Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

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Heroin withdrawal occurs when a person with heroin addiction quits using the drug. Beginning with the last use, the heroin withdrawal timeline can last months, depending on the severity of the addiction.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin is a dangerous and very addictive illicit opioid. People who quit heroin use after prolonged addiction can experience withdrawal symptoms for days or even weeks afterward.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically begin around 12 hours after a person has stopped heroin use. After acute withdrawal, people may feel residual symptoms for months afterward.

How Long Does A Heroin Withdrawal Last?

The initial stage of the heroin withdrawal timeline usually lasts for about 10 days. This period is typically marked by the most severe symptoms.

After this initial stage has passed, adverse mental health symptoms can last for up to six months or a year in some cases.

What Happens During A Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal syndrome is similar to other withdrawal processes from short-acting opiate or opioid drugs.

When the withdrawal process from heroin begins, a person usually experiences unpleasant physical symptoms that feel similar to a bad case of the flu.

These symptoms may include a runny nose, watery eyes, nausea, and vomiting, as well as negative mental health symptoms including irritability and depression.

Typically, heroin withdrawal is not lethal. Medical professionals still recommend seeking help when attempting to quit using heroin.

Timeline Of A Heroin Withdrawal

The heroin withdrawal timeline can be divided into two basic categories: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal.

The timeline below shows acute withdrawal beginning at around 12 hours and peaking at around 72 hours.

After a period of several days, protracted withdrawal can begin, although some people may experience protracted withdrawal differently or not at all.

12 Hours After The Last Use Of Heroin

A person who quits heroin drug use will begin acute withdrawal at around 12 hours (and sometimes as early as eight hours) from the last dose.

During this period, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • muscle aches
  • yawning
  • insomnia
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

24 To 36 Hours After The Last Use Of Heroin

After the first day, additional physical symptoms may develop.

These physical symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramping
  • diarrhea
  • goosebumps
  • dilated pupils

72 Hours Into Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms usually reach their worst point about three full days in. This is considered the most dangerous period during detox.

Without help from trained medical professionals, many people relapse around 72 hours after the last use of heroin.

3 To 10 days

During this period, symptoms of acute withdrawal will begin to decrease. It is at the end of this period that a person may transition into protracted withdrawal.

People with more severe forms of opioid use disorder may still have trouble during this time.

10 Days To 6 Months

During the protracted withdrawal period, people may experience an array of negative mental health symptoms.

These symptoms may include:

  • decreased sense of well-being or depression
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • poor sleep
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating on tasks

Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Side Effects Of Heroin Withdrawal

The brain suddenly has to adjust to a lack of the drug after quitting a long period of heroin addiction.

Opiate withdrawal is caused by the removal of drugs that affect the opioid receptors in the brain. This results in both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Short-Term Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

In the short term, heroin or opioid withdrawal can make you feel physically sick. It has often been compared to a bad case of the flu.

Short-term symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting as a result of stomach cramping and nausea. Mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression may also develop during this time.

Long-Term Effects Of Heroin Withdrawal

In the long term, you may experience a period of mental health symptoms combined with strong drug cravings. These symptoms may include a general feeling of fatigue or lack of well-being.

Studies have also shown that people who withdraw from heroin addiction may have difficulty focusing on tasks.

Factors That Impact The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

The heroin withdrawal timeline is meant to be a general guide for the onset of symptoms. A variety of factors can affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms and how long they last.

Method Of Heroin Abuse

There are different methods of abusing heroin that are typically associated with a more powerful rush than other methods.

Smoking or injecting heroin usually results in a faster high. People who ingest heroin in this manner may be at higher risk of developing severe withdrawal symptoms later on.

Frequency Of Heroin Use

How often you use heroin could also affect withdrawal. If your brain is used to getting the drug often, it may take longer for it to adjust to life without heroin.


Not much is known about the role of metabolism in withdrawal. Some studies have shown that withdrawal does change certain metabolites in the body, affecting the severity of symptoms.

Attendance In A Treatment Program

Treatment at a detox center can affect heroin withdrawal in that it can make you more comfortable by lessening the severity and duration of uncomfortable symptoms.

Can I Speed The Process Of Heroin Withdrawal?

You may experience variances in the severity and duration of symptoms within the withdrawal timeline, but there’s no way to speed up the process.

During the development of heroin detox, some providers tried to create a rapid detox approach using a combination of medications or performing detox under anesthesia.

These methods either failed to work or have still not been studied enough to warrant use.

Treatment For Heroin Withdrawal

The best thing that you can do for heroin withdrawal is to find a treatment program for heroin addiction that includes detox, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, and more.

Medical Detox

Heroin detoxification is typically performed at an inpatient level of care with around-the-clock supervision by nurses and doctors.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Treatment of heroin or opioid drug addiction can include MAT using an agonist or partial agonist drug that blocks opioid receptors.

Medications used for heroin addiction treatment can include:

  • methadone
  • Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone)
  • naltrexone

Inpatient Or Outpatient Treatment

After the detox process is finished, a rehab facility will help you come up with a treatment plan for long-term recovery.

Recovery involves the application of many different treatment options, including various forms of behavioral therapy.

These types of therapies may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing.

Other treatment services for opioid addiction may include counseling, dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders, and relapse prevention services.

Find A Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program Today

If you are battling heroin addiction, treatment is available that can help you through the heroin withdrawal timeline.

Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about how we can assist you or your loved one in finding an addiction treatment program that is right for you.


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