Heroin Withdrawal Effects

Heroin withdrawal effects are often painful and require attending a drug detox program followed by time spent at an inpatient drug rehab. Recovery from heroin addiction is 100 percent possible and once your withdrawal symptoms subside, you will eventually get back to feeling normal and be happy and healthy again.

There are three phases of heroin withdrawal effects. The first is acute heroin withdrawal, in which the heroin addict experiences the withdrawal syndrome. This phase peaks after about three days and ends after about five days. The second phase occurs over the next two weeks. During this period, the body re-learns the process of making the endorphins which the user's body has been substituting with heroin. The third phase can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months. During this phase, the body stabilizes its endorphin production. It is only after the completion of phase three that the former addict really feels good. However, it is the first phase that is the hardest to get through because the pain is so intense.

Primary heroin withdrawal effects include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The most commonly experienced secondary heroin withdrawal effects are:

  • "Goose Bumps": Having goose bumps led to the origin of the phrase "quitting cold turkey."
  • Alternating sweating and chills
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fever
  • Gagging
  • General body aches
  • Hot flashes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Leg cramps: Muscles that have been relaxed by the drug tighten and twitch, causing severe pain and uncontrolled, reflexive motion ("kicking the habit").
  • Nervousness
  • Perspiration
  • Restlessness
  • Watery eyes
  • Weight loss

The horrible physical heroin withdrawal effects are not the worst aspect of opiate addiction. The addict experiences psychological CRAVINGS that are very intense and become nearly impossible to fight. To quote Alfred Lubrano of the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service: "The smell of burned matches, the sight of a $10 bill (the price for a 'dime bag' of drugs), even those 'Just Say No' anti-drug posters with a crossed-out needle, all act as potent cues that could bring even long-clean addicts to their knees, screaming for dope." Scientists have actually shown recovering addicts films of drug abuse while monitoring the drug users' brain activity. The results: Watching someone else use drugs, even on a film, spurs activity in the parts of the brain that govern motivation and craving.

Those suffering from heroin addiction know how painful it can be. The heroin withdrawal effects can be so painful that it can scare someone from trying to quit. If you are currently a heroin addict you may feel like you are just buying yourself time until the next time you get sick. Many have tried to get medical heroin withdrawal help only to find that help isn't always easy to come by.

Know that even though you may feel the worst you have ever felt in your life while going through heroin withdrawal effects, people most often come out unscathed and make a complete recovery. Below are some ideas to consider when treating heroin withdrawal effects and finding the help you need.

1. Give yourself room. It is important to plan out quitting carefully. If you work, try to take some decent time off. Your employer may provide an employee assistance program or "EAP" which can help you get treatment for little to no cost and without retaliation. EAP services are usually completely confidential and are a great option for finding help.

2. If you plan on quitting "cold turkey" there are things you can do to minimize the pain of heroin withdrawal while quitting:

A. Ask a close trusted friend to stay with you during the duration of withdrawal symptoms. They will have to take care of you as if you had a really bad case of the flu.

B. Keep plenty of fluids handy and foods you can eat available. Sports drinks, yogurt, oatmeal, bottled water, popsicles, soups, etc. These are plain foods that are easy on your stomach and senses while you are going though heroin withdrawal. It is extremely easy to get dehydrated so keep this in mind. Also meal replacement shakes may be a great way to deliver nutrient when full meals aren't easily consumed.

C. You may want to purchase medicine for nausea, diarrhea or for any other symptom you may incur.

D. When possible, and possibly with help, the individual will want to soak in warm water to help calm the nerves. Showers are also an option but may be too strong.

E. The most severe of the heroin withdrawal effects tend to only last around three days, however residual effects will slowly continue to fade over a period of time. Remember to give yourself plenty of time for recover. Three days are most likely not enough. For the sake of your health, try to get as much time off as possible to aid in your recovery.

3. Going to a drug rehab center is a necessary for many heroin addicts to make their recovery last a lifetime. While in treatment you receive therapy and counseling to help understand your addiction and how to prevent relapse in the future. Those who do not attend any type of treatment often find they are unable to cope with day to day sobriety and relapse.

Don't give up on trying getting the help you deserve. Many people do not realize that heroin addiction is serious medical problem, not a moral or character flaw. If possible, keep the lines of communication open with your family as they will most likely be willing to help you... even if you don't think they will now. Use the resources available to you. Many states offer drug-abuse programs and coupons which would allow you to get the help you need free or little to no charge. The more you know and understand, the more the addiction will feel manageable and your confidence in your ability to fight the addiction will increase.



  • The risk of infection from heroin injections are high

  • Individuals who abuse heroin tend to find it hard to concentrate.

  • 14% of all ER visits are due to heroin use.

  • Heroin addiction is one of the most destructive and painful addictions in the world.

  • More than 3 million Americans aged 12 and older have used heroin at least once in their lifetime.

  • In 1998, 80% of heroin users were under the age of 26.

  • The effects from one dose of heroin can last up to several hours.

  • Heroin recently became one of the first drugs tried by youths interested in experimenting.

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