Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal is known to be very uncomfortable and comes with a long list of withdrawal symptoms. Both heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms are treatable though, typically with medication-assisted treatment.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be felt within six to 12 hours after the last dose of heroin for people with a physical dependence on the drug.

At first, a person going through withdrawal might just feel anxious or irritable, but these symptoms will quickly progress and become physical as well.

The worst of the opiate withdrawal symptoms will be felt between one to three days after stopping use, and heroin withdrawal is not known to be life-threatening.

However, this initial period is also when a person’s cravings will be greatest and when they will be at the biggest risk for relapse.

Fortunately, there is hope and after about a week a person will start to notice that most of their physical symptoms have subsided and are either gone or have become manageable. At this point, they will truly start to feel better, at least in the physical sense.

Find out more about heroin withdrawal syndrome.

How Heroin Addiction Leads To Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances available on the streets today, leading to feelings of deep relaxation and sedation. Because of this, people who try to stop using heroin will undoubtedly find it challenging.

The more a person uses heroin, the more tolerant they will become to it, and the more of the drug they will require in order to achieve their desired high.

The more heroin a person uses, the stronger their withdrawal symptoms may become, and, as a result, the stronger their cravings to use again.

Someone who is heavily addicted to heroin will find themselves in a constant cycle of using heroin to avoid the severe withdrawal symptoms they feel when not using heroin.

List Of Common Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of common withdrawal symptoms that a person with opioid dependence can experience when trying to stop using heroin.

1. Cravings

Cravings occur as soon as a person starts to come down from their last heroin high. As they start to feel more agitated from the heroin leaving their body, they crave another dose to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.

2. Shaking And Sweating

Heroin is known to cause instability in the body’s ability to regulate temperature. As body temperature fluctuates and rises, a person going through withdrawal will sweat and shake in response.

3. Anxiety Or Nervousness

Heroin activates receptors in the brain that flood the body with feelings of well-being and euphoria.

When these pleasure neurotransmitters are suddenly depleted upon coming down from heroin, it can cause severe anxiety to the point of panic attacks.

Heroin can also exacerbate the symptoms of an existing mental illness.

4. Feelings Of Depression

Withdrawing from heroin can cause a person to face emotions while sober that they were able to avoid while using heroin.

Unfortunately, a lot of these feelings can be negative and revolve around the guilt and shame of using heroin, and are dangerous to a person’s mental health.

5. Nausea Or Stomach Pain

It is believed that heroin and opiates in general slow down the entire gastrointestinal system, which can cause feelings of nausea. Some people will feel this symptom so strongly that they vomit.

6. Muscle Spasms, Muscle Aches, And Bone Pain

Heroin and other opioids are known for their pain-relieving qualities, which is why prescription opioids are often offered after a major surgery or accident.

However, an opioid’s ability to block pain will then decrease drastically as the high wears off.

7. Goosebumps

Goosebumps are also caused by the body’s inability to regulate temperature while going through heroin withdrawal. Not only can a person experience overheating and sweating, but they can also get chills, too.

8. Restlessness/Uncontrolled Leg Movements

Heroin abuse can trigger a condition called myoclonus. This is defined as a twitching or spasm in a singular muscle group, generally caused by a misfiring of nerve cells sending incorrect signals throughout the body. In heroin users, myoclonus is typically felt the most in the legs.

9. Fatigue And Insomnia

Heroin can make a person sleepy, so withdrawing from heroin will have the opposite effect. This insomnia and resulting fatigue can last up to a month after a person stops using heroin.

10. Concentration Issues

Some studies have found that heroin use can cause permanent brain damage because it creates low-grade inflammation and a build-up of proteins in the brain.

A person going through withdrawals will likely have trouble concentrating and focusing as their brain adjusts to no longer having opioids.

Treatment Options For Heroin Withdrawal

Whether you decide to go through detoxification for drug use at a treatment center or other facility, there are things you can do to ensure that your withdrawal experience is as comfortable as possible.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment is one of the most effective pharmacological interventions available for heroin use. It can be crucial when it comes to treating heroin withdrawal or any other opioid use disorder.

This process of heroin detox allows people to be weaned off opioids at a comfortable rate so they never experience the pain of withdrawal.

Medications used typically include methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol).

It’s important to note that these medications are also opioids, so discuss the pros and cons with your health care provider before starting medication-assisted treatment.

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment for heroin.

Over-The-Counter Medications

Some heroin withdrawal symptoms are treatable with over-the-counter medications.

These include:

  • Imodium or Pepto-Bismol for stomach cramping and diarrhea
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • melatonin for insomnia
  • vitamin supplements for malnutrition

These medications have their own side effects and cannot make the symptoms of withdrawal of heroin go away completely, but they can make them more manageable for the time being.


It is incredibly important to stay hydrated while going through heroin withdrawal, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.

The best thing you can do is drink plenty of water. Some physicians even recommend drinking Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other drinks that have electrolytes for extra hydration.

If a person is going through severe withdrawal from substance use and at risk for dehydration, they may be given fluids through an IV to stabilize them.

Find Addiction Treatment For Heroin At Bedrock

Making the decision to get help for heroin addiction, withdrawal syndrome, or any other substance abuse disorder is taking a huge step. Bedrock Recovery Center is here to help every step of the way.

Our treatment specialists are always available to answer any questions you have about inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs for yourself or a loved one.

Recovery from drug addiction is possible — please do not hesitate to give us a call today.

Further Information:

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm https://bedrockrecoverycenter.com/addiction/heroin/withdrawal/symptoms/National%20Library%20of%20Medicine:%20MedlinePlus

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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