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Heroin Treatment and Rehab

Serious health risks arise when heroin use is discontinued abruptly. Inpatient doctors and clinicians help ensure safe, successful recovery.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Happy couple in recoveryTreating 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 professional treatment center usually offers the best chances of a successful recovery.

Detox is the first step toward overcoming heroin. It’s best not to try detoxing without the help of a physician. 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.

Top Heroin Rehabs

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 and may offer a more luxurious treatment setting.

Inpatient heroin rehab usually lasts between 30 and 90 days but may last longer for more severe addictions.

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.

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. As an opioid, buprenorphine interacts with the same receptors as heroin, though its effects are limited. This helps with withdrawal and cravings.
  • Methadone. Although stronger than buprenorphine, methadone essentially works in the same way. Methadone use is controversial because it can build up in the body if taken too often, making overdose more likely; it is also potentially addictive itself.
  • Naltrexone. Also used in treating alcoholism, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors. This reduces cravings and prevents heroin from having an effect when taken.
  • Suboxone. This is a combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone. This combination not only relieves withdrawal pain, but also inhibits the effects of heroin.

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Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention

"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, in recovery from heroin and other drugs

Victor W. stayed off heroin with the help of support meetings and friends.

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.

After heroin rehab, ongoing treatment is crucial to staying sober long-term. 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 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

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 advises it’s safe to stop. Stopping these medications can lead to the emergence of post-acute heroin withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Withdrawal all to 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 or break a bone 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 one of the most common complaints from recovering heroin addicts readjusting to life without the drug. The best way to combat this boredom is to find friends to join in productive activities. One recovering heroin addict found comfort in playing sports, seeing movies and going to the beach with people he met in support meetings.

Get Help Now

Heroin addiction treatment is out there now. 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’re not sure where to start, call one of our addiction specialists now.

Sources & Author Last Edited: May 22, 2017

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). DrugFacts: Heroin. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from:
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Naltrexone. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from:
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Safe Use of Methadone. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from:
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Buprenorphine. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from:
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are the treatments for heroin addiction? Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from:
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