Heroin Withdrawal

Aside from making the decision to finally get help, one of the biggest obstacles of heroin addiction is detoxing. Chances are, you have experienced being “dope sick” when you haven’t had heroin for a certain period of time. That is actually the beginning of the symptoms of heroin withdrawal, and it can be very uncomfortable if not experienced in a medical detox setting.

How someone feels when they are detoxing from heroin can vary from person to person. This all depends on the length and severity of the addiction. Other factors include how dependent your body is to heroin and the tolerance it can withstand. The more heroin a person uses, the more their body is able to withstand and therefore the more severe the symptoms might be. Generally, it can leave people debilitated and confined for days on end.

How Heroin Works

Heroin is an opioid, which binds to pain receptors. When someone is experiencing a great amount of pain from surgery or a major injury, opioids are generally prescribed to help ease the pain. It cuts off the communication between the pain point and the brain, allowing for much-needed relief. When abused, it can give the user an irresistibly euphoric feeling. Heroin offers these same effects. Often times, people who become addicted to prescription opioids turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to expensive prescription drugs.

When someone becomes addicted to opioids and heroin, it isn’t a matter of free will and “just quitting” when they want to stop. It actually rewires the chemistry in their brain. The overproduction of opioids in the brain forces the body to stop producing its own. This makes for some awful withdrawal symptoms once that supply of dopamine stops. Once the body is able to finally adjust to the lack of neurotransmitters rushing through it, the withdrawal symptoms will stop.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can vary from person to person. Some people may experience every symptom at a level of 10 out of 10, while others may only experience some.

The early withdrawal symptoms of heroin include:

  • Agitation or irritability
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches and spasms
  • Runny nose
  • Uncontrollable yawning

After the first 8-24 hours, additional withdrawal symptoms of heroin include:

  • Depression
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea


One of the most intense symptoms of heroin withdrawal is extreme cravings. Your body is essentially in panic mode because the large supply of opioids has been cut off. Your brain knows that if you were to supply it with more, it would feel better. This causes you to experience extreme cravings, which can be very dangerous to experience alone.

If you are not in a medical detox setting, these cravings could prove to become too much to bear. More often than not, people succumb to these extreme cravings – no matter how well-intentioned they are in their sobriety. Chances are, you have tried it before. Just because you give in to your cravings doesn’t mean you have failed. It just means that trying it alone has not worked, and it is time to look into another option to get clean from heroin.

Timeline of Heroin Withdrawal

The First Hours

Heroin withdrawal can begin within the first 6-12 hours of the last dose. This is when most of the anxiety, panic attacks, and discomfort begins. Mood swings are very common during the first few hours, and the body begins to experience physical signs of heroin withdrawal.

The First Days

After the first 24 hours, symptoms will worsen and peak during this time. During the first few days, you will experience more fatigue, muscle aches, and other physical symptoms as your body continues to adjust. It will be difficult to eat or sleep, and you will likely experience nausea and vomiting.

The First Week

After the symptoms peak for a few days, they eventually subside after about a week. Many people may still experience symptoms but at a much lower intensity. After about 7-10 days, most of the symptoms should subside.


Depending on the length and severity of the addiction, many people may experience acute withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months. Cravings are an especially difficult symptom to rid of and can be an ongoing symptom that needs to be managed.

About Pinelands Recovery Center

Although heroin withdrawal can be a difficult process, we work to make it as comfortable as possible. We offer medical options to help ease your withdrawal symptoms, curb your intense cravings and help make you feel as good as possible. If you are ready to detox from heroin, don’t do it alone. We will make you feel as relaxed and stress-free as possible while working to give you the best chances for long-term recovery as possible.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.

We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery plan. We thrive on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy life.

We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit pinelandsrecovery.com