Going through heroin withdrawal on your own can be difficult, but a medically assisted detox program can make the process much easier to handle.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. Often, these discouraging symptoms are what prevent people from quitting this powerful drug and finding lasting sobriety.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to safely detox from heroin, avoid difficult withdrawal symptoms and begin the recovery journey. The following provides an overview of heroin withdrawal symptoms, why they occur and how you can safely overcome them through professional rehab treatment.

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Heroin Withdrawal

Opioids are powerful drugs that can lead to physical dependence and psychological addiction. The process typically begins when a person develops an opioid tolerance, meaning their body becomes used to the opioids they are using. The person will need to take higher doses to feel the same effects, and their body and brain may start depending on the drug in order to feel normal and function properly. If the person stops using opioids after developing dependence or addiction, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Opioid withdrawal can be extremely difficult to go through alone, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why people relapse when trying to quit. However, it’s also the reason why medically assisted detox is so effective for people struggling with heroin addiction: these programs make a safer, more comfortable withdrawal process possible.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Everyone has a slightly different experience when ending heroin use. However, the first set of withdrawal symptoms that develop may include: 

  • Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose

After the initial rush of symptoms, other symptoms that can occur throughout the heroin withdrawal process include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin withdrawal can begin eight to 12 hours after the last heroin dose.

Symptoms often worsen over the next two to three days, then resolve over the next seven to 10 days. However, the timeline can be longer or shorter based on factors like age, weight, frequency and length of heroin use, dose amounts and more.

Medication for Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin detox medications are able to help with both psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal. The most common types of medications used for heroin detox and treatment include methadone and buprenorphine, which can be used to help people gradually taper off opioid use. In many cases, however, naltrexone may be a better choice than either medication. This is because it isn’t habit-forming, it reduces cravings for heroin and it prevents people from getting high if they relapse.

Other medications may also be provided to help relieve certain withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms and their treatments include:

  • Insomnia: Temazepam or promethazine 
  • Nausea: Metoclopramide or prochlorperazine
  • Abdominal cramps: Hyoscine
  • Diarrhea: Kaolin or loperamide
  • Muscle cramps: Quinine
  • Headaches: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Agitation: Diazepam

Heroin Detox Options

Heroin detox is the process of eliminating heroin from the body. It can last as long as it takes for withdrawal symptoms to subside — around seven to 10 days — although the exact duration can vary depending on the person.

Detox is a necessary part of quitting heroin. However, complications like uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and extreme cravings can tempt a person to relapse.

Trying to quit heroin at home without medical supervision can be challenging. Without medical support, withdrawal symptoms can become overwhelming and cravings may lead to relapse.

When a person detoxes in a medically supervised environment, withdrawal symptoms can be quickly treated to ensure comfort. In addition, clients in professional detox programs may begin medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine to avoid cravings and stay sober in the future.

About Our Detox Center in Ohio

There are many different heroin detox options available in Ohio, including those found at The Recovery Village Columbus. In addition to medical detox, we provide inpatient and outpatient programs that help you address the underlying concerns that led to your addiction and learn healthier ways to cope. 

If you or someone you love is ready to take the next step and find treatment for heroin addiction, The Recovery Village Columbus is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about heroin addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs.


How long does heroin withdrawal last?

eroin withdrawal can start anywhere from eight to 12 hours after the last dose. Symptoms often worsen over the next two to three days, then subside over the next seven to 10 days.

What helps with heroin withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal is typically treated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) consisting of methadone or buprenorphine-based agents. These narcotics help prevent withdrawal symptoms and also stop a person from getting high.

Can I detox from heroin at home?

Although it is possible to detox from heroin at home, it can be very difficult. Without medical help to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings, it is very easy to relapse back into heroin use.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Use […]nvolving Opioid Use.” June 1, 2015 Accessed November 29, 2021.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and opioid withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, November 23, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed November 29, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the immediate (short-term) effects of heroin use?” June 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.