Detoxing From Heroin: Timeline And Effects

Heroin detox is an important first step in the addiction recovery process. Detoxification can be accomplished in an inpatient or outpatient treatment setting.

Get Help Now!

People seeking help for heroin use will oftentimes start the recovery process in a detox program. Heroin detox centers provide a safe place to manage withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.

Heroin detox is an important first step towards sobriety but may need to be followed by inpatient rehab, counseling services, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), or other treatment options.

Types Of Heroin Detox Programs

Heroin detox programs are designed to manage symptoms of the withdrawal process in a humane way so people can start their addiction treatment journey.

People who enter a detox program will have the choice between an inpatient and outpatient treatment setting.

While both options are effective, inpatient detox is the most effective way to treat a moderate to severe heroin addiction.

Inpatient Heroin Detox Programs

Clients who attend an inpatient treatment program for heroin have access to 24-hour supervision and support, including several opioid agonist medications that help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient services are recommended for people with more severe cases of heroin addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions. This is because clients are required to live at the rehab facility for the duration of their treatment.

Living at the rehab center during detox helps people avoid the temptations and triggers for relapse that may be present in their normal environment.

After inpatient detox, a person may be transferred to a more flexible outpatient program. Or, they may continue in a residential environment while attending daily support groups and therapy sessions.

Medication-Assisted Treatment For Heroin Detox

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for heroin lasts around five to seven days. Some of the medications, such as methadone, may continue to be administered even after detox has ended.

MAT differs from detox in that the medications used during detox are designed to stave off the most acute effects of withdrawal. Below are some of the medications used during and post-detox.

Medications offered in heroin detox programs may include:

  • buprenorphine (Suboxone) — Buprenorphine is used to help shorten detoxification and relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • methadone (Methadose) — Methadone is used to reduce drug cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms.
  • Clonidine — Clonidine is a sedative commonly used to alleviate symptoms such as restlessness, sweating, and anxiety.
  • naltrexone — Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain to help reduce cravings in people that have nearly completed or already completed detox.
  • naloxone — Naloxone rapidly reverses a heroin overdose and blocks the effects of other opioids.

Once stabilized, a person may start a MAT program for less-severe withdrawal symptoms that may linger for weeks or months after detox.

These medications are used primarily to blunt the intense cravings a person may experience after years of heroin abuse. Over time, the brain will re-calibrate itself and clients may be tapered off of MAT entirely.

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment for heroin detox.

Outpatient Heroin Detox

Outpatient heroin detox may feature many of the same treatments offered in an inpatient program, including MAT. The difference is that people in outpatient care can go home at the end of their treatment.

This option provides flexibility for people with jobs or other responsibilities. However, it can also pose risks for recovery as it allows people to stay in their environment, which may trigger a relapse.

Social Heroin Detox

Social detox for heroin is a program that does not use medication. This type of detox typically involves counseling, support groups, and weekly check-ins with a healthcare provider.

A social detox option is only suitable for people with less-severe forms of addiction. Due to the high rate of relapse associated with heroin, it is recommended that people attend a program with medical supervision.

Side Effects Of Heroin Detox

Without the aid of medically monitored detox, heroin withdrawal can be an unbearably uncomfortable process when attempted cold turkey, and may include several flu-like symptoms.

Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • erratic heart rate
  • muscle aches or cramping
  • insomnia
  • severe chills and sweating
  • acute anxiety
  • agitation


One of the biggest risks of unsupervised detox is severe, potentially life-threatening dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. People have also been known to asphyxiate on their own vomit.


After the initial week of heroin detox treatment, most of the acute withdrawal symptoms should subside. Long-term withdrawal symptoms may persist due to post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

PAWS is a condition that arises due to changes in brain chemistry that occur after using heroin for a long period. While the brain will re-calibrate itself over time, common PAWS symptoms may include depression, insomnia, and irritability.

Seeking a reputable detox treatment center such as the one available at Bedrock Recovery Center can help you avoid these and other complications.

How To Know If You Need Treatment For Heroin Addiction

If you or a loved one currently use heroin, you may be wondering how to know when physical dependence or addiction has gotten to the point where detox is appropriate.

Signs of physical dependence or addiction to heroin:

  • constantly thinking about getting or using heroin
  • feeling anxious, agitated, or distressed if you don’t have access to heroin
  • using more heroin over time to achieve the same euphoric effect
  • unable to quit using heroin, even when it’s affecting relationships or employment

If you experience any of the above sensations, it may be time to consider treatment for substance use disorder.

Find out more about the signs of heroin addiction.

Find A Heroin Detox Program At Bedrock Recovery Center

Call Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about our inpatient medical detox program for heroin and other treatment plans.

Our treatment facility can help put you on the path to lasting sobriety.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) — Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Buprenorphine
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Methadone

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.
(617) 657-2877
icon-angle icon-bars icon-times