Substance abuse develops into chemical dependence over time. If use of the addictive substance abruptly stops, unpleasant, and sometimes painful, side effects occur. This is known as withdrawal. Defined by the American Psychological Association, withdrawal is a syndrome that develops after cessation of prolonged, heavy consumption of a substance, with symptoms varying by substance but generally including physiological, behavioral, and cognitive manifestations. 

Withdrawal symptoms differ based on the substance of abuse, with some manifesting mild withdrawal symptoms while others yield painful and dangerous symptoms. Regardless of the substance that has been abused, withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, which is why it is highly recommended to seek a professional detox clinic to assist in the process. Clinicians at these facilities will monitor the withdrawal process and ensure the individual feels safe and supported.

How Long Does it Take to Withdraw From Heroin?

Due to the ongoing opioid epidemic, heroin use and overdose fatalities continue to surge, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that 14,019 overdose fatalities occurred in 2019 alone. The length of heroin withdrawal depends on the length of the addiction and the quantity of the drug regularly used. Those who have abused heroin for a short time, or only used very little, may have a significantly shorter withdrawal period and display relatively mild symptoms. 

In contrast, those who have struggled with heroin abuse for an extended amount of time, or in large quantities, may experience an extended withdrawal stage and more uncomfortable symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms typically show up within the first 24 hours after the last use and last up to a few weeks.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms 

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal vary based on the length of addiction. For the average individual, symptoms appear after the first few hours after use and worsen by days 2-4. These symptoms gradually dissipate throughout the first week, however, some individuals may suffer from persistent symptoms for months. 

Symptoms include: 


As the physical body adapts to the absence of heroin, uncomfortable, flu-like symptoms occur. Nausea is one of the prominent flu-like withdrawal symptoms along with body aches and sweating. 


An individual withdrawing from this highly addictive opiate is likely to grow increasingly agitated within the first week due to intense drug cravings and discomfort. 

Muscle spasms

Due to profuse sweating, vomiting and diarrhea that are likely to occur during the withdrawal stage, the body becomes extremely dehydrated. This intense dehydration causes muscles and joints to cramp up, producing involuntary spasms. 


Heroin abuse causes a chemical alteration within the brain. Once withdrawal begins, the individual may feel depressed as heroin is no longer altering neurotransmitter activity as was once frequently occurring. 

Profuse sweating

Sweating is common when going through withdrawal. This is the physical body’s way of ridding itself of all remaining traces of the substance. 

Due to the severity of some of these symptoms and the potential for life-threatening side effects, clinical supervision within a professional detox facility is highly recommended.


Asheville Recovery Center Can Help  

It is extremely important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with substance addiction or withdrawal. The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome alone.

While we do not have a detox facility, we can refer you to a quality clinic where experts can supervise your withdrawal phase. Upon successfully completing the detox process, we will work with you to formulate a custom treatment plan designed to fit your individual needs. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)518-6996 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.

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