Heroin Detox Timeline

When approaching the all-important detox and withdrawal process, it is helpful to have a general understanding of what to expect. Being mentally prepared can help one gear up for this first crucial step in achieving freedom from the grip of a heroin addiction. Having a grasp on the heroin detox timeline in advance can help the individual know how the detox and withdrawal phase proceeds, and about how their symptoms will be mitigated in a medical detox environment.

What Happens When You Stop Using Heroin?

When someone who has become addicted to heroin attempts to stop using the drug, the body will, within hours, begin to rebel. This is because of the way opiate addiction changes the brain chemistry over time. As the individual continued to use increasing amounts of the drug and eventually becomes dependent on it, their brain simply stops producing its own dopamine. This happens because, after repeated use of the heroin, the actual physical structure of the brain is impacted, resulting in long-term chemical imbalances.

Why is a Medical Detox Important?

The goal of initiating the detox process is to get clean, to get off of the heroin for good. Individuals who attempt to undergo detox on their own will usually never make it to the third day before giving up and returning to the drug to stop the highly unpleasant withdrawal effects. Any hope of recovery from the heroin addiction is then lost. A medical detox, on the other hand, provides trained detox professionals to oversee and aid the individual during the entire detox process. This source of support can make the difference between successfully entering rehab or remaining a prisoner of addiction.

During a medical detox the client’s vital signs and withdrawal symptoms will be monitored throughout the process. As withdrawal symptoms present, the detox team will provide medications to address each one, reducing the negative effects of the withdrawals dramatically. In addition to the physical assistance, the detox team also provides emotional support and counseling to help the client complete the process.

In some cases, medication assisted treatment is initiated beginning on day three or so of the detox. Using a drug, such as Suboxone or methadone, can help minimize the withdrawal effects during detox and may also be prescribed for a determined period of time in recovery as a way of weaning the client off of the heroin. In general, Suboxone is considered a temporary medication, usually prescribed for up to one year at the most. Methadone, however, can be prescribed for an indefinite amount of time, as a permanent replacement for heroin.

What are the Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Heroin withdrawal symptoms mimic severe flu symptoms. These may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Chills and/or goosebumps
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Intense cravings

Many of these symptoms can be controlled with prescription and over the counter medications administered during a medical detoxification.

What is the Heroin Detox Timeline?

For most individuals, a heroin detox timeline lasts about one week and can vary in intensity based on several factors. These include the length of history of heroin use, the method of use, the amount of the drug used, and the individual’s general health status.  Withdrawal symptoms begin within six to twelve hours after the last dosing of heroin. Symptoms begin as mild flu-like symptoms, then peak at about 72 hours before beginning to subside. Although the withdrawal symptoms usually pass by the seventh day, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks.

Outpatient Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Detoxification is only the first step in recovery, as on its own detox will not lead to any lasting changes in addiction behaviors. Active treatment for a heroin addiction can be provided through an intensive outpatient program (IOP). The IOP is a program that allows the individual to reside at home, or in sober living, while going through treatment outside of treatment hours. Generally, an IOP requires 25-30 hour of therapy per week for a minimum of one month.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the mainstay of heroin addiction treatment, as CBT helps the client change disordered thought-behavior patterns that have reinforced the addictive behaviors. CBT is a short-term therapy that has been shown to consistently aid in the treatment of addiction.

In addition to CBT, other evidence-based therapies for treating addiction include dialectical behavior therapy, pseudo-attachment therapy, psychodynamic therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy.

The treatment will involve multiple types of therapy and educational classes. These might include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Addiction education
  • 12-step recovery meetings
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Life skills training
  • Medication management for Suboxone or methadone, or medication related to a mental health condition

Alternative Treatments for Heroin Addiction

In addition to the tradition heroin addiction treatment protocol, there are some alternative therapies that have been found useful in aiding the detox and treatment process. These holistic or adjunctive therapies might include:

  • Biofeedback or neurofeedback
  • Essential oils therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Mindfulness training
  • Art therapy
  • Psychodrama

The benefits of adding alternative therapies into a comprehensive treatment plan for heroin addiction is to help the individual connect with the whole person, including the body, mind, and spiritual aspects. It is believed that by practicing these experiential therapies a deeper examination of the multiple factors that drive addiction can be addressed, instead of just the diagnosis of addiction. Used in tandem with a traditional treatment program enhances the therapeutic results and helps to solidify recovery.

Phoenix Rising Addiction Center Healthcare Provides Heroin Detox Resources and Treatment

Phoenix Rising is an intensive outpatient program (IOP) serving Southern California, located in Orange County. After a client completes the medical detox process, Phoenix Rising will provide a highly effective treatment program to help them overcome maladaptive addictive behaviors. This is accomplished through use of evidence-based, proven treatment modalities, 12-step programming, complimentary therapies, and holistic treatment methods. For more information about the heroin detox timeline and treatment, please contact Phoenix Rising today at (949) 518-0345.