Heroin detox timeline: How long to detox from heroin?

Heroin detox usually peaks at about 72 hours after loast dose and resolves within a week. However, some symptoms can linger for weeks or months afterwards. A complete heroin detox timeline here.

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What are detox from heroin symptoms and how long will they last? The intensity, duration, and resolution or heroin withdrawal symptoms are dependent on age, usage amount and length of use. For example, older people who have been using higher doses for a longer period of time will typically experience longer, more difficult withdrawal from heroin.

But how long does heroin detox typically last? And what can you expect? We review here, and invite your questions about heroin detox or signs of addiction to heroin in the comments section at the end.

Heroin detox duration and length

The process of heroin detox can vary in time and intensity. In fact, there are many factors involved in heroin detox duration, such age, length of usage, and heroin dosage amounts. In general, a typical heroin detox usually lasts for up to 7 days. So, when does detox begin? Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually begin 6-12 hours after the last dose, persist for 1-3 days (peaking at 72 hours after last dose), and gradually become less intense over the course of 5-7 days. Acute withdrawal from heroin begins with anxiety and craving, reaches its climax between 36 and 72 hours, and decreases substantially within 5 days. On the other hand, protracted withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) may persist for a few months beyond the period of acute withdrawal.

Heroin detox timeline

Days 1 – 2

The first two days are usually the most difficult to get through, as they present with the most severe symptoms of detox from heroin. Withdrawal symptoms usually start to appear within 12 hours after the last dose was takenand manifest as light symptoms of discomfort. The most noticeable symptoms during this period include muscle aches and pain. Some people may experience severe muscle pain in these first days. Along with the pain, other symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and insomnia. Anxiety and/or panic attacks are also common.

Days 3 – 5

During this period of detox, the worst of discomfort usually passes, but has not yet completely resolved. Proper eating is important at this time, in order to boost immune system response. Shivers, abdominal cramping, vomiting are common symptoms during this period.

Day 6 and beyond

When someone going through heroin detox reaches day 6 of withdrawal, s/he is on the right track. Trouble eating and sleeping may persist, and some people may still experience nausea and anxiety.

How long to detox from heroin

There is no fixed period of time for heroin detox. An appropriate period depends on the degree of a person’s heroin dependency and individual needs. Medical research has shown that at least 3 months (and up to 6 months) of medical supervision for heroin addicts are optimal for addressing addiction. Why is this period so long?

Heroin use causes neurocircuitry changes to the brain that affect emotions and behavior. These brain changes can still persist after acute detox is finished. This is why changes in the nervous system may persist many weeks after the period of acute withdrawal has passed. The medical term for these symptoms is protracted/post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Protracted withdrawal is defined as the presence of symptoms common to opiate withdrawal which persistbeyond the generally expected acute withdrawal timeline explained above.

Some symptoms of PAWS during heroin detox include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • dysphoria (feeling down or emotionally blunted)
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • irritability

If you’re wondering: “Can I withdraw from heroin at home?” The answer to this question can vary. Treatment for protracted withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) should be addressed according to individual characteristics that present during detox. This is why a person’s age, gender, an culture must be taken into consideration during detox. Additionally, recovery from any drug addiction is a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment.

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Heroin detox scheduling questions

Do you still have questions about the duration or length of heroin detox?

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Reference Sources: Substance Abuse Treatment ADVISORY
NIDA DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
NIDA Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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