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What Are the Stages of Heroin Withdrawal?

a person holds their head while sitting on a bed experiencing the stages of heroin withdrawal

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug derived from morphine, a natural substance found in certain varieties of the poppy plant. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” Heroin can be injected, inhaled, or smoked, leading to a potent sense of euphoria. Over time, regular heroin use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, causing users to seek and use the drug despite harmful consequences. Withdrawal from heroin can be intensely uncomfortable and often drives continued use.

Recognizing the critical need for specialized care during the initial signs of heroin withdrawal, BRC Healthcare has developed an Austin, TX heroin detox center specifically tailored to address the unique challenges associated with this highly addictive substance. Call us at to learn more.

How Long Is Heroin Withdrawal?

You may be asking yourself, how long is heroin withdrawal? Well, the length of heroin withdrawal can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the level of heroin use, the length of time the individual has been using, their overall health, and individual metabolic factors. Generally, symptoms of heroin withdrawal begin within 6-12 hours of the last dose, peak in 2-3 days, and last 5-10 days in total. In some cases, individuals may experience an extended withdrawal syndrome, with milder symptoms persisting for weeks or months.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline: What to Expect

Heroin is an extremely potent opioid that can cause severe dependence and addiction. When a person who has been using heroin regularly decides to stop or significantly reduce their usage, they typically experience a series of withdrawal symptoms.

Stage One: Initial Withdrawal

The initial stage of heroin withdrawal typically begins within 6-12 hours after the last dose. This stage can be likened to the onset of a severe flu. Symptoms include muscle aches, restlessness, anxiety, excessive tearing, runny nose, excessive sweating, and insomnia. Although not life-threatening, these symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable.

Stage Two: Peak Withdrawal Symptoms

Between 24-48 hours after the last dose, withdrawal symptoms generally peak. This is the most challenging stage for many individuals, with symptoms intensifying and additional symptoms appearing. These may include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goosebumps, nausea, and vomiting. The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person, influenced by factors such as the duration of use, the frequency of use, the dosage, and individual physiological factors.

Stage Three: Subsiding Symptoms

The third stage of withdrawal typically begins around the fourth or fifth day and can last up to a week. During this stage, the physical symptoms start to subside. However, psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression may persist, often leading to strong cravings for the drug. This period is crucial because the lingering discomfort, coupled with psychological distress, may increase the risk of relapse.

Stage Four: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

The fourth stage, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), can potentially last for weeks, months, or even years after the last heroin use. PAWS is characterized by mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, prolonged fatigue, and continued cravings. These symptoms usually come and go and are often triggered by stress or cues associated with heroin use. The duration of this stage varies widely among individuals, depending on factors such as the length and intensity of heroin use and individual psychological factors.

Understanding the heroin withdrawal timeline is an essential part of preparing for detoxification and recovery. Withdrawal can be a challenging process, both physically and emotionally, and it is highly recommended to seek professional medical help. Medical detoxification can provide a safe, controlled environment for withdrawal, often incorporating medication to ease symptoms and reduce cravings.

Why You Should Know the Stages of Heroin Withdrawal

Understanding the stages of heroin withdrawal is essential because it can help you empathize with what your loved one is going through. Withdrawal is not just a matter of feeling a bit under the weather for a few days. It can be a grueling process that includes both physical symptoms, like muscle aches, nausea, and insomnia, and emotional symptoms, like anxiety and depression.

Just as important is understanding that recovery from addiction is a long journey that often includes setbacks. It’s not a straight path, and it’s not a sign of failure if your loved one has a relapse. What’s important is getting back on the path to recovery.

BRC Healthcare: A Heroin Detox Program with You in Mind

At BRC Healthcare, we recognize the enormous courage it takes for an individual to face heroin withdrawal and commit to recovery. We offer a comprehensive heroin detox program staffed by compassionate professionals who are experts in addiction treatment. Our program is designed to manage and alleviate withdrawal symptoms in a safe and comfortable environment. The goal is to help individuals move beyond the physical dependence on heroin so they can engage fully in the recovery process. Contact us at today to learn more.