Seeking treatment for heroin addiction can be one of the most difficult and bravest decisions a person can make. Like any drug addiction, addiction to heroin can cause significant damage to a person’s physical health, emotional wellbeing, and impact all other areas of a person’s life.

The road to recovery from addiction can look different for everyone, but will often begin with the uncomfortable process of withdrawal and detoxification. Heroin withdrawal refers to a number of physical and mental symptoms a person who has become heroin-dependent will experience once they have stopped using the drug. 

These symptoms can be physical and psychological, and will typically begin within 12 hours of a person’s last dose. Detoxification, or detox, is the process through which a person’s body eliminates drugs like heroin from its system. 

At Vertava Health Ohio treatment facility in Ohio, we offer medically-supervised detox services as part of our comprehensive opioid and heroin addiction rehab program. To learn more about heroin withdrawal, the detox process, and our inpatient rehab program, continue reading below.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline And Symptoms

Withdrawal is a process the body goes through as it recovers from a person’s use of heroin and its absence from their system after chronic drug abuse. This is a response to drug dependence, and is an experience that can vary based on personal and biological factors. 

Factors that can affect the type of symptoms a person experiences during heroin withdrawal, and their severity include:

  • age
  • duration of heroin use
  • amount of drug used
  • method of use (e.g. snorting, injection, smoking)
  • co-occurring mental health problems
  • previous history of opioid withdrawal
  • polysubstance abuse (abusing one or more drugs, or alcohol)

The duration of the heroin withdrawal process can also be affected by these factors. If you have developed a dependence on heroin, early symptoms of withdrawal are likely to set in within 6 to 12 hours after your last use of the drug. 

Symptoms can be expected to reach their peak within 48 to 36 hours, and gradually reduce in severity for a few days after. The average duration of withdrawal is about a week, although certain symptoms may last longer.

Early Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms – First 48 Hours

The first symptoms of heroin withdrawal begin within the first six to 12 hours. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal are often compared to having the flu, and may grow more uncomfortable over the first two days.

Early symptoms of heroin withdrawal can include:

  • anxiety
  • moist eyes (excessive tearing)
  • muscle aches
  • agitation
  • runny nose
  • hot and cold flashes
  • sweating
  • yawning
  • difficulty sleeping

Additional symptoms such as shaking, feelings of panic, and diarrhea may begin as a person reaches the two to three-day mark.

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Late Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms – 36+ Hours

The peak period of withdrawal is when symptoms can become most severe. For heroin and other short-acting opioids, this peak period occurs about three to five days into withdrawal. 

Late withdrawal symptoms during this peak period may include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dilated pupils
  • panic attacks
  • stomach cramps
  • goosebumps
  • continued sleep difficulties

Within days six and seven of withdrawal, people will experience a reduction in their symptoms, and most physical symptoms should go away entirely. Mental and psychological symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, and depression may linger for some time, but can be treated through counseling and the use of medication.

Depending on the severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms, some people may continue to feel somewhat ill-at-ease or unsteady following the first week. Drinking water, restoring nutrition, and beginning a treatment program for heroin abuse is recommended to help maintain sobriety.

Is Heroin Withdrawal Dangerous?

Compared to the life-threatening symptoms that are well-documented for benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal, opioid withdrawal has typically been considered less severe. However, this can vary depending on the person and the type of detox setting.

Although heroin withdrawal can be treated safely and effectively within an inpatient setting, symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhea can become dangerous without medical supervision. The primary danger of these symptoms is their likelihood to cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. In cases of severe cases, this can result in heart failure. 

Life-threatening consequences of heroin withdrawal are most common among incarcerated and homeless populations. However, it’s better to be safe and seek medical detox assistance than to attempt withdrawal without the support of medical professionals.

Heroin Detox And Treatment

Detoxification within an inpatient setting –  such as a drug and alcohol rehab center – is referred to as medical detox or medically-supervised detox. This is the safest and most recommended option for any person undergoing withdrawal from a drug or substance of abuse. 

The benefits of medically-supervised detox:

  • 24/7 supervision
  • monitoring of vital signs
  • hydration assistance
  • nutritional assistance
  • use of safe medicines to ease symptoms
  • reduces risk for harmful symptoms

Detox setting can be an important factor for safety and relapse prevention. While attempting to detox at home can seem like a more appealing option, a home environment typically lacks the support people need to safely complete the detox process. Medical detox takes away the option of returning to heroin, and provides greater support as symptoms become more uncomfortable.

Finally, another important benefit of medical detox is that it provides a more seamless transition into a rehab program. At Vertava Health Ohio rehab center in Ohio, we offer medical detox as the beginning step of our heroin addiction rehab program.

Begin Your Recovery From Heroin Addiction

Recovery from heroin addiction begins with detox, but it’s not where it ends. Overcoming an addiction to heroin can take time and require intensive therapeutic work to address all of the ways addiction has harmed a patient’s health and wellbeing.

Within our Ohio heroin addiction treatment program, we offer an integration of both traditional and holistic treatments, such as behavioral therapy, medications, expressive therapies, and more for full mind-and-body wellness. 

Help yourself or a loved one begin their path towards addiction recovery today by contacting Vertava Health Ohio online or by calling (888) 481-7821. 


U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal

Wiley Online Library: Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) — Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal