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Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal refers to the wide range of symptoms that occur after stopping or dramatically reducing the intake rate of opiate drugs after heavy and prolonged use. Heroin causes physical addiction, meaning the body grows a physical dependence on the substance. It is recommended that after a prolonged use, one should taper themselves off of the substance, to reduce heroin withdrawal symptoms. The chemicals in the human brain after a prolonged use become imbalanced. This causes many psychological heroin withdrawal effects as well.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms

Early withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

• Agitation
• Anxiety
• Changes In Taste or Smell
• Decreased Appetite
• Fatigue
• Increased Tearing
• Insomnia
• Muscle Aches
• Runny Nose
• Sweating
• Yawning

Late symptoms of withdrawal include, but are not limited to:

• Abdominal Cramping
• Diarrhea
• Dilated Pupils
• Goose Bumps
• Nausea
• Severe Sweating
• Vomiting

Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually start about twelve hours after the last use, depending on how heavy or prolonged the heroin use. Severe heroin withdrawal symptoms can last from 24 hours to 72 hours, although due to a heavy or prolonged use may last up to 7 to 14 days.

Heroin withdrawal is generally considered less likely to produce severe morbidity or mortality compared with barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Safe withdrawal from heroin is termed detoxification and can be performed either outpatient or inpatient at a rehabilitation center, hospital, or treatment center.

Pharmacologic methods for detoxification

There are various pharmacologic methods for detoxification such as:

• Methadone
• Buprenorphine
• Alpha-2 Agonists(Clonidine and Lofexidine)

This method for detoxification is called cross-tolerance, where one opioid either Methadone or Buprenorphine is replaced for the heroin, then is slowly tapered off. Alpha-2 agonists appear to be most effective in suppressing autonomic mediated signs and symptoms of abstinence, but they are less effective for subjective symptoms.

Data to date suggest after many trials and tribulations that buprenorphine and methadone are more effective than alpha-2 agonists for heroin detoxification. The cross-tolerance method has less lengthy detox times.


Detoxification alone, without ongoing treatment is not recommended for managing addiction. Patients who wish to quit permanently are recommended to attend a rehabilitation center, dynamic psychotherapy, drug counseling, or support groups.

Dynamic psychotherapy is based on the concept that all symptoms arise from underlying unconscious psychological conflicts. The first step in dynamic psychotherapy is to become aware of these conflicts and develop a method to cope and channel these feelings of emotional terror.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA): Narcotics Anonymous was founded in 1947 in Lexington; Ky. Narcotics Anonymous is based on principles similar to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), including the 12 steps of recovery. Some patients find it difficult to engage in either of these programs; however, there is a high percentage of recovery for one who is truly willing to quit using these substances, and is fully committed to changing their lives.