Heroin Withdrawal: Timelines and Symptoms

Heroin is one of the most powerful and dangerous opioids we know of. The drug is mostly used recreationally and has a high potential for addiction. Withdrawal symptoms are known to occur from heroin use after a user attempts to quit following a certain period of use. Even first-time users can experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug’s effects begin to wear off.

Withdrawal from heroin makes it difficult to quit using the drug as symptoms can be very unpleasant and painful. If you’ve abused heroin and wish to quit but are afraid of withdrawal symptoms, you can get the help you need through a medical detox programme. Quitting without help can be dangerous too, as withdrawal from heroin may be accompanied by complications you can’t handle alone.

What Is Heroin Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is the phase in which a series of symptoms begin to manifest when you attempt to quit using heroin. Using the drug over a period of time can also cause your body to become tolerant which will make you take more of the drug to experience its usual effects. As a result, withdrawal will take hold when you drastically reduce your dose.

Heroin withdrawal is known to be one of the most painful withdrawals, especially for those who have abused the drug chronically. You’ll experience physical and psychological symptoms such as muscle aches, anxiety, diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, and agitation, among others, which will prompt you to use again so that you can feel free.

What Causes Withdrawal?

When taken, heroin travels to the brain through the bloodstream and causes alterations in the way neurochemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and endorphins communicate with the rest of the body. These chemicals are responsible for pain sensations, mood, sleep, and the brain’s reward system. Heroin rigs the mechanisms of these chemicals to produce short-term feelings of euphoria, sedation, pain relief, and relaxation.

Over time, the brain will begin to get used to the effects of heroin and will start depending on the drug to keep regulating the body’s neurochemistry. Continued use will also result in tolerance, as higher doses of heroin will be required to maintain normal effects. This will result in withdrawal symptoms flaring up when you cease use abruptly or substantially reduce your dose.

Withdrawal is a direct result of addiction and dependence. When your body begins to feel like it can no longer function without the presence of heroin, this is an indication that you have become dependent on the drug.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological and they occur in severity according to how much heroin you have used and how long you have been abusing the drug. The drug is mostly injected and some people opt to smoke it. Nevertheless, both methods introduce the drug into the bloodstream very quickly, causing withdrawal to take hold faster as well.

Some symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle ache
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhoea

The way you choose to quit using heroin will also determine how severe these symptoms will be. Discontinuing use suddenly can be dangerous as these symptoms may hit you at full force, resulting in life-threatening complications. This is why it’s recommended that you go through a residential detox where you’ll be monitored closely by medical professionals.


The heroin withdrawal process can be categorised as:

  • 0-24 Hours: Symptoms like anxiety, muscle ache, pain, nausea, and insomnia will begin to creep in within the first 24 hours after your last dose.
  • Day 1-3: Symptoms will begin to intensify during this period. These symptoms will include intense anxiety, shaking, panic attacks, diarrhoea, and pain in the muscles.
  • Day 3-7: By the third day, withdrawal symptoms will typically be at their strongest. Symptoms that are present at this time include shivers, sweating, vomiting/nausea, as well as, abdominal cramping. From the fifth to seventh day and after a week, you’ll begin to feel physically normal again as symptoms will start dissipating.

While this timeline shows how withdrawal generally progresses, it can be different for you or your loved one as heroin affects everyone differently. To ease these symptoms and avoid complications, a medical detox is ideal. Going through our heroin rehab clinic will see you receive treatment for withdrawal that will be streamlined to your personal condition in a conducive and drug-free environment.

What is a Medical Heroin Detox?

Under the safe and supportive care of our rehab professionals, patients will receive an approved medical substitute for heroin. They will then be carefully withdrawn from the medication over a period of days until they are clean. Throughout the process, they will receive high levels of support from medical staff, qualified counsellors, support staff and therapists. This is proven to be the safest and most successful way of detoxing from heroin and will take between 7-14 days.

Benefits of Private Heroin Detox

You no longer have to be afraid of the threat of withdrawal, as going through a residential heroin detox programme in a private rehab facility will see to it that your body rids itself of heroin in a relatively safe and comfortable manner. There are many other benefits associated with detoxing at a residential clinic like Primrose Lodge. These include:

  • Going through detox in a drug-free and nurturing environment
  • Medical team with 24/7 supervision and care
  • Enjoying the support required to kick your addiction comfortably
  • Free 1-year aftercare support with complementary therapies
  • Personalised rehabilitation programme after detox is over
  • Therapeutic heroin rehabilitation to address the root causes of addiction
  • Learn relapse prevention skills and strategies after detox

Do not hesitate to get in touch with us today so that your detox treatment can be put in motion.

We can help you beat your addiction for good

If you’re going through a heroin addiction and can’t seem to quit your use due to the challenge of withdrawal, or if you’re watching a loved one suffer from this ordeal, you can get the help you need to defeat this issue once and for all. Our heroin detox programme is carried out by a highly-experienced team, a range of holistic therapies will be employed, and our treatment plans are flexible to meet all your needs and changes as you progress in recovery. With these tools and resources, rest assured your addiction to heroin can become history.

Place a call to us today and break that barrier to your freedom from the hold of heroin.

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Call Now 0203 553 9263
Call Now 0203 553 9263

Call Now 0203 553 9263

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    Perry Hill
    Surrey, GU3 3RF
  • Tel. 0203 553 9263
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