Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

How Long Does a Heroin Detox Take?

The first step to the healing process for any continued drug use is detoxification. For an individual that is in withdrawal, it can seem like there is no end in sight. The pain and suffering caused from heroin withdrawal can be one of the most uncomfortable sensations of an individual’s life. The purpose of this article is not only to shed light on what is actually going on physically, but to give more information about a timeline for the process of a heroin detox.

Heroin has its effects on the brain and body by replicating naturally occurring substances. These naturally occurring substances are endogenous, as they originate from within and are not external to the body. An opiate such as heroin activates the receptors in your brain and functions as a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter works to broadcast signals between neurons and cells. The most common natural neurotransmitters are endorphins. The two endorphins that are affected as a result of heroin and opiate use are serotonin and dopamine. Endorphins occur naturally in the body as a result of physical exertion or exercise or high levels of stress. Endorphins block pain by preventing neurons from receiving pain signals. Endorphins also stimulate a “feel good” response. Heroin and other opiates like it release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that our bodies naturally produce.In the case of heroin, long-term use modifies the brain’s dopamine system, which eventually leads the brain to become dependent on heroin, which often leads to addiction.


What is Heroin Detox (withdrawal)?

When an individual becomes addicted to heroin the brain and body build up a defense or tolerance to the drug. In order to reach a healthy balance of dopamine and serotonin the individual needs to use more of the drug in order to achieve the same euphoric feeling or intensity of effect. After long term use of heroin the brain and body has become physically dependent upon the drug, so when you quit or are without heroin for a period of time, the individual starts to come down or enter the withdrawal phase. It is comparable to taking out a loan. While using heroin you get a loan of euphoric feelings only to have to payback these feeling once the high wears off and the withdrawal starts. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are loss of appetite, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, profuse sweating, nausea, and irritability.


Heroin Detox

for illustrative purposes; any person(s) depicted in this photo is a model.

The initial detox symptoms can vary in time and intensity, and most addicts report that withdrawal symptoms will begin 6 to 12 hours after their last dose, peaking within 1 to 3 days, and gradually subsiding over 5 to 7 days. The second stage of the detox is called Post-Acute-Withdrawal syndrome, also referred to as PAWS. During this phase, the physical withdrawal yields way to emotional and psychological distress. Emotional symptoms are as follows: mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, variable energy, low enthusiasm, variable concentration and disturbed sleep. These symptoms can be overwhelming within the first few weeks of recovery. This phase is often referred to as the “rollercoaster of emotions.” After 90 days, these symptoms have a tendency to gradually subside as the recovering addict dives deeper into their recovery and gains physical and emotional strength. One of the most common misconceptions about PAWS is that it will only last a few months, when in fact it has been documented that it is a two-year process.

Is there a heroin detox timeline?

There is no definite schedule and it can be an uncomfortable period. Impatience can lead to relapse and it has been documented that heroin detox is more effective when adhering to a recovery program that instills unique tools specifically designed to deal with these concerns. Heroin detox should also be done under a doctor’s supervision for clinical and medical care.


  • Elly
    Posted at 04:58h, 01 August Reply

    Wow, what an informative breakdown if heroin detox. This is so helpful. You have really simplified the breakdown while giving a clear picture of what detox really looks like. I will share this with my various groups. Thank you so much

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