Physical Effects of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin is a widely used drug that is particularly dangerous since it is a street drug. What makes it even more hazardous is that it is rarely pure. And while dealers or producers occasionally cut heroin with cornstarch or baby powder, they also “enhance” it with fatal drugs like arsenic or quinine. When you buy it on the street, there is no way for you to know what that heroin is combined with. As a result, the chances of overdose and death are very high. Unfortunately, regular heroin users also develop tolerance and physical dependency. That means the body adjusts to the presence of heroin and a person requires more heroin to obtain the intended effect. When a person stops using heroin or reduces the quantity, they experience drug withdrawal symptoms. As a result, we would like to discuss the physical effects of heroin withdrawal and how to spot them. 

But first, let’s look a bit more into heroin and what addiction to heroin means.

What is heroin?

Heroin is an opioid narcotic derived from morphine. Morphine is a naturally produced chemical found in the seed pods of numerous opium poppy plants. People cultivate these poppies in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Often you will see heroin as a white or brown powder or a black sticky semi-liquid, also known as black tar heroin. The street names for heroin include big H, Caballo, eight ball, skag, dope,  junk, and TNT.

Person using heroin to avoid the physical effects of heroin withdrawal
Heroin is a street drug that is rarely found in pure form

How is heroin used?

People use heroin in a variety of methods. For instance, you can smoke, inject, and snort heroin. All these types of use result in the drug reaching the brain and producing a pleasant high. 

Who uses heroin?

Persons from all cultural, social, economic, and age groups can be heroin users. Unfortunately, first-time users are often in their teens or early twenties. However, most heroin users are often over 30, just like persons with prescription addictions.

How and why does a person become addicted to heroin?

When you inject heroin into a vein, it causes a rush of exhilaration, known as a “rush.” When snorted or smoked, this sensation is less powerful. After this stage, there is a phase of relaxation and calm described as nodding out. And that is the stage in which heroin users wish to be as often as possible, so they develop dependency.

However, note that nausea and vomiting are common side effects for new users. Other side effects include slower breathing, enlarged pupils, itching, and excessive sweating. In addition, the long-term side effects of heroin usage are constipation, decreased libido, and irregular or missing periods. Also, when a person stops using heroin, these side effects combine whit the physical effects of heroin withdrawal.

What are the physical effects of heroin withdrawal?

Suppose a person that uses heroin decides to quit and join a clinical program. In that case, they will start experiencing the physical effects of heroin withdrawal. Unfortunately, these symptoms appear fast, just a few hours after they stop using the drug. In addition, withdrawal symptoms might linger for weeks or months. And for several days after quitting heroin, a person will feel quite unwell. As a result, heroin addicts should seek professional and medical help if and when they decide to quit. 

But let us discuss a bit more about what physical heroin withdrawal symptoms look like.

Nausea and vomiting are some of the physical effects of heroin withdrawal

Common withdrawal symptoms while coming off drugs addiction or alcohol abuse include nausea and vomiting. The duration of nausea and vomiting during drug withdrawal may vary depending on the length of the use. However, you can expect these symptoms eight to 24 hours after consuming short-acting opioids like heroin.

Person experiencing physical effects of heroin whitdrawal
The first and most common physical effects of heroin withdrawal are nausea and vomiting

You can expect aches and pains

During withdrawal, the body and mind need to relearn how to work without drugs. Unfortunately, this can occasionally cause pain in your body. Some recovering users have reported muscular aches and bone discomfort. And while it is not life-threatening, this pain does not make the withdrawal process any easier. However, the good news is that medical personnel in a detox center may provide pain relievers during an intensive outpatient program in Pennsylvania. They can also recommend natural pain relief alternatives.

Your digestive system will suffer

Almost everyone experiences stomach issues as a result of heroin withdrawal. That is because heroin produces constipation. When you quit using heroin, your body must adjust. 

However, those in detox from heroin typically develop diarrhea. That might be moderate at first, but it can soon worsen. Sometimes, it can even result in severe dehydration. Many people in withdrawal suffer from dehydration and cannot consume food or liquids. Fortunately, medical specialists offer fluids and electrolytes in outpatient detox in Pennsylvanie. If necessary, patients are given an IV with a saline solution to ensure sufficient hydration.

You also lose your appetite as a result of heroin withdrawal. Fortunately, this is temporary, and most people’s appetite returns after a few weeks.

Flue symptoms are physical  effects of heroin withdrawal

Many individuals who are going through heroin withdrawal say they feel like they’ve caught the flu. A runny nose, sweating, chills, and fever are all symptoms. That is due to the drug’s effect on how your body controls temperature.


Person experiencing temperature as a physical effect of heroin withdrawal
Persons in heroin withdrawal will often have a fever and flu-like symptoms

You may experience intense sweating

Sweating, particularly at night, is a typical withdrawal symptom. While it is an unpleasant symptom, it is a necessary and normal body function. Sweating enables your body to chill down while also cleansing it of toxins. That will aid in flushing the heroin from your system as you detox.

Your heart rate increases

Heroin withdrawal can also cause an accelerated heart rate. That is because the substance slows your heart rate, and your body must readjust when you stop using it. That might cause your heart to race, which can be dangerous, especially if you have heart problems. That is why it is best to experience these symptoms under professional supervision in a partial hospitalization program in Pennsylvania or other rehab programs that suit your needs.

You will fight cravings

Intense cravings are a frequent sign of heroin withdrawal. Your body will begin to want drugs when detoxing, especially if hooked on heroin. However, you might still have drug cravings long after a time of heavy drug usage. Also, cravings come in waves and will fade after reaching their peak. Fortunately, there are several methods for learning to regulate your urges during a sober living program in a PA rehab center.

You might be unable to sleep

Sleeping issues are a common side effect of drug abstinence. Although it’s not an actual physical effect, sleep is a component of the internal system that the body attempts to control during active drug use. So when you remove those substances, the balance is thrown off, resulting in insomnia, restlessness, disrupted sleep, and nightmares.

Other physical effects of heroin withdrawal

There are several more symptoms that are frequent during heroin detox. While they are not as severe, they can still be rather unpleasant. Here are a few examples:

  • Lacrimation (watery eyes)
  • Runny nose
  • Belly cramps
  • Shaking and goosebumps
  • Yawning very often

What is the worst effect of heroin withdrawal?

Unfortunately, heroin withdrawal can be fatal, although it happens in rare situations. Withdrawal is usually only fatal when there are other underlying health issues. For example, suppose you have a heart disease. In that case, the severe withdrawal symptoms might strain your heart, perhaps leading to a heart attack or other deadly health concerns. In addition, it is also riskier to attempt to quit heroin by yourself. Because withdrawal from some opioids can be fatal, we strongly advise you to get professional help with your withdrawal and detox. That reduces the danger of mortality during withdrawal and makes it simpler to manage.

Person suffering a heart attack during heroin withdrawal
Death can occur in heroin withdrawal if you have heart issues

How do the physical effects of heroin withdrawal develop?

The opiate or heroin withdrawal and detox timetable is divided into three main stages:

  1. Early withdrawal: these symptoms are common six to twelve hours following the last heroin intake. They can be unpleasant but easily managed with medication and assistance. Watery eyes, runny nose, nausea, muscular pains, fever, and yawning are early withdrawal symptoms. Additional symptoms may appear, such as hot or cold flashes, mood changes, and concentration issues.
  2. Peak withdrawal: during this stage, early withdrawal symptoms grow more severe, and new ones develop. Heroin gives its worst symptoms after one to three days. During this stage of withdrawal, physical and psychological problems are frequent. A person suffering from heroin withdrawal may have flu-like symptoms and discomfort. They must keep hydrated, eat well, and receive emotional support from others.
  3. Late withdrawal: this stage begins when symptoms begin to lessen in severity and frequency. Medical detox will also end, although some psychological problems may occur. For instance, you might feel intense cravings, be highly irritable, and have problems sleeping.

Most physical withdrawal symptoms will go away after a week. However, some psychological symptoms as anxiety, depression, and cravings, may persist for some time. Fortunately, symptoms that remain beyond the first detox and withdrawal phase can be treated with certain medications and continuum care.

How can you ease the physical effects of heroin withdrawal?

Aside from joining a support group and being among other people going through similar experiences, you may do a few things on your own to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. For instance, you can take care of yourself by staying hydrated. Sweating and diarrhea can cause you to lose body fluids during withdrawal. Therefore, it is essential to drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated. Drinks containing electrolytes are great for this purpose.

In addition, you should pay attention to nutrition. People that use large amounts of heroin lack some nutrients during withdrawal. Eating nutrient-dense meals, especially those high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, can help you heal.

Furthermore, you should try to exercise and stay active. Moderate exercise can help alleviate specific withdrawal symptoms. Endorphins are released during exercise, which improves mood and reduces anxiety. Exercise can also aid in calming anxiety. However, A person suffering from withdrawal symptoms may have cardiac difficulties. Therefore, they should exercise moderately only with their doctor’s permission and supervision.

Lastly, you will need a distraction during your heroin withdrawal. Heroin withdrawal symptoms may be painful and uncomfortable, so finding things that take your mind off your symptoms might help you feel better. For instance, you could read a book, watch a movie, practice your hobby, or be with your family or friends.

Healthy meal that you should eat during heroin withdrawal
Nutrition is essential in recovery and heroin withdrawal

When should you see a doctor for heroin withdrawal?

When people decide to stop heroin use, they should consult their doctor for advice and monitoring. The doctor can tailor a treatment plan to the individual based on their medical history and how long they have been using it.

How can a rehab center help with heroin withdrawal?

Besides talking to your doctor about your addiction, you should seek expert assistance from a heroin treatment program. While the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are significant and hazardous, continuing to use heroin is considerably worse for your health. If you don’t get the much-needed help, you may experience organ damage, behavioral changes, and even death.

But, if you seek help in a heroin addiction recovery center, you will get assistance with every stage of the detox and recovery process.

Therapy session in a rehabilitation center
Getting professional help will aid ease your physical heroin withdrawal symptoms

Final words on the physical effects of heroin withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal can cause a variety of unpleasant and painful symptoms. Furthermore, it can lead to more severe problems if symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea are not treated. Not to mention that, in rare cases, it can even lead to death. That is why, during heroin withdrawal, people must seek the advice of addiction treatment professionals. With their help, people can ease the physical effects of heroin withdrawal and have a safe path toward full recovery. 

Therefore, if you or a loved one have a heroin addiction or are recovering, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can answer all your questions and provide you with all the support you need in your journey to a new life.

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