Heroin Addiction Therapy: Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms You Should Expect

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Nearly one million Americans reported using heroin at least once in 2016, the last year that the National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study of heroin use. Of those 948,000 people, the majority were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Heroin is a substance that is claiming lives across the nation. Heroin is highly addictive, and the road to recovery involves experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms. 

Seeking treatment is one of the best ways to manage heroin addiction and safely stop using it altogether. Getting past the withdrawal stage is key and addiction treatment can help you persevere.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about heroin withdrawal symptoms as you begin your journey to recovery.

How Does Heroin Affect the Body and Mind?

As humans, our brains are constantly seeking out the things that make us feel good and encouraging us to repeat any rewarding behaviors. This is what leads us to go after our goals, build relationships with people we love, and set our sights on major milestones.

However, our brain does not necessarily differentiate between good rewards and harmful rewards. Like most addictive substances, heroin targets your brain’s natural reward system. Substances like heroin trigger a flood of dopamine, which is a chemical in the brain that makes us feel happy, exhilarated, and even euphoric. 

As drug abuse or dependency goes on, the brain becomes used to this regular flooding of dopamine. It begins to require more in order to achieve that euphoric feeling. As a result, many individuals become locked into the cycle of heroin addiction and require larger doses more often. 

What Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms May Occur?

As your body and brain become adjusted to the dopamine release brought on by heroin, it struggles to produce that much dopamine on its own. When you stop using heroin or go long periods of time without using it, your mind and body react adversely.

The way your body reacts to withdrawal will vary based on how often, how much, and for how long you used heroin. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that occur during heroin withdrawal based on usage.

Mild Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who used heroin in small doses for a period of a few weeks to a few months can expect mild withdrawal symptoms. They may not feel as intense or last as long as the symptoms encountered by a long-term, heavy user. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Watery or irritated eyes
  • Runny nose and increased mucous production
  • Sweats 
  • Chills
  • Aching muscles or bones
  • Excessive yawning

It is important to remember that this list is not exhaustive. Because each case varies, an individual with mild withdrawal symptoms may experience others that are not listed here.

Moderate Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who took heroin in large doses or over the span of several months (but less than a year) may experience moderate heroin withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Agitation or feelings of restlessness
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Fatigue

These symptoms may be in addition to any of the symptoms listed under mild withdrawal.

Severe Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

For individuals who have struggled with heroin addiction for years and have recently used large doses of heroin on a regular basis, withdrawal symptoms will likely be severe. It is highly recommended that anyone suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms seek professional help as soon as possible. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Muscle pains and spasms
  • Respiration and breathing difficulties
  • Inability to feel pleasure or excitement

In addition to these withdrawal symptoms, many individuals who used heroin for a long period of time experience intense drug-cravings. Getting past this particular phase is often the hardest, although it is one of the most important mountains to climb.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

The duration of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the extent of your heroin use. However, there is a timeline that many individuals often follow. What varies most is the severity of the symptoms during this time.

To measure the time it takes to overcome withdrawal, we begin at the time of the last dose. Within about 6-12 hours, you may begin to feel those symptoms of withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms are often at their worst in the first three days after your last dose. They begin to lessen around day four, and many individuals find that they have subsided after one week. 

Why Is Addiction Treatment Important?

As you can see, withdrawal symptoms can be very serious. In some cases, they can cause medical complications or present risks to the individual suffering from them. 

Going through withdrawal in a rehabilitation setting increases your chances of getting past that first week. Addiction treatment creates a safe, controlled environment that limits your access to heroin and shields you from your triggers. It also guarantees that your withdrawal symptoms are monitored and managed by professionals, lowering the risk of adverse side effects.

While in addiction treatment, you can learn more about the nature of your own substance use and find healthy coping mechanisms. You can also discover ways to achieve feelings of happiness and fulfillment that don’t require any substances at all. Addiction treatment lowers your risk of relapse and gives you the tools to stay sober for years to come. 

Addiction Treatment in Asheville

Recovering from heroin addiction is a difficult process that no one should have to experience alone. You may experience heroin withdrawal symptoms that cause discomfort and possible health problems. 

Oasis Recovery Center in Asheville, NC is here to make sure that no one has to recover alone. Contact us to find out more about our programs and treatment options today.