as this will lead to more restlessness.
  • Try and exercise a little bit each day. This helps you expend energy and makes you tired when it’s time to sleep.

Resurgence Texas Can Help You Overcome Heroin Withdrawal

At Resurgence Texas, we can help you overcome the most challenging symptoms of heroin withdrawal. With our medication-assisted treatment and personalized treatment plans, the odds are in your favor.

For more information on how we can help you achieve long-term recovery, contact a member of our admissions team today.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.