Heroin Addiction Treatment

Treating an addiction to heroin usually involves therapy, medication, support groups, and lifestyle changes. These treatments are available at both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers.

Due to the symptoms of withdrawal and the psychological grip heroin has on its users, a treatment center usually offers the best chances of a successful recovery.

Detox is the first step toward overcoming heroin. It is highly recommended to detox with a team of professionals who are trained to supervise and monitor you throughout the process of heroin detoxification. Heroin withdrawal is often painful and can last weeks for some, but physicians can prescribe medication that can minimize discomfort and help the body slowly readjust.

Therapy is also an important aspect for tackling the underlying behaviors that led to a person’s heroin use. Therapy can also tackle co-occurring disorders like depression, which is also known as dual diagnosis.

Options For Heroin Rehab

There are numerous rehabs that offer heroin addiction treatment throughout the country. But not all treatment centers are the same; some have better track records. Those looking for a rehab should consider their specific needs, such as a polydrug abuse problem, and make sure the treatment center is equipped to help them.

Some of the best heroin rehabs include:

Inpatient Rehab

Most former heroin addicts have inpatient rehabilitation to thank for their recovery. Inpatient rehab eliminates the outside environmental and social factors that make it harder to achieve sobriety.

During rehab, residents have a structured routine that includes daily therapy, support groups, and activities. Every rehab is a little different with the types of activities they offer. Some focus on physical as well as mental health, supporting daily exercise. Some are more exciting, scheduling hiking excursions and rock climbing. Others are more relaxed, offering a more luxurious treatment setting.

Inpatient heroin rehab usually lasts between 30 and 90 days but may last longer in some cases.

Detox is also an important part of inpatient rehab. Because heroin withdrawal symptoms can be intense, many people will use the drug to relieve their pain even if they are serious about quitting. A medically supervised detox helps lessen withdrawal symptoms, which is often accomplished with the help of medication.

After patients complete inpatient rehab, they are strongly encouraged to continue treatment. Generally patients are advised to enter a partial hospitalization program (PHP), then intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), and finally standard outpatient (OP). Aftercare is often combined with outpatient treatment and alumni support groups.

Heroin Addiction Medications

Medical management is important in helping wean individuals off heroin by helping to reduce cravings and prevent future use. Some medications commonly prescribed to people addicted to heroin include:

  • Buprenorphine

    Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist that stimulates the same opioid receptors in the brain that are impacted by heroin. Buprenorphine significantly reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms and is also helpful for individuals with chronic pain. Common brand names for buprenorphine include Buprenex, Suboxone, and Subutex. The use of buprenorphine can be dangerous for someone who is not completely ready to stay clean from heroin. If someone were to use buprenorphine and then heroin, they are at high risk of experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms and possibly overdose due to having to use more of the drug to experience the effects they are used to. Buprenorphine is often used during acute withdrawal to alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal; however, it is also used for medicine assisted therapy (MAT).  It can be habit-forming, therefore it should be used with caution and taken directly as prescribed by a physician.

  • Methadone

    Although stronger than buprenorphine, methadone essentially works in the same way. Often referred to as the brand name Dolophine, methadone is itself an opioid and its use is controversial because it can build up in the body if taken too often, making overdose more likely; it also has a high addictive potential. It is sometimes used for short-term detox purposes, but has been proven to be most effective for longer term medication assisted therapy. Methadone maintenance treatment makes it easier to maintain abstinence for the long term, as it also helps reduce cravings. Because methadone can be habit-forming, it should be used with caution and taken exclusively as prescribed by a physician.

  • Naltrexone

    Also used in treating alcoholism, naltrexone helps prevent heroin from working in the body by preventing it from reaching the opioid receptors in the body. Also known as Revia or Vivitrol, naltrexone makes it so the body cannot feel the effects of heroin; the individual does not achieve the euphoric effect they are looking for.

  • Suboxone

    This is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. This combination not only relieves withdrawal pain, but also inhibits the effects of heroin. Suboxone can be very dangerous to take if someone is on it and decides to try to get high with heroin. The individual may take larger and larger quantities of heroin to achieve a euphoric state, but it can result in an increased likelihood of overdose.

Ongoing Treatment And Relapse Prevention

Some people addicted to heroin turn to outpatient rehab for help. Outpatient rehab is generally recommended for people with mild addictions. It allows people in recovery to get therapy and medications while continuing to maintain their work and personal lives. All individuals seeking treatment should first meet with a substance abuse professional for an evaluation to determine the appropriate level of care that meets their needs.

After heroin rehab, ongoing treatment is crucial to staying sober. Making regular visits to a therapist helps many recovering heroin addicts stay focused on sobriety. Therapists can help recovering addicts identify and overcome triggers and weaknesses. They can also provide methods to cope with heroin cravings.

Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Heroin Anonymous (HA) are also effective ways to prevent relapse for many people.

Once you decide to live sober, you need to change your people, places and things. Don’t keep hanging out with the same old people. Go to meetings, meet new sober friends. I’m not the guy that makes new friends that well but I gave it a shot and my life has only gotten better. I have my son and a great job.

- Victor W., sober and in recovery from heroin and other drugs

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Tips To Prevent Heroin Relapse

  • Don’t stop taking medications

    People who are prescribed medications like buprenorphine should continue taking the drugs until a doctor confirms it is safe to stop. Stopping these medications can lead to the emergence of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Withdrawal all too often leads to relapse.

  • Continue counseling and meetings

    Heroin has lasting effects on the brain reward system long after the drug is out of the body. One day of stress can tempt people to use, but support from a therapist or a 12-step meeting can alleviate temptations.

  • Be careful with new prescriptions

    Some people relapse because they were prescribed opiate-based pain relievers like hydrocodone. Recovering heroin addicts that have surgery should be upfront with their physician about their addiction. There are non-narcotic pain relievers available, and physicians can treat pain while minimizing the potential for relapse.

  • Make sober friends and find sober hobbies

    Boredom is a common complaint from recovering heroin addicts who are readjusting to sober life. The best way to combat this is to join in productive group activities. One person recovering from addiction found comfort in playing sports, seeing movies, and going to the beach with people he met in support meetings.

Find Help

Heroin addiction treatment is out there. The first step is outlining your specific needs, whether it’s counseling for anxiety or other mental disorders, or treatment for a co-occurring addiction. There are also resources and rehabs that can help you work with your budget to help pay for treatment. If you need rehab-related help, contact a treatment provider today.