How Long Does Heroin Detox Take?

Heroin addiction is a severe disorder, and treatment often starts with detox. However, depending on the method used and other variables, detox from heroin dependence can take different amounts of time for different people. 

What Is Heroin Detox?

Detox, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is “the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal.” The withdrawal symptoms caused by heroin dependence can include

Heroin Detox

Depression and nausea are common heroin withdrawal symptoms.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Muscle and bone pain

Heroin withdrawal often feels like a bad case of the flu and can be very painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, detox utilizes medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or clonidine to treat these issues.

How Long Does Heroin Detox Take?

According to the National Library of Medicine, the symptoms of withdrawal usually begin within 12 hours of one’s last heroin usage. When a person is not being managed on medication, symptoms generally peak about 3 or 4 days after the individual starts experiencing them. At this point, they will be very painful, and the possibility of dehydration is severe because of the excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea that can occur.

Most individuals, without medication, are able to go through heroin withdrawal in 6 to 10 days. However, it is not recommended that someone do so, as “management of withdrawal without medications can produce needless suffering in a population that tends to have limited tolerance for physical pain” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

When medications are used, detox can take longer (sometimes two weeks or more) because the individual’s symptoms are being gradually managed and their dosage is slowly being tapered. Still, this is much safer and less traumatizing then detox without the management of drugs or the process generally known as going cold turkey.

What Can Affect the Timeline of Heroin Detox?

There are certain factors that can affect how long heroin detox takes. For example, individuals who are strongly dependent on heroin may need to be weaned off opioids slowly. This can affect the timeline of detox.

Other factors include

  • The type of medication used
    • A person going through detox with the help of methadone may get through their withdrawal syndrome at a different rate than someone who uses clonidine.
  • The type of treatment performed
    • Instead of being weaned off the drug used to minimize one’s withdrawal symptoms, some individuals choose to stay on medication maintenance. Methadone is a specifically helpful choice for this treatment option, and in 2004, Harvard Medical School stated that more than 100,000 American opioid addicts were being maintained on methadone.
  • The use of other drugs
    • Unfortunately, polydrug abuse is common among heroin addicts. Many individuals also frequently abuse cocaine and other licit and illicit drugs along with heroin in order to intensify the effects of the substance.
    • Those who have been abusing multiple drugs may experience a longer detox program because they will also need to be treated for the withdrawal effects associated with other substances.

What Is Ultrarapid Heroin Detox?

Another option for heroin withdrawal treatment is ultrarpid detox. The technique is based on using general anesthetic to sedate the patient, then giving them a dose of an opiate blocker to precipitate withdrawal. The general idea is that the individual gets through detox faster and without experiencing any severe withdrawal symptoms.

Unfortunately, though, a study from 2006 found that ultrarapid detox is no more effective than a regular, medically assisted withdrawal program (National Institute on Drug Abuse). It was also found that many individuals still experienced withdrawal symptoms, as well as other serious side effects associated with the program itself.

Do You Need to Find Professional Heroin Detox?

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