The duration of heroin withdrawal coincides with its clearance rate, such that, withdrawal symptoms typically linger for 7-days or so. There is another element involved in heroin withdrawal that is rarely talked about. That element is “neuroplasticity.” So what the heck is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to dynamically reorganize itself. So what does that mean? Well, it means, as the environment in the brain changes, either by injury, new situations, such as toxins, which includes drugs like heroin, it will use other neurons to compensate for these changes.
In the case of heroin, specific brain regions are suppressed during heroin use. These regions become hyperactive during withdrawal. The degree to which these areas reconfigured themselves during the period of heroin use, is the degree to which they must revert back following cessation. The period of time those neurons take to revert back, is how long heroin withdrawal actually lasts.
The healthier the brain the quicker it bounces back. In contrast, the unhealthier the brain, which is often dependent upon age, but not necessarily, the less neuroplasticity, thus the longer it takes to bounce back.
Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is the extension of withdrawal symptoms for an atypical period. Usually much longer than normal. The neuroplasticity of the individual’s brain plays a critical role in this phenomenon.