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What Are the Most Common Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Nausea and vomiting are among several severe symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
Goose bumps are one of the less severe symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia.
Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include abdominal cramps.
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  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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Heroin withdrawal symptoms have been famously dramatized in many films and television series, making them familiar to many people. While not usually life-threatening, withdrawal from heroin and other opiates can be painful and unpleasant, which makes it challenging for people to shake their drug dependencies. There are a number of techniques which can be used to manage heroin withdrawal, including long-term care for ex-addicts which is designed to prevent them from returning to heroin use.

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal can set in as quickly as a few hours after the last dose of the drug, and they usually peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. Within a week, withdrawals should have subsided, although the patient may experience some residual weakness and pain. While the patient's physical dependency on the drug may be over at this point, he or she usually still has a psychological dependency, thanks to the fact that the drug fundamentally alters brain chemistry.

Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, a runny nose, goosebumps, sweating, tears, insomnia, aches and pains in the muscles and joints, extreme restlessness, yawning, abdominal cramps, and dilated pupils. Many patients also experience psychological symptoms including anxiety and depression, with severe cravings for the drug. They can also develop muscle spasms in the legs which cause them to kick.

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Because cravings for heroin can become intense during heroin detoxification, many drug dependency specialists recommend that people have company while they are trying to kick a heroin habit. Clinics and hospitals are available for people who would prefer close medical supervision, and these sites have an added benefit of taking the addict out of his or her normal environment, which can make cravings less intense. These sites also offer more treatment options for heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Medications can be used to manage heroin withdrawal symptoms, increasing patient comfort. These include antianxiety drugs, drugs to address muscle aches and spasms, antinausea drugs, and other medications to address individual symptoms. Medical treatment is usually paired with psychological and behavioral therapy which is designed to support the addict through the withdrawal process.

Every patient is different, which means that not all people experience the same heroin withdrawal symptoms, and techniques which help one addict quit may not work for another. Seeing a specialist can help someone create an effective treatment program which will increase the chance of success. Many specialists stress that addictions can only be managed and treated, not cured, as a reminder that addiction is a life long problem which doesn't end with the cessation of drug use.

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anon938466
Post 31

I'd like to add that while I am 18 days into my clean streak from heroin use, which is the longest I have ever gone, it's nothing compared to withdrawing off super high doses of Oxycontin and Fentanyl. Even in the worst of heroin withdrawals, I can still manage to read and type on my computer and read this board for some inspiration.

But a couple of years ago, I was taking over 1,000mg of Oxycontin (15-20+ 80mg pills a day) and over 10,000+ mcg of Fentanyl a day. I know, that sounds absurd. I was getting it from a doctor and just allowed my tolerance to go as far as it possibly could. You see, except for IV heroin, which I ultimately succumbed to and am 18 days clean from, no other prescription pain killer really hits the spot. So it's easy to take truly absurd amounts of Oxy or whatever, because they stop working to produce any 'high'. Only IV heroin reliably always at least gave me 'satisfaction'. And I required so much less. So it made sense to drop the Oxy and prescription route and stick with only heroin. It was far cheaper, and actually got me what I wanted, which was to be 'high', if just for fleeting moments of the day.

My point is Oxy and prescription opiates are much stronger than you may think. Their withdrawals were far worse than heroin -- even IV heroin. And they are cheaper, by a factor of 10, too.

When I once was withdrawing off super-high dose Oxy and Fentanyl, I was so down, I literally couldn't move from my couch. I sat there once for hours straight. Going to the bathroom or the fridge was like climbing Mt. Everest. So I'd pee in empty Evian bottles. Disgusting. I know. I also was so depleted of endorphins that I couldn't have been sadder. I was so down, I couldn't even focus on watching television. Everything just made me sad, or upset, or disgusted. The only thing I had the stomach to watch was the most neutral thing: the Weather Channel. I watched the Weather Channel for 36 hours straight while lying nearly immobile because Oxy and Fent withdrawals were that bad.

Comparatively, heroin withdrawals haven't been anywhere near as brutal. But everyone's experience differs. There are many factors to determine withdrawal brutality.

anon938456
Post 30

I'm on day 18 of heroin withdrawal. Actually, it was heroin and a small amount of daily methadone. So I got that double whammy to withdraw from. I had been using opiates for 11 years. Luckily, I've only been using the methadone for the last two weeks prior to this final clean streak I am 18 days into. So my methadone withdrawal isn't really too pronounced. I am mostly just withdrawing off heroin. But I'm sure it's adding some pain that I added in methadone.

I know all about how long methadone withdrawals last. But I feel OK at this point, since most of the physical symptoms have passed except the most annoying mild ones, like the chills and goosebumps; these seem to constantly come and go throughout the day. I also have RLS mildly, but annoyingly. And sleep is tough. I get four to five hours a night and have been since day 10 or so. I also sneeze here and there, and have a sour stomach come and go. I take 2-4mg of Immodium if I need it, but so far I've only needed it every other day. I take nothing else.

But the cravings are constant. I can't lie. If dope magically appeared in front of me I believe I'd crack like an egg within a minute. Hypothetically, it's easy to pretend you may not, but I know I would. And that's why I know I can't be around dope, or anyone who may have it. I must be totally isolated for at least the foreseeable future. I hope day 60, 90, or 120 is much easier. Because so far, this has been a miserable 18 days.

anon931711
Post 29

Heroin is a double edged razor of bliss, and pain.

It has been, for me, an escape act, as well as doped out entertainment. However, as everyone knows, when you're dependent and your ties grow strong, it can become literally a nightmare that you can't wake up from.

As we all know too well, trying to explain withdrawal, addiction and everything that goes along with heroin abuse to someone who has not experienced it, in itself can be almost just as difficult.

Anyone who is thinking about "kicking the habit" must first come to the conclusion themselves, that they deep-down are absolutely ready, willing and want to quit. As much as your loved ones, friends, whomever may want you to get away from using, or say it feels like you need to stop, the first step is sincerely wanting to get yourself clean.

Once you've been spent, and your life has come to nothing short of "heroin-exhaustion," eventually, and sometimes not even then, but eventually you'll come to the conclusion that enough is enough, and you'll seriously consider that you want to stop using.

Heroin is no joke, and anyone who takes it lightly either doesn’t have a serious attitude towards it, or hasn't experienced what many of us here have. It is very difficult to stop using, and I know that for me, thus far, every single time I’ve tried to quit I’ve failed. Who knows? Maybe I just have not been ready, or have not been strong enough in my resolve, but I certainly feel I want to stop.

To everyone who is struggling with heroin addiction, or any addiction where you become physically and psychologically dependent, just know that you are not alone in the endeavor to end it, and that there are many outlets for you to express your troubles and emotions throughout this roller coaster ride of crap.

I've ruined myself in a short amount of time, become a thief, a liar and a junkie, but it's all here to teach us a lesson, and we can all use this time to learn something about ourselves and our lives. You can come out the other side stronger than before, and wiser. I know I’ve hurt the people I love, and most of all have hurt myself, but we've gotten ourselves into this situation, and as much as it may seem it's never going to end, you always have a choice.

Not everyone feels the same way about this topic, and opinions obviously differ, but I hope this may have helped anyone having a difficult time with addiction, and given them even the slightest sliver of hope.

I'm 23 years old, and am struggling with addiction. Honestly, it has been one of, if not the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Now, I’m sure we can all ramble on about our time as users, and tell some pretty interesting accounts of the experience we've had in that time. Anyway, be safe fellow Humans, peace out and all that good stuff.

anon353676
Post 28

I've been reading everyone's comments and I had to speak up. I have a kind of interesting story.

I was with an alcoholic/cokehead jerk of a husband and I was there through it all until one day I decided to leave. I had nothing and sort of went nuts. I was a 28 year old stay at home wife and mother of two perfect children, when all of a sudden I ran away and became a homeless heroin addict. I have no excuses for myself, that’s just my story and I'm sticking to it.

I’d never tried one single drug in my life (besides alcohol) until that time. I found myself alone and 1,500 miles away from home until I had no choice but to ask my family for help. After that, I got myself into the clinic and 15 months later I have been clean off methadone for 16 days and I won’t lie: five days off heroin. I did mess up once already, but I'm finally feeling ok today.

The reason I had to comment was because I have been both the family member with no clue how to understand and now I am the lying, stealing, scheming junkie. Plus, with all the research I've done in the past 10 days or so (if you’re going cold turkey, you need some really good distractions), I will be that junky somewhere deep down for the rest of my life. Sad, but true.

I remember when I used to catch my husband doing lines every once in a while and it would hurt as bad as if I caught him cheating. But, if you’ve never actually experienced it, save yourself the time, and don’t try to understand it; just accept them for the imperfect creatures they are and either be OK with it, or just get out of the situation.

Heroin is a drug like no other I have ever seen. I don’t know how to explain it. Just have a goal that you really want to achieve. I want to be able to go on vacation again more than anything, and we junkies know how impossible that is, but know that your loved ones aren't just acting like they don’t care. They really don’t care, but it’s nothing personal. It’s not you and it’s not them. It’s the drug.

Do as much research as you can find out about the effects on the brain and body. It’s crazy, like no other drug out there. I’ll love the stuff until the day I die, but really, it’s just not worth it. That’s all there is to it. Please pray for me because I'm sure I’ll need it. Call me “Hopeful.”

ireland12
Post 27

I have been smoking heroin for the past seven months, maybe three times a week, but if I crave it every day. I keep saying to myself I'll only smoke it once a week and now it's been three days. I am getting slight withdrawals, but more cravings. What do you all think?

anon346216
Post 26

I've been an addict for six months and I've been spending my money to make rent late, and pay the extra money. Paying less than what is needed for child support. I have decided enough is enough.

I bought a bottle of 7.5s and I'm taking two a day until it is gone and then I will go cold turkey. This is day three and already I have muscle spasms headaches, stomach cramps, and weakness all over. I am doing this for myself and my one year old son who needs more out of me.

anon316685
Post 24

This addiction stuff is tricky. This is my fourth relapse. I've got suboxone now, although I have not taken any yet, as I'm letting withdrawal kick in, and it stinks! But I will hopefully make it through. I can't stand the invariable lying, stealing and deception, and everything that goes with a heroin addiction.

On my last relapse they put me on suboxone, but the withdrawals from that are worse, so I ended up using again. I do not have enough willpower to make it through the pain alone. I hurt so bad, and feel so lonely, even thought my partner is right upstairs in bed waiting for me at 3:14 a.m.

anon315666
Post 23

I am 28 years old and have been snorting heroin for three years. I've lost three jobs in the past year and a half and nobody in my life knows about my addiction -- not even my girlfriend of six years.

I have been trying to quit for the last few weeks, but always give in to my withdrawal. I don't know what to do or think anymore and feel hopeless.

anon311292
Post 22

Help! My husband and I are in a hotel room 200 miles away from our home. He is heroin addict. He just told me four days ago and he told me he wanted help. So we talked about all the different options and decided going cold turkey was how he was going to get through it. We are now sitting the room and he is freaking out saying that he wants to go home. He has not had anything for almost 48 hours. What should I expect? We are planning to go back home in four days.

anon306549
Post 21

I have been smoking heroin for about six months. I'm trying to quit. It's been 73 hours and I feel so sick, I can't seem to function. How long will this last? Can anybody help?

anon305061
Post 20

I have never used heroin. I smoked a little weed and I started feeling sick. My muscles hurt, I'm having loose stool, can't sleep, heat hurts and don't have control of my muscle. Is this a withdrawal?

anon304853
Post 19

i just got done reading these posts and can relate. im addicted and im scared to withdraw. i have kept this addiction a secret. its been ruining my life and those around me. i have mixed feelings about quiting. i really like the feeling but i know the best thing for me to do it quit. im going to quit through a treatment center. hopefully one day i can live without doing any drugs. any advice would be appreciated thanks

anon290323
Post 17

My sister is 31 years old, and she has been on and off heroin since age16. Nothing but lies and stories. She lost her husband from her use of drugs because she cheated and caught hepatitis C from it. She was so beautiful, a model for sure, and now my own kids do not recognize her from photos. She weighs about 90 pounds. It is so sad. She is now in a hospital for withdrawal, but she lied to the EMT saying her stomach hurt, but they knew right away what was wrong, just from the picking of her scabs on her arms. When she was clean, we knew from her weight gain and just her actions.

It seems her heroin spree takes a toll on the whole family. She almost missed our father's funeral who passed this year from cancer. She just stopped caring, it seemed.

But if you want help, get it. We love you no matter what, and in the end, you are putting everyone around you at risk! Get a Bible and read it. Let God take your burdens and give you faith in return for your pain. Help is out there. I just hope my sister can see this soon before it is too late.

anon289773
Post 16

I have been using heroin for two years and have been using up to 1 gram a day shooting it up. I went to rehab six months ago and have been clean since. Heroin withdrawal is bad but nothing you can’t cope with (if you are willing to go down that path). It’s been six months and I have had intense cravings for it. I’ve smoked weed to suppress them but it comes back.

When you wake up, eating food, watching TV, talking to someone, out with friends, going to sleep, all you think about at the back of your mind is heroin. It will never leave you. I’ve had 6 months of this and I know for a fact that any time now when I get the opportunity I will shoot up again. I keep lying to myself about how I will control it this time. Heroin is just something that once had will take over you.

You may be in recovery for years but when facing an opportunity, you will give in. I know I’m going to lose my family and everything if I go back on it but that doesn’t bother me, because I just can’t let go of heroin.

anon284362
Post 15

@anon185332: I've been using heroin for over two years now. I am ten days clean at this point. I went to rehab last Tuesday, and the following Sunday, four days ago, I left the facility due to the unsanitary and filthy way the place was kept. But I kicked the dope completely cold turkey, no supervision whatsoever other than the fact I kept in touch with my older sister, so that way she knew I was okay.

You cannot, I repeat, cannot die from heroin withdrawal unless you have like, heart problems or something. The only withdrawals a person can die from, or experience seizures from and whatnot are from benzo and alcohol withdrawals. Kicking heroin is just flat out hard but very possible.

To everyone else, if you are dealing with a loved one who is dealing with heroin addiction, support them the best you can but also understand you can only help someone so much; they have to do the work. But with your support. it gives us comfort and courage to fight it.

If you're dealing with heroin addiction yourself, ask for help. Don't hide it any longer. Nobody in my family had the slightest clue, and now that I've asked for help I couldn't ask for a more supportive and loving family and group of friends.

Once you've detoxed, the only way to stay sober from what I've witnessed, is to find yourself a 12 step program that works for you, and work that program every single day. But then again, some people get and stay clean off sheer willpower. Not everybody can do that, though. My recovery is definitely dependent on a 12-step program that is intertwined with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lessons on how develop the strength to carry out the will God has for me.

Either way, recovery is definitely in reach. You just have to want it bad enough to face all the pains the recovery process comes with. As addicts, we spend our days hiding from life, but in reality we are only making life harder on ourselves. I've learned so much in the past month and honestly, I know I'm only on a ten day run, but I've never made it past five days sober since I decided I was going to get clean a month ago. I make it farther and farther after each "relapse" and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel finally.

Just accept the fact you're an addict and that you can't change what you've done and be willing to change going forward. Forget what you know and put your life in the hands of God. He'll show you the way. It's working for me! Good luck to all of you and may we all find sobriety, happiness and a drug-free lifestyle.

anon248679
Post 14

To anon168635: The first step to recovery is admitting your addiction to yourself and to everyone else. You must tell people including family and friends about your addiction. Every thing that is done in darkness, eventually comes into the light.

You must be accountable to yourself for your actions, but it also helps greatly when you allow yourself to be accountable to another person.

Good luck. Prayers being sent your way.

anon185332
Post 12

My brother is sixteen and has been an IV heroin addict on and off for about a year now. He is checking into his second rehab facility today, but the withdrawals are uncomfortable but if someone has been using a drug hard enough it's important that the person is in a rehab while detoxing and that there being watched medically.

if you use recreationally, that's one thing, but once it's an everyday thing or in massive amounts you need to be very careful or you can't get them admitted into a detox center. Bring them to the ER. You can die during a detox; your body literally will shut down and you can have seizures. I mean, if you can't afford it or for any reason it's impossible to get medical supervision, watch them very closely and if it gets to the point where they're in enough pain, call the ambulance. It's not as serious if it's been just binge or recreational, but still be very careful.

anon174781
Post 11

I have a 17 year old sister who smoked heroin for about a year. I took her in and took her away from her environment. She has been clean about 30 days, but still has chills, and vomits, and her legs hurt her.

I don't really understand the drug and the effects after you detox and how long they will last? I don't know if she is really feeling that pain or not. She really wants meds but i refuse to give her any meds. Am I wrong? or is she just lying to me and telling me she is in pain?

anon168635
Post 9

I am a 25 year old male that began using heroin about 15 months ago. In the last year I've lost my job of three years, my car and on the verge of loosing my apartment.

I feel like I'm living in a secret hell. No one knows about my addiction including family, friends, and my cousin who is also my roommate. I am so ashamed I couldn't dare tell anyone. I tried for the first time to detox on my own. It was so unbearable I couldn't get through the first day.

I am checking out a couple clinics to start my recovery. I hope to continue this secret hell in private.

anon165658
Post 8

My brother in law quit two days ago. He is feeling real bad right now. If he wants to be with my sister, he needs to quit. We all love him and want him safe.

anon163338
Post 7

Anon, you do not have to be a hidden truth. You need to let your partner know that you have a bad hobby. You need to understand that she and others are not your enemy, but the key to the recovery of a normal life.

Every one who surrounds you now will be there to support you and walk beside you side by side. Do not be afraid and always remember that you are not lying to anyone but yourself.

Best wishes and just believe that you are special and that you do matter in this lifetime. It is not a habit, but a hobby that you and only you can break! --Trisch

anon148168
Post 6

@anon102266: I recently found out that my husband of 15 yrs was a heroin addict. He had been hiding it for a long time and I was devastated. Please tell your family or loved ones. They love you and want nothing more than to help you. Also, you should allow them the choice of whether or not they want to be around you. By concealing your habit, you are taking their choice away.

If I had known my husband was an addict earlier, I could have helped sooner and also would have had the choice to not get pregnant. He was very selfish in not telling me what I was getting into and what my newborn would be facing. Best of luck to you. I have been going to NA meets every night with him and I know you must be going through hell yourself and feeling awful.

AZgirl32
Post 5

anon101392- Please do not keep your using again a secret to anyone. Unfortunately, statistics are not in your favor. But if you can beat the detox symptoms and get the support you need with therapy and loved ones you can definitely beat this.

I recently saw a documentary called 'Facing the Habit' by Magnolia Martin. It follows a millionaire who lost everything, including a loved one, to heroin. I strongly recommend you watch it; it may look very familiar to you. There is also important information on a natural medication that greatly decreases detox. Good luck.

anon102266
Post 4

@ anon101392 Tell your partner. Don't try to fight it alone or deal with it alone. My partner recently died of an overdose and I had no idea he was using again. Give your partner the opportunity to support you.

anon101392
Post 3

i have been using again for 18 months. i first used heroin 20 years ago. there is no such thing as an ex junkie. i am so sick of it. my partner and kid have no idea i am using, and i am finding it so hard to detox past a day or two. any suggestions to stay clean?

krisl
Post 2

@Prayers2Heal – Unfortunately, I believe you still qualify as addicted to morphine. There are two distinct kinds of addiction: psychological and physical. Most drug addictions are a combination of both, though minor drugs such as marijuana are generally primarily mental rather than physical. Physical addiction is usually much more serious because it means your body has developed a need for it. If the addiction is mental, it’s more of a desire, which can be broken with perseverance. Physical addictions are definitely tougher to shake. Once your medical needs have subsided, I would suggest seeking help separating yourself from morphine if the need for it persists. Good luck.

Prayers2Heal
Post 1

I was prescribed morphine after a bad car accident; I took one 30mg of long lasting morphine in the morning and one at night for six months. Recently, I ran out of my prescription while out of town. No doctor would give me a prescription and controlled substances cannot be called into a pharmacy, so I started to have withdrawals.

I had flu like symptoms and diarrhea for three days and then my pain came back which made me extremely nauseous. However, I noticed that I did not feel a mental need for them. I just wanted to get my pain to go away and Tylenol or Advil didn’t touch my pain. Would I still be considered a patient addicted to morphine?

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