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“What symptoms of Heroin withdrawal would affect the defendant’s ability to form intent?”

Heroin use is a common thread within the criminal system and can become relevant in cases where the defendant’s ability to form intent is in question. Heroin intoxication is often the focus but withdrawal should also be considered. What follows is a summary of heroin withdrawal symptoms that can be used as a basis for negating intent.

Stages of withdrawal

In heroin addiction, there are several stages of withdrawal and heroin withdrawal usually peaks within the first two days. The facts and symptoms below are noted after the last dose of heroin:

  • 3-6 hours: nausea, diarrhea, sleep disturbance, joint and muscle pain, irritability and emotional reactivity. This symptom set is often termed “dope sick” and is quickly reversed by using the drug.
  • Day 3-4: Insomnia, abdominal cramping, vomiting and muscle pain.
  • Day 6-7: Residual nausea and anxiety

You will note that many of these symptoms are the opposite of what you might see during heroin intoxication. In general, a drug’s withdrawal symptoms represent the opposite or “rebound” of a drug’s effects. Withdrawal symptoms can include both physical and psychological symptoms. Some of the physical symptoms, such as pain, may also have effects on the person’s ability to think clearly.

Other considerations
  • Pregnant women experience withdrawal more quickly and intensely as a result of the physiological changes related to fluid volume and metabolism.
  • Heroin withdrawal may also appear in DUI cases or cases where addiction can be used in mitigation. Attorneys may want to be aware of the symptoms in order to prepare for cross-examination of an expert.

Our experts can review the medical records and police reports in your case to help you identify what symptoms and actions are related to heroin intoxication or withdrawal.


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