Recovery Guide for Heroin

Heroin addiction is a serious medical disease. Repeated use of heroin or other opioids changes the way the brain operates. These changes cause cravings, impaired reasoning and withdrawal symptoms. Rehab that includes residential care, opioid medications, counseling and a variety of support systems is usually necessary for recovery from heroin addiction.

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Heroin Abuse

The use of heroin has been on the rise in the past 15 years. Heroin is easily accessible and cheaper than other opioid drugs. When we misuse opioid drugs, it elicits the same effects and feelings to the body just as heroin. Most people use opioid medications and heroin to feel relaxed and ‘high.’ Opioid drugs such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone are expensive and not easy to access. A prescription from a doctor is mostly required.

Because heroin works the same as opioid drugs and can be found all over the streets, most people opt for heroin. Research shows that over 70% of heroin addicts were once using a prescribed opioid drug. They later began using heroin to keep up with the demand of their bodies.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, abuse of opioid drugs most likely leads to damage of heroin. Heroin is cheaper and readily available, and this is why heroin use and related deaths have been increasing rapidly.

Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a drug manufactured from the white opium flower. It is either a brown or white powder synthesized with morphine. It sometimes resembles black tar. The introduction of heroin to the body system is usually through injection, inhalation, and snorting, or smoking. Heroin gets into the bloodstream faster than most drugs.

When introduced to the body, the brain converts the heroin compound back to morphine. Just like opioid drugs, heroin binds the opioid receptors, mainly those receptors responsible for the perception of pain and pleasure. The user experiences a euphoric feeling accompanied by drowsiness. Euphoria occurs when opioid drugs taken in large quantities. The intensity of the euphoric feeling shows how heroin is more potent than other opioid drugs. A large number of opioid medications will elicit the same effects attained by a small intake of heroin.

Heroin is highly addictive because it gets to the brain very quickly. It doesn’t matter the method you use to introduce it to the body. The highly addictive drug is deadly and dangerous to the body. Dealing with the addiction of heroin needs dedication and personal will from your side. After making the decision, the patient needs to seek help from professionals. It is not easy to altogether quit the drug all on your own. You need professionals to help you out. Most people who try to get over the addiction rarely make it. They stop for a few days before they get back into using the drug.

What To Look For In A Rehab

Rehab for Heroin

If you want to get over heroin for good, you need to find the right rehab center. I will describe what a good rehab center should entail below. When addicted to heroin, the body structure, mental and psychological function of the body is affected. An excellent rehab facility should help you regain your environmental conscience, proper mental and psychological functioning.

Addiction to heroin affects the body, especially the brain and the receptors. You need a prescribed medication program from a professional. Without the medication, you will not make it altogether quitting the drug. The withdrawal symptoms and the craving of heroin will pull you down.

So before starting your rehabilitation process, ensure that the procedure involves the administration of the medication needed to help you get over heroin for good.

Pharmacological Treatment For Heroin

Pharmacological treatment is the most effective step in fighting heroin addiction. The medicine puts the addict in a program that helps him or her reduce the use and craving of heroin. The medication also reduces the risk of disease transmission and involvement in criminal activities.

When you abruptly quit heroin, you will most definitely experience withdrawal symptoms which are difficult to deal with. These withdrawal symptoms include a feeling of pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. These symptoms may be severe and torturous. Medication in this detoxification stage eases the craving of heroin. The drug also reduces physical symptoms that are responsible for relapsing.

Which Drugs Are Used During the Detoxification Stage?

Lofexidine For Heroin Detox

Lofexidine is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms caused by opioid medications. It is a non-opioid drug used in the detoxification stage of the treatment of addiction itself. Detoxification is not the treatment, but it is necessary to undergo detoxification before indulging in real treatment.

Medication used to treat addiction to opioids work through the pain and pleasure receptors, just like the opioid drugs themselves. They are, however safe and do not produce symptoms produced by opioid drugs.

Types of Medications

Medications for Heroin Withdrawl

There are three types of medications used in the treatment of heroin addiction. They are known as agonists, partial antagonists, and antagonists.

Agonists are responsible for the activation of opioid receptors. The heroin deactivates the receptors, making the person feel ‘high’ and relaxed.

Partial Agonists also work to activate the opioid receptors. They have a smaller response compared to the agonists.

Antagonists block the receptors. The blockage of the receptors results in interference of the rewarding effect of heroin. When you take the antagonists, the heroin will have no effect when you consume it. It bars the impact of heroin.

These Medications Include:


Methadone is an opioid agonist. Its effect on the body is slow. You do not get over the addiction of heroin overnight. The process is gradual. Methadone is administered to the body orally. The oral introduction makes the drug movement to the brain slower. When methadone gets to the brain, it deactivates the ‘high’ caused by heroin. It also prevents the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is an excellent treatment for treating heroin addiction. It has been used since the 1960s, but remains active. Methadone works effectively, especially in patients who are unresponsive to other treatments. It is only available in outpatient programs that are approved. It is dispensed to the patients daily.


This is a partial opioid agonist. It relieves the craving of heroin, without making the patient feel ‘high.’ It has no dangerous effects that opioid have. Suboxone is a formulation of Buprenorphine that is administered orally to the body. Suboxone contains naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist. The naloxone induces withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms are averted when the naloxone is taken orally as directed. Buprenorphine was approved in 2002 by the FDA. This made it the first drug to be viable for prescriptions by certified physicians under the Drug Addiction and Treatment Act. Its approval led to an elimination of the need to visit specialized treatment clinics. This has expanded access to heroin addiction treatment to many.


Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. It works by blocking the action of opioid s in the body. It is not sedating or addictive. It doesn’t result in physical dependence. Unfortunately, it’s been reported that patients often have trouble keeping up with the treatment using naltrexone. Because of non-compliances, its usage has become less effective. Naltrexone injectable long-term drug received FDA approval in 2010. Its use has become quite popular since the approval. It is only injected monthly, eliminating the need to do away with the daily dosages by removing the need for daily dosing. Other than medication administered to the patients, behavioral therapies are necessary for heroin treatment. A combination of both behavioral therapies and medication often produces positive results.

Behavioral Therapies For Heroin Recovery

Many behavioral therapies can be administered to the patients in outpatient facilities or a resident cognitive behavioral therapy, and contingency management has proved to be effective in the treatment of heroin addiction. These therapies have proved to be effective when either of the medications described above accompanies them.

Contingency management encourages patients to earn points towards a healthy living. It is a voucher-based system whereby the patients earn points when they taste negative for heroin. They can, after that, exchange their points for other items that are suitable for healthy living.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is designed to help the patient improve their behavior and expectations related to drug use. The approach also helps patients improve their skills in coping with different factors and life stressors. An excellent heroin rehab facility and professional will be able to identify the best medicines and approach effective in fighting heroin disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is designed to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviors.

After the treatment of heroin addiction, it does not end there. The patient needs counseling to help them keep on track. The patient needs support from professionals in the form of counseling. There are two types of counseling. Group counseling and individualized counseling are necessary at the end of treatment.

Individualized Group Counseling

Individualized counseling focuses on completely stopping the consumption of heroin. It also focuses on addressing issues of the illegality of the drug, how it impairs the body and cognitive functioning, employment, and family status and social relations. It also reviews the structure of the patient’s recovery program.

The short-term counseling helps the patient learn skills to refrain from indulging right back into heroin use. The counseling helps the patient develop coping strategies and completely abstain from the drug.

Group Counseling

Many addiction counselors use group counseling in the reinforcement of social status. Group counseling capitalizes on peer discussions that help promote drug-free lifestyles. Research has shown that more positive results are achieved when group counseling is combined with individual counseling. A patient should, therefore, have sessions of group counseling and sessions of individualized counseling.

Types of Treatment Programs

Most heroin addicts start with detoxification and management of withdrawal symptoms. These are always considered the first stage of the treatment of addiction. As stated earlier, detoxification only gets rid of the drug in the system. It does not help one completely start a drug-free lifestyle. It must be followed by a formal assessment and drug addiction treatment. The treatment may be unpleasant, with some fatal side effects. This is why physicians administer it in either inpatient or outpatient settings. The settings used in the treatment of heroin addiction are different. A patient with the physician chooses the most suitable environment for the patient, depending on the needs and characteristics of the patient.

Long-Term Residential Treatment

Long-term residential treatment offers care to the patient 24 hours a day. This happens in a non-hospital setting. It often occurs in a therapeutic community. The patient stays in the city for a length of 6 to 12 months.

The long term residential treatment focuses on improving the social lifestyle of the patient. In this setting, addiction is seen as a deficit of social and psychological aspects of life. The program focuses on redeeming the social and mental growth of the heroin addict. The treatment teaches patients to develop personal accountability, responsibility, and improvement of productivity in the social sphere of their lives.

The confrontational treatment helps the patients destroy the self-concepts, destructive life patterns and ill beliefs. The structure of the program helps the patient view life from a new and constructive perspective. Other Long-term residential treatments offer employment training onsite. This way, a patient learns how to be productive with their life.

Short-Term Residential Treatment

Short-term residential programs are brief but extremely intensive. This was a program designed for the treatment of alcohol addiction. It is now used to treat other addictions, such as those of heroin and cocaine. It consists of 3-6 weeks of a hospital inpatient program. An extended outpatient program follows.

The outpatient program involves different sessions of therapy. The patient is also involved in the participation of a self-help group. The extended outpatient program reduces the risk of relapsing after the patient leaves the inpatient program.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatments are usually cheaper than inpatient and residential treatment models. They are common among people with jobs. They are also suitable for people who need extensive social support. The model of outpatient treatment depends on the needs and characteristics of the patient. Group counseling is a significant component of outpatient programs.

Why You Need to Get into a Residential Program

The risk of relapsing after heroin treatment is very high, especially during the first stage of treatment. When in an outpatient program, people have access to hawkers or street joints selling the drug. The temptation of falling right back into the addiction is not easy to deal with.

With an inpatient program, you are surrounded by individuals trying to fight the addiction. The area is also free from the drugs. You are also surrounded by counselors who will be there for you. The inpatient environment is filled with positivity. There are no drugs allowed. The environment is just clean.

Long-Term Aftercare & Relapse Prevention

Long Term Heroin Aftercare

Most inpatient programs are measured in months. People with heroin addiction often need to engage in long-term relapse prevention because the relapse risks can stretch on for years. This means one can participate in 12-step groups to help prevent relapses. In the relapse-help inpatient programs, the patient gets to meet people with the same background in heroin. The group forms a community that focuses on leaving the addiction of heroin behind. The people share ideas, successes, challenges, and support in their groups. Fighting addiction to heroin cannot be successful single-handedly. The long-term after-care and relapse prevention are common in inpatient facilities.

Heroin Addiction Detoxification vs. Rehabilitation

There is a common misconception that rehabilitation and detoxification are the same. Detoxification is only a step in the rehabilitation process. Detoxification is simply the act of getting off of heroin.

Detoxification is a critical step in rehabilitation. The chances of relapsing are very high if the patient undergoes detoxification only. The patient needs to undergo various phases of treatment, medication, talk therapy from professionals, and support from counselors and family. All these steps are significant in combating heroin addiction.

Most inpatient programs are measured in months. People with heroin addiction often need to engage in long-term relapse prevention because the relapse risks can stretch on for years. This means one can participate in 12-step groups to help prevent relapses. In the relapse-help inpatient programs, the patient gets to meet people with the same background in heroin. The group forms a community that focuses on leaving the addiction of heroin behind. The people share ideas, successes, challenges, and support in their groups. Fighting addiction to heroin cannot be successful single-handedly. The long-term after-care and relapse prevention are common in inpatient facilities.

Heroin Addiction Demographics

Long Term Heroin Aftercare

The use of heroin in the past ten years has tripled in recent years. As of 2014, more than 467, 000 people were regular users of heroin. More than half of the addicted populations are women in their late 20s.

Over 70% of heroin addicts started their addiction journey when they began misusing opioid prescription drugs. Cases of heroin overdoses are becoming prevalent daily. It is better to speak up and get help before it is too late.

A person needs to undergo treatment if they need to recover from the deadly addiction of heroin. If the patient receives the right treatment with proper support systems, heroin addiction can be a story of the past. Heroin is very addictive and deadly. Help is just a call away. Seek advice and find appropriate ways of living a sober life.