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Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Some people think they can “kick” heroin on their own. The truth is that’s extremely rare and can be dangerous. Some data pegs heroin relapse rates at around 90%. To safely detox from heroin and stop using it for good, users typically need medical detox, time away from triggers, behavioral therapy, and often, medication. Attending a structured rehab program that understands the complexities of heroin addiction is your safest and best chance for long-term recovery. Seeking heroin addiction treatment is your first step to a better life.

Signs You Need Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin is a highly addictive drug because of the way it affects your brain’s reward system. You can quickly develop a tolerance to it, needing increasing amounts to get the desired feeling. With regular heroin abuse, your body starts needing the drug to function normally. At this point, you need heroin just to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin addiction can cause serious health issues and problems in your relationships and responsibilities. If you’re using heroin at all, you should consider professional help. This is a drug that can take over your life, and the sooner you get help, the better.

Signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Failed attempts at cutting back or quitting heroin on your own
  • Needing increasing amounts of heroin to achieve the desired high
  • Developing a physical dependence on heroin and feeling sick without it
  • Problems or absences at work or school
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Apathy toward activities you once enjoyed
  • Constant preoccupation with how you’ll get more heroin and when and where you will use it again
  • Financial or legal problems tied to heroin use
  • Selling possessions or stealing to fund your drug addiction
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Poor personal hygiene and disheveled appearance

How Do You Treat Heroin Addiction?

Overcoming heroin addiction takes a lot of work and determination, but it is very possible — and life in recovery is well worth it. Heroin addiction treatment will be most effective at a drug rehab well-equipped to handle heroin withdrawal symptoms, detox, and long-term care. An integrative approach is ideal, which typically includes:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Behavioral modification techniques
  • Psychiatric sessions
  • Nutrition and fitness
  • Case management
  • Peer support
  • Continuing care

Risk of relapse is often greatest at times of transitioning home or away from the treatment center. It’s important to have a solid support group and treatment plan when leaving a treatment center. Many people will do best at a sober living residence rather than returning home if the environment is triggering.

A good heroin treatment and rehab center will provide emotional, psychological, and medical support, as well as physical stabilization in the initial days of programming. They will create a treatment plan that draws on evidence-based approaches to foster behavioral changes. An aftercare plan is also critical for relapse prevention.

Medical Detox

Heroin abuse can have a strong physical impact on you. The withdrawal that occurs between uses becomes an inevitable part of the addiction cycle. Heroin withdrawal symptoms are quite uncomfortable and often lead to continued use or relapse.

Physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Strong cravings
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Digestive issues
  • Body aches
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

Some heroin addiction treatment centers will stabilize you during the detox process with lesser opioids. This can help you taper off the stronger drug. These include suboxone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. Many physicians are moving away from methadone because newer, less addictive interventions are now available. Some non-opioid medications such as lofexidine are also often used to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering helps your body adjust gradually instead of quitting heroin “cold turkey.” It can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Your body won’t need opioids eventually, and you’ll have only mild withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, heroin addiction treatment and medical monitoring is important. Some withdrawal symptoms can occur later, though these are usually psychological and emotional issues, such as mood swings, irritability, and “ghost” symptoms.

Inpatient Treatment

An inpatient heroin addiction treatment program is ideal. This setting provides you space away from triggers and gives you 24/7 access to behavioral health and medical professionals. A supportive team of addiction experts is a key component in early addiction recovery. Staying at a treatment center helps you resist cravings to use heroin during withdrawal and the weeks following when urges are strong. If you reside in a dysfunctional living environment, triggers may make staying away from heroin extremely difficult.

If inpatient treatment is not feasible, the next level of care is a partial hospitalization program (PHP). A PHP allows you to live at your residence or in sober living homes while attending treatment during the day. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is the next level of care. Many substance abuse treatment centers have options to attend IOP’s during daytime or nighttime hours.

Addressing the reasons behind drug and alcohol use and learning healthy coping skills are necessary for long-term recovery. A heroin rehab center should offer individual and group therapy, family therapy, dual diagnosis treatment, and medical monitoring. Working with therapists to identify the underlying issues of addiction is integral for relapse prevention.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Scientists have developed drugs that can reduce cravings for heroin and ease or prevent heroin withdrawal symptoms. These prescription drugs attach to your opioid receptors in similar ways as heroin without making you feel high. When you’re not dealing with intense heroin cravings or withdrawal symptoms, you can better focus on the treatment you need to maintain long-term sobriety.

The following opioid addiction medications are approved by the FDA and may be used in MAT:


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to the same opioid receptors as heroin. It essentially tricks your brain into thinking it’s heroin, so your brain doesn’t produce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. If taken as directed, buprenorphine is safe, effective, and does not have the same addictive euphoric effects as heroin. Because it doesn’t get people high, buprenorphine has less potential for abuse. Buprenorphine must be prescribed by a doctor.


Naltrexone is more commonly known by the brand name Vivitrol. It’s an opioid antagonist. Like buprenorphine, it binds to opioid receptors to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Vivitrol is a full opioid antagonist, so if you relapse and take heroin with it, the risk of overdose is significant. You must receive your naltrexone injection at a healthcare facility.


Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It is prescribed as a film you put underneath your tongue to dissolve. The naloxone in Suboxone can safeguard against misuse and overdose. Suboxone also prevents you from getting high from heroin or other opioids while taking it. Suboxone can be taken at home.


Methadone is a long-acting, full opioid agonist. It can help prevent heroin cravings and symptoms but has a high potential for abuse. You must get methadone treatments at a licensed methadone clinic. Once you’re ready to come off methadone, you will need to go through medical detox.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Treatment for heroin addiction — or any substance abuse — should always include psychiatric care. Around 50% of people with substance use disorders also have mental health disorders. Often drug or alcohol addictions arise as a way to “self-medicate” psychiatric symptoms that haven’t been treated. Mental health disorders can be treated with medications and/or behavioral therapy. When your psychiatric symptoms are managed, you may feel less of an urge to use heroin to cope with them.

Continuing Care

Overcoming heroin addiction or any substance use disorder requires ongoing addiction recovery work. Once you leave a treatment and rehab program, you must put healthy practices into place that support sobriety. The addiction center where you receive treatment should help you with an aftercare plan. Components of continuing care for people addicted to heroin may include:

  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Family therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Continued medication assisted treatment
  • Psychiatric appointments
  • 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Participation in your addiction treatment center’s alumni meetings and events
  • Drug testing
  • Transitioning to a sober living home

Heroin Addiction Treatment Timeline: How Long Does Recovery Take?

Everyone’s recovery journey is different. There is no set timeline for heroin detox and treatment. It depends on factors like:

  • How long you’ve been abusing heroin
  • How much heroin you take
  • Your physical and mental makeup
  • Co-occurring mental or medical conditions
  • Your support system

Here is a potential timeline for heroin addiction treatment:

Heroin Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms may begin within 12 hours of the last dose. The worst withdrawal symptoms usually peak between the second and third day of detox, then the symptoms slowly taper off. Detox may take up to a week for some people. Even though the most bothersome withdrawal symptoms will be eliminated, some may linger for several weeks to months. These include symptoms like:

  • Stomach issues
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Research shows that at least 90 days in treatment is needed to be effective in drug addiction treatment. It takes time to address the reasons you abuse heroin and to develop relapse prevention skills and begin feeling better physically and mentally. Some therapeutic models claim that 6 to 12 months of residential treatment is ideal for long-term recovery.

Continuing Care

Continuing care is what happens after formal heroin treatment through a treatment facility like Vogue Recovery Center. It can begin with intense aftercare treatment, but really, recovery is something you’ll work on your entire life. After a structured, professional rehab program, people typically engage in the following to help prevent relapse:

  • Individual therapy
  • Support groups
  • Physician and psychiatrist appointments
  • Self-care
  • Alumni programs

Effects of Heroin Abuse

Heroin enters your system quickly, affecting your brain chemicals, heart rate, feelings of pain and pleasure, and sleep. It’s often “cut” with other substances and additives such as powdered milk, sugar, or starch. These can lead to severe or permanent damage to internal organs. Fentanyl is a deadly substance that is also used to cut heroin. It is extremely potent and puts you at very high risk for heroin overdose. Short and long-term effects of heroin include:

Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use

  • “Cotton” or dry mouth
  • Feelings of heaviness in limbs
  • Impaired mental ability
  • Nodding out
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Skin feeling warm, heart flushing
  • Euphoric rush

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Long-term health effects may include:

  • Sleep issues
  • Collapsed or damaged veins for IV users
  • Nose tissue damage for those who snort heroin
  • Heart valve damage
  • Internal organ breakdown
  • Digestive problems
  • Lung and breathing issues
  • Co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Abscesses
  • Impotence or sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • HIV/hepatitis from needle sharing
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss

Heroin Addiction Facts

The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to the opioid crisis in the U.S. Some heroin addiction facts reported by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration  show that in just one year:

  • 902,000 Americans used heroin.
  • 667,000 Americans used both heroin and prescription painkillers.
  • 235,000 Americans only used heroin (i.e., did not misuse opioid painkillers).
  • 7 million Americans ages 12 and older met the criteria for an opioid use disorder.
  • Americans ages 26 and older made up the majority of people diagnosed with an opioid use disorder (2.3 million).
  • More than 9 million Americans ages 12 or older misused opioids.
  • Young adults ages 18 to 25 misused opioids the most.
  • The second-highest opioid misuse came from Americans ages 26 or older.
  • The opioids Americans misused the most were prescription painkillers (9.3 million people).
  • Heroin addiction can be a chronic relapsing condition – One study showed that around 72% to 88% of heroin users relapse within 34 months.

Will Insurance Pay for Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Your insurance plan may cover all or a portion of medical detox and a drug and alcohol treatment program. Laws are in place that require that most insurances cover rehab for substance abuse and mental illnesses in the same way as they cover medical conditions. You may need to meet a deductible or incur some co-pays and out-of-pocket treatment costs. If you’re considering addiction treatment and unsure about your insurance coverage for outpatient or inpatient rehab, our admission advisors can provide you with a free insurance benefits check. We’ll work directly with your insurance provider to determine your coverage and any out-of-pocket expenses.

Heroin Addiction Treatment at VRC

Vogue Recovery Center provides evidence-based treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders. We draw on a blend of approaches from individual and group therapy to experiential therapy and trauma-focused therapy. Our treatment facilities are home-like, welcoming, and staffed with behavioral health professionals who are experts in the field.

Vogue treatment centers offer a full continuum of care that includes medical detox for alcohol and drug abuse as well as inpatient and outpatient rehab options. We know this is a difficult time, but we want you to know that recovery is possible. We’ve seen thousands of clients take back their lives. You can too. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.

Vaun Williams

Medically Reviewed by Vaun Williams, Psy.D., LPC

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