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The severity of detox is dependent on the specific drug you are withdrawing from. Although Heroin is not one known to cause life-threatening side effects, it’s is a difficult drug to detox from due to its intense level of addiction.

The unpleasant side effects of heroin detox often trigger a relapse- which is why when possible- detox under the supervision of a medical professional. Detox is the first and most crucial step in the recovery- and will lead to relapse if not done fully and properly.

What causes Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin suppresses areas in the central nervous system, especially the brain and the spinal cord. When they are suppressed, national functions of the body are lost like respiration control, heartbeat, pain awareness, and emotional/cognitive awareness.

Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the new functioning (or lack thereof) of the body and begins to produce norepinephrine- a stimulant that opposes the depressant effects of heroin. So when addicts come off of heroin- they feel pain to a much higher degree and struggle to adjust back to the body’s normal functioning. The central nervous system enters a temporary state of hyperactivity until the natural levels begin to balance out.

Heroin Detox Timeline

Each detox is unique to the individual and dependent on many factors including general health, severity and duration of the addiction, and mental health. A general timeline of Heroin Detox can be expected to look as follows:

Phase One: Acute Opiate Withdrawal

The symptoms of phase one generally begin around 12 hours after the last use. The major symptoms include depression, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sweating, and insomnia. Phase one generally lasts from 30-72 hours.

The Reason for the acute withdrawal symptoms is what’s known as “opposing response” where the body tries to balance out the effects of the drug- therefore producing opposing symptoms (depression over euphoria, diarrhea instead of constipation, etc.)

Phase 2:

The Second phase generally lasts around 2 weeks and is an important time for the body to reconfigure itself back its natural ways of functioning. During this phase- natural levels of endorphins stabilize along with hormones and cognition. Common symptoms include goosebumps, chills, leg cramps, anxiety, and strong cravings.

Once this phase is complete- more focus will be put on mental stability as most of the physical side effects will have subsided or at least lessened to a manageable level.

Phase Three:

Although Heroin withdrawal should only really be seriously felt for around a week or two, many reports feeling the effects for a month after. This is known as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and may result in chills, anxiety, depression, and cravings. Long-term medicated assistance is not recommended but more holistic and cognitive therapies may reduce the severity of long-term side effects.

Is It Dangerous?

It’s no secret that heroin withdrawal is a difficult process to endure, but no, it’s not going to kill you. Rarely if ever does it have life-threatening effects- and you are much more likely to die from using than quitting. In rare cases- long-term complications like cognitive or psychological disorders can develop- but the chances are slim.

When withdrawing from heroin- it can be proxy measured by measuring the size of the addicts’ pupils. Large ones show acute withdrawal and but as they recede they accurately reflect the withdrawal decreasing. Interestingly- the same can be used while using heroin by measuring the size of the pupils where larger ones reflect higher usage.

Heroin Withdrawal Settings

As with any substance detoxification – it is strongly advised to detox under the supervision of a medical professional. At home, it can be done, with a very strong support system, but needs to be done slowly. If at any time you are concerned about your health or experience unsettling symptoms- visit a doctor right away.

Detox facilities are readily available and often covered by insurance- the staff has impeccable knowledge of the process and how to ease symptom. Staff may also refer you to high-quality post detox treatments and therapies.

Hospitals are occasionally necessary when heroin detox symptoms are severe. Medicated assistance may be necessary along with controlling the nervous system.

Taking the First Step

Detox is the most important step in the journey to recovery- it sets the foundation for sobriety. If you or a loved one is ready to let go of addiction and start new- consider making a detox plan today. It can be scary- but the high amount of resources available can make your detoxification process as smooth as possible. Our highly knowledgeable staff is willing and happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you make a plan for a sober future. Call today to find out more!


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