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By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: October 26, 2022

Risks Of Heroin Detox At Home

A home environment is not a suitable, safe, secure, and clean setting for heroin detox.  Detoxing at home will mean you’ll forgo access to a doctor and the prescriptions you’ll need to help ease the detoxification discomfort and the potential for a severe negative medical experience.   

Even worse, other addictive substances like alcohol, pain meds, and heroin can quickly become too tempting to resist. This is more true when you’re home without professional support. If you relapse during detox, these addictive drugs can work to destabilize your health quickly resulting in a medical emergency.

Detox refers to the process of taking an individual off an addictive chemical.  In this case, heroin, on which he or she has become physically dependent.  Eliminate it from the body with the help of various medication options and other interventions.

Dangers Of Heroin Detox On Your Own

Detoxing at home can be dangerous because withdrawal from heroin is very stressful and may cause nausea, muscle, and joint pain, fever, chills, depression & anxiety caused by the anticipated sickness. Risks include increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia). Which is not unusual for someone addicted to heroin. 

Detoxing at home under these circumstances can lead to relapse. Detox is critical to recovery, not only for the individual user but also for the family and society. Heroin use can cause severe illnesses for people.  It is estimated that lost productivity, crime, and social service expenditures cost over 21 billion dollars annually in the United States alone.

Lack of motivation for long-term treatment, as well as the stigma often attached to heroin addiction, are common barriers to full recovery and productive life. This makes detox a critical component in addressing related health problems and initiating education about health issues, along with issues related to family and legal problems.

Many families are deeply affected by the addiction of loved ones. They are often drained of money and compassion. The subsequent need to support the addiction often causes legal problems through drug dealing and drug-related violence.

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Heroin Detox FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Heroin?

If you are wondering, “how long to detox from heroin?”, the answer is your weight, age, gender, and general health are the main determinants of how long you spend in detox heroin. Your substance abuse behavior then comes into play. Your stay in detox will probably be lengthier the longer you’ve been misusing the drug. Most patients typically complete detox in four to 10 days.

How To Detox Off Heroin

Detoxing off heroin is generally known as the first phase of treatment. Lasting through the acute withdrawal phase of 7-10 days. However, withdrawal syndrome can last much longer, warranting medically assisted detox from heroin using the options delineated earlier with immediate follow-up rehabilitation treatment.

During detoxing from heroin process, throughout a medical detox program, medical staff provides supervision and monitoring. They’ll manage any health issues that come up. During heroin detox, carious medications for opioid dependence may be used.

Prescribed medications treat specific withdrawal symptoms. Detox facility medical staff will also give heroin clients a complete physical examination that includes screening for HIV, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, and other infections.

How To Detox From Heroin

Detoxing off heroin is generally known as the first phase of treatment. Lasting through the acute withdrawal phase of 7-10 days. However, withdrawal syndrome can last much longer, warranting medically assisted detox from heroin using the options delineated earlier with immediate follow-up rehabilitation treatment.

During detoxing from heroin process, throughout a medical detox program, medical staff provides supervision and monitoring. They’ll manage any health issues that come up. During heroin detox, carious medications for opioid dependence may be used.

Prescribed medications treat specific withdrawal symptoms. Detox facility medical staff will also give heroin clients a complete physical examination that includes screening for HIV, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, and other infections.

What Are Common Heroin Detox Symptoms?

Within a few hours of someone’s last injection of heroin, withdrawal symptoms may appear. Typically, heroin withdrawal begins 8 to 24 hours following a person’s last use; however, each person will experience acute, short-term withdrawal symptoms at a different time. Acute withdrawal from heroin can continue for three to ten days. Acute heroin withdrawal can last for a variety of times, depending on things including how often you use it, how much you use, and how long you take it for. A person’s unique characteristics and genetic makeup, as well as their current state of physical and mental health, as well as any drugs or other substances they may use, all play a part.

What Is It Like Coming Off Heroin?

What Is It Like Getting Off Heroin?

Many individuals are shocked to hear that the consequences of heroin withdrawal can differ from person to person in terms of severity and length of time, as well as how they present themselves physically and mentally. The good news is that assistance is accessible.

Heroin Detox Statistics

(Source: National Survey On Drug Use And Health)

5.1 million

In 2015, around 5.1 million people took heroin.

(Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse)

6X

The misuse of heroin has epidemic proportions. Between 2002 and 2015, the number of deaths from heroin overdose climbed by more than six times.

(Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse)

80%

40 to 60 percent of patients who are in recovery relapse into addiction. The relapse rate is substantially higher—nearly 80%—for heroin addicts. As a result, eight out of ten heroin addicts in recovery will relapse at least once and possibly more than once.

(Source: Centers For Disease Control And Prevention)

4+ fatalities for every 100,000

In contrast, more than 13,000 Americans overdosed on heroin in 2020, which equates to more than four fatalities for every 100,000 citizens.

(Source: Centers For Disease Control And Prevention)

7X

In comparison to 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving heroin was roughly seven times higher in 2020.

(Source: Centers For Disease Control And Prevention)

20%

Nearly 20% of all opioid deaths involved heroin.

Is Heroin Detox Dangerous?

Withdrawal from heroin can become life-threatening. Especially depending on medical conditions and illnesses. Detox generally will not eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Nor can it prevent other negative medical consequences for some individuals upon cessation of heroin use. 

First, during the detox treatment phase, medical supervision is required for many individuals. Second, some individuals need close monitoring and special care in detox. That includes those suffering from advanced HIV/AIDS, advanced age, and coronary artery disease.

Abuse and addiction to heroin can have severe impacts on a person’s life in every aspect. The following are some effects of heroin addiction:

  • Clogged nose
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Tachycardia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Circulation issues
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Liver injury
  • Breathing depression
  • Severe perspiration
  • Slumber apnea
  • Aching joints
  • Chills
  • Physical illness
  • Erratic gait
  • Difficulty with the law
  • Incarceration
  • Respiration stopping
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Coma
  • Suicide or drug overdose death
Heroin Detox Treatment is an extremely important phase of withdrawing from heroin but We Level Up treatment centers are available to help support your recovery journey.
Heroin Detox Treatment is an extremely important phase of withdrawing from heroin but We Level Up treatment centers are available to help support your recovery journey.

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What To Expect During Heroin Detoxification?

To begin, anticipate your detox for heroin to be carried out in a non-judgmental manner, along with supervised medical support around the clock. A physical examination is carried out to assist in a proper diagnosis. It will include examination for signs of infection, such as arm or leg edema, track mark or injection site inflammation/abscess, or another scarring.

Other appropriate examination points would be to assess for jaundice or any other signs of potential liver injury. Further warning signs and symptoms are given special attention. These warning signs include fever, constipation, or difficulty breathing (bronchospasm). This consists of clinicians gathering information on your drug history, other medical histories, social functioning, living arrangements & family members.   

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Heroin Detox Process

Detox is generally known as the first phase of treatment. Lasting through the acute withdrawal phase of 7-10 days. However, withdrawal syndrome can last much longer, warranting medically assisted detox from heroin using the options delineated earlier with immediate follow-up rehabilitation treatment.

During detoxing from heroin process, throughout a medical detox program, medical staff provides supervision and monitoring. They’ll manage any health issues that come up. During heroin detox, carious medications for opioid dependence may be used.

Prescribed medications treat specific withdrawal symptoms. Detox facility medical staff will also give heroin clients a complete physical examination that includes screening for HIV, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, and other infections.

What Is Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive drugs that can affect brain physiology and cause behavioral abnormalities. Because heroin’s chemical composition resembles the body’s natural opioids, it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, activating certain cells (neurons) (e.g., endorphins). As opposed to endogenous, or naturally occurring, opioids, heroin activates opioid receptors differently, resulting in aberrant signals being delivered to the brain and brain stem, which regulates fundamental functions like breathing, heart rate, and sleeping.

Regular heroin use causes the brain to adapt, which results in tolerance (where a person needs to consume more heroin to get the same benefits) and physiological dependency. When someone tries to reduce or stop using heroin, they experience withdrawal symptoms, which are a sign of dependency. Although withdrawal symptoms are normally not fatal, they can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful, which makes it challenging for many people to stop using heroin. When a person stops using a drug, like heroin, on which their body has grown reliant, they may experience a set of symptoms known as withdrawal.

All opioids cause similar withdrawal symptoms, but there can be big differences in when they start, how bad they are, and how long it takes for them to go away. These variables typically rely on the particular opioid(s) a person took, as well as the amount, duration, other narcotics they use, and the intervals between doses.

The gastrointestinal symptoms brought on by heroin withdrawal (such as diarrhea and vomiting) can result in an electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and potentially life-threatening symptoms based on the possibility of these effects, even though the symptoms of heroin withdrawal alone are typically not dangerous.

Acute (Short-Term) Symptoms Of Heroin Withdrawal

Within a few hours of someone’s last injection of heroin, withdrawal symptoms may appear. Typically, heroin withdrawal begins 8 to 24 hours following a person’s last use; however, each person will experience acute, short-term withdrawal symptoms at a different time. Acute withdrawal from heroin can continue for three to ten days. Acute heroin withdrawal can last for a variety of times, depending on things including how often you use it, how much you use, and how long you take it for. A person’s unique characteristics and genetic makeup, as well as their current state of physical and mental health, as well as any drugs or other substances they may use, all play a part.

Many people relapse into heroin use as a result of the unpleasant and severe short-term withdrawal effects. Among the short-term indications and effects of heroin withdrawal are:

  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Accelerated breathing.
  • A rise in blood pressure.
  • Increased body heat.
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia.
  • Enlarged pupils.
  • Abnormally quick reflexes.
  • Sweating.
  • (Piloerection) Goosebumps.
  • Eye and nasal discharge that is watery.
  • Cramps, spasms, and/or soreness in the muscles.
  • A bone ache.
  • Vomiting and/or nauseous.
  • Diarrhea.

Long-Term Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

When persistent impairments are felt even after a period of acute withdrawal, this is referred to as “protracted withdrawal” or long-term heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Following acute withdrawal from heroin and other opioids, withdrawal symptoms that may linger include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Disruptions in sleep.
  • Ongoing fatigue.
  • A generalized sense of being depressed or emotionally lifeless (dysphoria).
  • Loss of enjoyment or interest in once-enjoyed activities (anhedonia).
  • Irritability.
  • Issues with short-term memory.
  • Reduced concentration, hampered coordination, and decision-making challenges.
  • Drug yearning

The desire to use heroin again may be a result of the severe post-acute withdrawal symptoms. However, it is crucial for people who have quit using heroin or other opioids to understand that after experiencing severe withdrawal, they have a lower tolerance for opioids and are more likely to overdose on heroin if they start using again after a break.

Heroin Detox Withdrawal

Despite the availability of treatment programs, many people choose to detox on their own at home. There are a couple of things to remember when going cold turkey. Heroin withdrawal has a number of potential serious negative and dangerous side effects. While an upset stomach is a common symptom, leading to more serious vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.

If these symptoms persist, then it is quite possible that the patient will become dehydrated and develop an electrolyte imbalance.  Because of this, one suggestion for a safer heroin addiction detox is to stay hydrated. Testing small amounts of food periodically to see if you can keep food down can be another way to see how you are progressing.

The heroin detox process may look different for someone who has only used heroin a few times than it would for a person who has used heroin habitually over several weeks, months, or years.
The heroin detox process may look different for someone who has only used heroin a few times than it would for a person who has used heroin habitually over several weeks, months, or years.

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Heroin Detox Treatment

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The heroin detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. Getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment.

Here at the We Level Up Treatment Facility, the clinical team provides proper care with round-the-clock physicians available to medically assist your recovery. Reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions about receiving treatment from one of our heroin detox centers. 

If you are searching for a professional heroin detox New Jersey, please make sure to ask about our nearby heroin detox NJ.

If you are searching for a heroin detox program California, please make sure to ask about our nearby heroin detox program San Diego CA.

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Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). What is heroin and how is it used?
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, January 26). What is the scope of heroin use in the United States?
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, December 2). Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). What are the long-term effects of heroin use?.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, March 22). Drugs and the brain.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth edition (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical guidelines for withdrawal management and treatment of drug dependence in closed settings. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2010). Protracted withdrawalSubstance Abuse Treatment Advisory9(1).