How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

People who struggle with heroin addiction often feel trapped in a never-ending cycle that they cannot seem to break. This is completely normal for those who have developed an addiction to heroin, however it is not usually desired. While it might seem like individuals addicted to heroin should be able to simply walk away from the drug, addiction is much more complex than that. One of the reasons why it is so complex is because going from being addicted to heroin to no longer using produces serious withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely painful to cope with independently. And, when considering the question, “how long does it take to detox from heroin?”, many individuals find themselves using once again just to obtain some sense of relief.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

It is often noted how distressing heroin withdrawal symptoms can be, but what symptoms do individuals actually experience during this time? That typically depends on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Age
  • Mental health history
  • Length of time heroin was being abused
  • How much heroin was being abused
  • What other substances were being abused simultaneously, if any 

Generally speaking, the longer that a person has been addicted to heroin and the more that they have abused during that time, the more likely they are to go through a period of severe withdrawal. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms that people addicted to heroin experience once they stop using include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches 

People who are withdrawing from heroin often describe feeling like they have a bad case of the flu. It only takes a matter of hours for withdrawal symptoms to develop after a person has stopped using heroin, meaning that they can come on quickly. And, unfortunately, when the symptoms begin, they slowly but surely intensify to a point where it can become unbearable. As a result, many people who attempt to get sober independently use again, perpetuating the continued cycle of heroin addiction. 

Thankfully, there is no need for individuals to try to go through these withdrawal symptoms on their own. With the appropriate treatment, those addicted to heroin can effectively get through withdrawal and into therapy so that they can begin making a full recovery. Getting to that point takes time, especially considering that heroin withdrawal symptoms can stick around for a bit.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

So, how long does it take to detox from heroin? Again, that can depend on how severe a person’s addiction to heroin is. But typically, the thick of heroin withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. 

Within a mere 6-12 hours after the last dose, an individual can start to feel withdrawal symptoms developing. These symptoms tend to be mild and can include watery eyes, excessive yawning, diarrhea, anxiety, and muscle aches. These symptoms continue to increase in severity up until about a full 24 hours, when the second stage of heroin withdrawal begins.

Between 1-3 days after the last dose, the symptoms first experienced can continue while new symptoms develop. It is common for those detoxing from heroin to start experiencing nausea, vomiting, goosebumps, irritability, intense cravings, depression, and irritability. It is often during this time that individuals give in to cravings and start using again to help alleviate these symptoms. If individuals continue on with the detox process, they can experience these symptoms for up to one full week before they begin tapering off. 

It is important to note that while it is most common for individuals to spend about one week’s worth of time detoxing from heroin, symptoms just don’t magically disappear on the seventh day. Instead, they slowly taper off. But, some symptoms remain for weeks, months, or even years after the initial detox has occurred. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS.

A Note on Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

When withdrawal symptoms last for more than a few days or weeks, an individual is said to be experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. The continuation of specific withdrawal symptoms can go on for months or years and require additional treatment. Usually, the symptoms that those recovering from heroin addiction experience long-term can include depression, anxiety, and insomnia, all of which can be addressed with a combination of medication and therapy. This approach helps to reduce the intensity of symptoms as well as the length of time that it takes for them to dissipate. 

Heroin Rehab in Alabama

If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, do not waste any more time. Reach out to us right now and our team in Alabama will help you get started on your road to recovery. At Birmingham Recovery Center, we understand how difficult it can be to ask for help, but it is absolutely imperative to do so.

Do not hesitate to reach out to us today. We are here to help you or your loved one get the care that is so desperately needed. Call us now at (205) 813-7400


  • Ian Henyon, LPC

    Having worked in a variety of clinical settings since 2008, Ian brings well over a decade of treatment center experience to the leadership role at Birmingham Recovery Center. As Executive Director, he is responsible for all aspects of BRC’s operations and provision of services. Being firmly grounded in the notion of servant leadership, Ian is focused on establishing a supportive work environment as a foundation for providing superior clinical services to BRC’s clients. Ian combines his extensive knowledge of treating addiction and psychiatric illness with the recognition that addiction is a disorder of the brain, to ensure that all clients are treated with the highest levels of respect and compassion. Ian is a licensed professional counselor. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and he received a Master of Science degree from Prescott College.


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