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December 7, 2018

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

What is the Heroin Withdrawal Timeline?


Heroin, also known as diamorphine, was first synthesized by a British chemist in 1874 and was later marketed by Bayer as a cough suppressant for children. It was first billed as a nonaddictive substitute for morphine and widely used in treating cough and cold symptoms. It continued to be used in this manner for decades, until 1924, when the United States Congress passed an act that banned its manufacture, importation, or sale.

As we now know, heroin is one of the most addictive drugs ever synthesized. Today, over 15,000 people die each year from causes related to heroin use, a number that has climbed 300% since 2011. Due to its highly addictive properties, heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States. It is classified internationally and by nearly every state on Earth as a first-tier controlled substance, which makes it generally illegal to produce, possess, sell, or use.

If you or a loved one are a heroin user, it is critical that you seek treatment immediately in order to avoid becoming another statistic. Although heroin detox and withdrawal can be a painful and challenging process, the costs of continuing to use heroin are too high for you or a loved one to continue using the drug. There are a variety of resources that can help you on your path to recovery.

Heroin Usage and Effects on the Body

Recreational users of heroin report an intense rush of euphoria immediately after using the drug, which is commonly injected intravenously but can also be smoked, insufflated, or deposited into the body via a suppository. The onset of a heroin “high” is quick, and users report a variety of feelings, including:

  • Ambition
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Nervousness
  • Relaxation
  • Sleepiness

A variety of adverse effects can also take place in the immediate period after consuming heroin, including:

  • Clouded mental function
  • Drowsiness
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In addition to these symptoms, it is not uncommon for heroin users to experience slowing of the heartbeat, so much so that, in some cases, it can be fatal.

Heroin users also experience a number of adverse effects in the long-term. Reports suggest that deterioration of important brain matter can occur in long-term heroin users, and hormonal imbalances may also occur. Additionally, the body will eventually develop a tolerance and even become physically dependent on the presence of heroin in the body. If this occurs, withdrawal symptoms will begin to be experienced within about a day.

Drug Addiction vs. Dependence

The symptoms of heroin withdrawal will be more intense for those who are dependent, as opposed to the users who are merely addicted. Drug addiction is considered to be a brain disorder which compels users to continue their behavior despite negative consequences. Dependence, on the other hand, is a condition wherein the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal will begin to manifest.

Long-time heroin users are considered to be dependent on the drug, which means that their withdrawals will be more extreme and last for a longer period of time. Dependent users will experience a full range of symptoms, ranging from physical and physiological discomfort to mental and emotional symptoms, which can be violent and acute.

Withdrawals From Heroin: What to Expect

Heroin withdrawals are highly dependent on the individual who is going through them. Depending on how long one has been using heroin, the intensity and potency of the usage, and the frequency of the usage, the withdrawals symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. That said, the first three days of heroin withdrawals are typically the most intense. Naturally, the theme of heroin withdrawals is the opposite of the positive feelings that heroin usage induces.

Instead of feelings of euphoria and ambition, heroin withdrawals can include depression and anxiety. In rare cases, sufferers of these symptoms can experience such extreme feelings of anxiety and panic that they consider or even commit suicide. Although the feelings experienced during heroin withdrawals can vary from person to person, they do typically follow a pattern that is somewhat predictable.

Heroin Withdrawals: Day One

In the first few hours after the initial effects wear off, heroin users who haven’t had another dose will begin to feel uncomfortable. These heroin withdrawal symptoms will probably include both mental and physical effects. These symptoms can be severe or mild, depending on the frequency and length of opiate use, and can include muscle spasms, nausea stomach cramps, and mood swings.

The first day of heroin withdrawal symptoms is the most intense, and the majority of heroin users who attempt this process outside of a recovery center relapse during this first day or two, even if they have a goal of getting clean. The first-day opiate withdrawal symptoms include feelings of general discomfort and irritation along with anxiety.

Heroin Withdrawal: Day 2

The second day of heroin withdrawals will begin to be extremely uncomfortable for most users, and nearly unbearable for the most addicted heroin users. At their most severe, heroin users will experience all of the following physical symptoms of withdrawal from heroin:

  • Heavy perspiration (sweating), which can be so extreme that it contributes to the dehydration in a significant way
  • Inexplicable pain in different parts of the body
  • Lack of appetite, which again does not help with dehydration in a time when the body desperately needs nutrients and hydration
  • Muscle spasms and a general feeling of physical discomfort
  • Nausea, which can be intense to the point of vomiting—including vomiting to the point of dehydration

The peak of withdrawal from heroin typically comes with major emotional implications and physiological symptoms as well, up to and including feelings of suicide. All of the following feelings are liable to rear their heads in the peak of heroin withdrawal:

  • Anxiety, which can exacerbate the physical symptoms of spasms and general uneasiness
  • Depression, which at times can be so severe that some users have taken their own lives during this period
  • Excessive emotional reactions to the outside world, including loved ones and people who are trying to help, which can cause instability in one’s relationships

Heroin Withdrawals: Day Three

While some heroin users will begin to have symptoms abate by the third day, the most intensely dependent users will experience even more extreme withdrawals symptoms by and on the third day of their withdrawal period. For these individuals, the most crucial factor in whether or not they will relapse is having professional assistance in dealing with and mitigating their withdrawals.

Day three of heroin withdrawal can be even more horrific than day two. Nausea in these cases can reach a climax, with many people reporting nausea worse than any they’ve ever experienced in their lives, including during illness. Pain can also become unbearable and can be either acute or generally distributed around the body. In addition to these symptoms, people in withdrawal typically report low energy in general, and fatigue is a difficult symptom to deal with in addition to all of these other maladies.

Heroin Withdrawals: Day Four

If day three is worse than day two, people in withdrawal can typically expect to experience some relief in the fourth day. The fourth day of heroin withdrawals is usually the day that symptoms begin to diminish, though full comfort will not return. In the fourth day and beyond, appetite will slowly return, meaning the patient can usually begin to feed their body the sustenance it needs.

Some symptoms will not end here, though, including drug cravings, fever and chills, and general discomfort, though hopefully, it will be less intense than before. Some symptoms in this period of time can manifest as a severe cold or flu, including a runny nose, itchiness, and general discomfort and aches. There are a number of treatment program options for people who are attempting to end their heroin usage.

Heroin Withdrawals: Day Five and Beyond

For lighter heroin users, most major symptoms may begin to dissipate by the fifth day of withdrawal. For some users, though, major symptoms may persist for up to seven or even ten days. As energy begins to return, along with appetite, people in withdrawal may start to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

For the most dependent users, the most severe symptoms may persist through the second and third days into the fifth, sixth, and even seventh days. The pain and difficulty of heroin withdrawal can be so extreme during these days that many people give up their attempt to quit, and they relapse into drug usage again.

Days six and seven will bring some relief, though, with some users feeling mild discomfort only, while others will see this change begin to take hold in the eighth or ninth day. Beyond ten days, many users will still experience mild discomfort. Nearly all former heroin users will suffer from cravings and temptation for the duration of their lives.

Treatment Efficacy During Heroin Withdrawals

The most critical factor for most heroin users who are attempting to quit is the support and treatment they have around them during withdrawals. While many people can and do experience withdrawals on their own, it is essential that long-term and dependent users seek professional help in dealing with their symptoms.

Most users who do not participate in professional treatment options do relapse back into drug use. While some users do go through multiple rounds of relapse, those who choose to take advantage of professional treatment options experience higher rates of success in achieving sobriety.

In addition to being more effective, treatment for heroin withdrawals includes a variety of approaches, including medical detoxification and monitoring for physical side effects and emotional wellbeing.

Treatment Options at Beach House Recovery

Beach House Recovery is recognized both locally in South Florida, as well as nationally, as a center for clinical excellence. We offer a holistic treatment plan that evolves over time with the needs of our patients. Our treatment plan addresses the physical, mental, and emotional needs of patients.

At Beach House Recovery, we offer a variety of treatment options for people looking to quit their heroin usage. There are at least two main types of treatment. These types of treatment for heroin abuse vary in their content, but they can all be helpful in managing the symptoms of heroin withdrawal and can be an effective tool in helping users get clean.

We offer a variety of treatments for drug users including both outpatient and inpatient drug rehab, and each plan is customized for the needs of the patient. Nevertheless, there are some common elements in every treatment plan, which include:

  • 24/7 Medical Supervision during the detoxification period, which can help alleviate some of the physical symptoms one will experience as well as monitor and provide support when dealing with the emotional symptoms as well
  • Renowned clinical and safety practices, including one-to-one monitoring for patients who need it
  • Medication assistance, for patients whose symptoms are so severe that they need additional help in dealing with them
  • Evidence- and science-based treatment options

In addition to these, we have options for after opiate withdrawal symptoms have begun to abate, including:

  • Access to 12-step recovery programs, which have been shown to decrease the likelihood of relapse
  • Outpatient recovery programs, which can help during the period after withdrawal

symptoms have reached their climax but the temptation to relapse still exists

Treating one’s opiate addiction and recovery by oneself can be dangerous both inherently and because of the emotional and physical trauma withdrawal can inflict on one’s body and mind. Without the help of certified professionals, most individuals who try to quit their heroin abuse fail and relapse back into their addiction. While it is possible to quit on one’s own term, it is easier and gentler to commit to a treatment program with professional support. Not to mention safer.

Seeking Treatment

If you or a loved one suffers from heroin addiction or dependency, it is critical that you seek treatment through a medical detox program as soon as you can. If you’d like to explore a new life from your opiate addiction with help from our trained and certified professionals at Beach House Recovery Center, please contact us. Our Florida drug rehab center can help you find a path towards freedom from heroin addiction and dependency with long-term recovery.

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National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017, September). “Overdose Death Rates.” Retrieved from

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (1953, January 1). “History of Heroin.” Retrieved from

American Addiction Centers (2018, October). “Heroin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms and Treatment.” Retrieved from