People start using heroin for a variety of reasons but primarily for the euphoric feeling the drug produces. When a person uses heroin for an extended period of time their body becomes dependent on the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur when they try to stop using it.
For the user the fear of withdrawal my keep them using, and for those around them the withdrawal syndrome may be something they have no experience with. Understanding what is normal, and what to expect from a heroin withdrawal can be very important in the process of getting someone off of the drug.
What to Expect with Heroin Withdrawal
Although heroin withdrawal can be different for everyone, the following 15 signs are the most common symptoms heroin users experience after they quit using the drug:
1. Cravings – Cravings are a strong desire to use more heroin and most users experience an overwhelming feeling of wanting to use once they start withdrawal.
2. Mood swings – When heroin leaves the body it is normal to experience a dysphoric mood, or feelings of depression, and irritability.
3. Excessive bodily fluids – During withdrawal the body can produce an excess of tears, sweat, and cause the user to have a runny nose.
4. Aches – Heroin is a painkiller and when the effects wear off the user is likely to experience a lot of aches. Aches in the lower back and legs are common, as well as an increased sensitivity to pain.
5. Stomach pains – Heroin withdrawal often causes spasms in the digestive system and general discomfort of the stomach.
6. Nausea and vomiting – Nausea and vomiting are common during withdrawal and can last for several days.
7. Insomnia – Most heroin addicts will not be able to sleep during the withdrawal period and this may continue for some time until the body goes back to a regular sleep schedule.
8. Fever – Withdrawal can cause a rise in body temperature resulting in fever. This is normal but can be dangerous if the temperature goes above 103 degrees F
9. Restlessness – During withdrawal it is very common for the addict to become restless and have trouble staying in one place.
10. Anxiety – General anxiety that something is wrong or something bad is going to happen is prevalent while a user is withdrawing.
11. Restless leg syndrome – RLS is a common symptom most addicts experience when coming off of heroin.
12. Diarrhea – Heroin constipates a user and when they stop using it is normal to experience diarrhea, loose bowels, and the frequent need to go to the bathroom.
13. Flu-like symptoms – Many heroin addicts describe its withdrawal symptoms as being similar to the worst kinds of flu.
14. Cold chills – During withdrawal it is normal for the addict to experience cold chills, goose-bumps, and the sensation of their hair standing on end.
15. Pains – Bone and muscle pain is a common complaint for a person who is experiencing withdrawal. The absence of the pain-killing effects of heroin and the fact that body hasn’t had to make its own natural pain-killers for some time cause even the smallest pain to feel troublesome.
The good news is that even though heroin withdrawal is very uncomfortable and hard to deal with it, it is not life threatening. Even though it may feel like dying, people don’t die from heroin withdrawal. If the user is a poly-drug addict and is also be addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines there may be a risk of seizure or death.
Russ is a heroin addict who overcame his addiction at Narconon Arrowhead. In his own words he says, “I’ve been clean now for 2 years, which is huge for me because I never really made it more than a few days at any of the other rehab facilities that I went through. This program worked great for me and I don’t know what I would have done without it.” You can hear the rest of his story by watching the following video: