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Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal Symptoms of HeroinHeroin withdrawal symptoms typically happen in three phases. The first phase is acute heroin withdrawal, in which the heroin addict experiences the withdrawal syndrome. This phase peaks after about three days and ends after about five days. The second phase occurs over the next two weeks. During this period, the body re-learns the process of making the endorphins which the user has been substituting with heroin. The third phase of heroin withdrawal symptoms can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months. During this phase, the body stabilizes its endorphin production. It is only after the completion of phase three that the former addict really feels good. However, it is the first phase that is the hardest to get through because the pain is so intense.

Heroin users become physically and psychologically dependent on the drug, and experience heroin withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it. Heroin's effects last for approximately four to six hours. As a result, addicts must take the drug several times a day to prevent the appearance of heroin withdrawal symptoms. The need to continue taking the drug to avoid heroin withdrawal is an important factor in heroin's addictiveness.

The most common heroin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The most commonly experienced secondary heroin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • "Goose Bumps": Having goose bumps led to the origin of the phrase "quitting cold turkey"
  • Alternating sweating and chills
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fever
  • Gagging
  • General body aches
  • Hot flashes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Leg cramps: Muscles that have been relaxed by the drug tighten and twitch, causing severe pain and uncontrolled, reflexive motion ("kicking the habit")
  • Nervousness
  • Perspiration
  • Restlessness
  • Watery eyes
  • Weight loss

If you plan on quitting heroin "cold turkey" there are things you can do to minimize the pain of heroin withdrawal symptoms while quitting:

  • Ask a close trusted friend to stay with you during the duration of the most serious heroin withdrawal symptoms. They will have to take care of you as if you had a really bad case of the flu.
  • Keep plenty of fluids handy and foods you can eat available. Sports drinks, yogurt, oatmeal, bottled water, popsicles, soups, etc. These are plain foods that are easy on your stomach and senses while you are going though heroin withdrawal symptoms. It is extremely easy to get dehydrated so keep this in mind. Also meal replacement shakes may be a great way to deliver nutrient when full meals aren't easily consumed.
  • You may want to purchase medicine for nausea, diarrhea, or for any other heroin withdrawal symptoms you may incur.
  • When possible, and possibly with help, the individual will want to soak in warm water to help calm the nerves. Showers are also an option but may be too strong.
  • The most severe of the heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to only last around three days, however residual effects will slowly continue to fade over a period of time. Remember to give yourself plenty of time for recover. Three days are most likely not enough. For the sake of your health, try to get as much time off as possible to aid in your recovery.
  • Going to a drug rehab center is a necessary for many heroin addicts to make their recovery last a lifetime. While in treatment you receive therapy and counseling to help understand your addiction and how to prevent relapse in the future. Those who do not attend any type of treatment often find they are unable to cope with day to day sobriety and relapse. 

Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin
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