Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and How a California Detox Center Can Help

heroin withdrawal and detox

Heroin is a potent, highly addictive opioid drug. Regular heroin use can quickly result in a severe addiction. Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, an estimated 0.2% (or about 691,000 people) had a heroin use disorder in the past 12 months.[1] The majority of people who develop an addiction to heroin require treatment to stop using the drug due to the agonizing withdrawal symptoms that often occur when someone tries to stop.

Heroin detox is often the first step in treating heroin addiction. During detox, a person receives treatment, including medications, that allow them to have a safe, complete withdrawal from heroin.

Understanding the symptoms of heroin withdrawal and what to expect during detox can help prepare you to make informed choices about your care.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal can be challenging and very uncomfortable. The intensity of the cravings and the extreme physical and emotional discomfort people experience may cause them to relapse before the detox process is complete. Generally, the symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Bone and body aches
  • Muscle spasms or twitching
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Intense cravings

These symptoms may fluctuate throughout the heroin withdrawal timeline. The symptoms people experience and their severity depends heavily on how often they use heroin, how much they use, and how long they have used it.

Using heroin after a period of abstinence can result in a life-threatening overdose. People must seek medical supervision during heroin detox to avoid an early relapse and lower their overdose risk.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

When someone uses heroin for a prolonged period, their body adapts to the presence of the drug in their system. When someone abruptly cuts back or stops using heroin, they may experience withdrawal symptoms as their body adjusts to the absence of the drug.

The severity of symptoms and the timeline of symptoms they experience varies from person to person. A person’s health and other personal factors may impact the length and strength of their heroin withdrawal symptoms.

A typical heroin withdrawal timeline is:

  • 6-24 Hours: Physical withdrawal symptoms start. The person will experience yawning, watery eyes, runny nose, muscle aches, shakiness, insomnia, anxiety, and intense cravings for heroin.
  • 1-3 Days: Physical symptoms intensify. People may also begin to experience nausea and vomiting as well as goosebumps, cold chills, and sweating.
  • 4-7 Days: Physical symptoms start to decrease. Psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia continue.
  • 1 week-3 months: Depression, insomnia, anxiety, and cravings may linger for several months. These symptoms can be managed at a PHP or outpatient facility.

Because withdrawal from heroin can be uncomfortable and cravings are intense, it is tough to have a complete detox from heroin on your own. Most people who attempt to stop using heroin alone fail because the symptoms are too distressing to cope with alone. Seeking medically supervised detox is the best way to ensure you have a safe, complete withdrawal from heroin.

Benefits of Attending a Heroin Detox Center

In a medically-supervised detox center, people receive care and treatment for their heroin withdrawal symptoms. Treatment often includes medications to help ease the physical and psychological discomfort of heroin detox and other treatments to keep them comfortable. Heroin detox usually lasts about one week or less.

“At our detox treatment centers, we believe this stage of the recovery process has great significance. The importance of a medically assisted detox, supervised by an experienced, knowledgeable staff, can’t be overstated.” – Sheer Recovery

Patients have round-the-clock access to support staff, medical treatment, and mental health professionals. The heroin detox center is carefully monitored to prevent people from accessing heroin or other drugs when their cravings are intense.

The combination of care, treatment, and supervision helps people achieve a safe, complete detox from heroin and reduces the risk of relapse. Certain medications, such as buprenorphine or clonidine, may also be used to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. After detox is complete, people must participate in a comprehensive addiction treatment program to learn how to manage their addiction.

What Happens During Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Addiction is a complex disease with physical, emotional, and behavioral roots. It is not sufficient to simply treat the physical aspects of detox. After completing a heroin detox program, people must continue their treatment.

Heroin Addiction Treatment in California

Medical or addiction specialists will design your treatment plan to support your physical and mental health and give you the skills to overcome your addiction. Your plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • One-to-one care
  • Family therapy
  • Group support
  • Education
  • Medications
  • Mental health treatment
  • Holistic therapies like nutrition counseling, art therapy, mindfulness practices, and exercise

Addiction treatment services such as these can help you cope with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which may occur in the late stages of heroin withdrawal.

Completing an addiction treatment program is an investment of time and energy that can set you on a better, healthier, more fulfilling path in life.

Choosing a Heroin Detox Center in California

When seeking a heroin detox in California, you will have many options to choose from. The opioid crisis has created a growing need for detox centers, and many have been developed to meet the demand.

However, not all heroin detox centers are licensed to provide high-quality treatment services. Before committing to treatment at a heroin detox in California, look out for the following features:

  • The center is licensed and accredited
  • Staff are trained and licensed
  • The center is calm, comfortable, and clean
  • The majority of treatment time is spent engaging in evidence-based therapies
  • Patients have access to medical and mental health professionals during treatment

If possible, visit the facility before beginning treatment. Ask any questions you have and find out what a typical day in treatment will be like. It is essential that you feel comfortable in treatment so you can do the work of recovery with confidence.

Get Help Now

Medical detox at Sheer Recovery can help you detox with safety, comfort, and ease. For information about starting addiction treatment or our detox program today, reach out to the specialists at Sheer Recovery.


  1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states

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