Heroin Addiction Treatment

Doctor comforting patient

Heroin addiction can be a difficult, overpowering struggle; however, with professional heroin addiction treatment, you can stop using the drug and restore your life. Treatment is accessible and effective if you are motivated and find the right program that provides all the treatments and services you need.

Treatments and Services

Heroin addiction treatment includes drug counseling, behavioral therapy, medications, and support groups. These treatments help you get off of and abstain from the drug, and address the multiple dysfunctions addiction causes you, your family, and aspects of your life.

A comprehensive program provides or gives you access to all the treatments and additional services you need to restore your mental and physical health. It also rehabilitate your family, social, school, job, or legal problems. An effective recovery plan is an individualized one that combines treatments and services to fit your needs and gives you long-term support, according to National Institute on Addiction Treatment (NIDA).

Counseling and Behavioral Therapy

Professional drug counseling and behavioral therapy support you through your recovery, help you explore all aspects of your heroin addiction, improve your coping skills, and restore your life. Counseling and behavioral therapy may be sufficient if you don't have a severe addiction and don't need medications to stay off heroin.

Drug Counseling

Individualized drug counseling examines the reasons for your heroin use and how it affects your life as a way to to give you insight and the tools to stop using drugs. This type of therapy focuses on your drug use and how to overcome it. It also identifies any underlying psychological disorders or other issues that need to be treated. Your counselor will recommend other services you need for these problems. In addition family counseling recruits the help of your family in your recovery.

Behavioral Therapy

Heroin addiction, as with other drugs, affects your brain reward, memory, and motivation centers. This has a profound effect on your behaviour and diverts your attention and resources to seeking out your drug, sometimes at all costs. Behavioral therapy helps you explore and understand the origins of your drug use and drug-seeking behavior and find ways to diminish and eliminate them. You find better ways to cope and replace your heroin habit with more positive and less destructive activities.

With techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivation enhancement therapy, and family therapy, you develop the tools to live without heroin and repair your life and your relationships. You learn to avoid the associations and temptations of heroin and eliminate self-defeating thoughts and self- destructive behaviors. In group therapy, you benefit from sharing experiences, group discussions, and the support and understanding of others with the same problem.

Support Group

In addition to the support you get through counseling and therapy, support can come from enrollment in a support group. This includes a 12-step program, either given by your treatment site or in a community support group such as Narcotics Anonymous. Your counselor will encourage you to attend regular meetings, as this will help you stay in recovery and prevent heroin relapses.

Medications for Heroin Addiction

Medications are effective for treating heroin addiction, especially when combined with behavioral therapy. They decrease the psychological and physical dependence on heroin, as well as the drive to seek out the drug. If you have a severe heroin addiction and cravings make it hard for you to stay in recovery because of frequent relapses, you can benefit from taking a medication.

According to the National Institute of Health Fact Sheet, treatment medications for heroin addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications decrease or block the effects of heroin and other opiate drugs on your brain, according to Harvard Medical School.


Methadone, a synthetic opiate drug, has long been used to help people who have difficulty staying off drugs like heroin. It prevents the rush, euphoria, crash, and withdrawal symptoms of heroin. It also decreases the relentless cravings, drug-seeking, and other harmful habits, which allows you to function normally. It is an effective treatment for heroin addiction, although it has the potential for being abused for its inebriating effects.

Methadone works by binding to opioid receptors so that drugs like heroin can't bind and cause an effect. Its effects are milder and less harmful on the brain and body than heroin's effects. A downside is that it is only given out in special methadone maintenance clinics, which may not be convenient for some people. You take it by mouth daily for as long as you need to it maintain your sobriety.


Buprenorphine is also a synthetic opiate, which binds partially to opioid receptors. It acts similarly to methadone, causing a milder effect than heroin and helping people to not crave it. An advantage is that it can be prescribed from an authorized doctor's office and used three times per week, dissolving it under the tongue.

To stop people from dissolving and injecting buprenorphine, the brand Suboxone combines it with naloxone, which blocks and neutralizes its effect. With this combination, you ge t unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you try to inject buprenorphine. You may be started on buprenorphine only, and then switched to the combined form for long-term therapy.


Naltrexone is an opioid receptor blocker. It occupies the receptors so that when you take heroin after taking naltrexone, it can't get to the them. This prevents the drug rush, euphoria, and other heroin effects so you don't relapse to seeking and taking heroin. According to Harvard Medical School, naltrexone is a good choice for professionals, such as physicians who are highly motivated to keep their jobs.

Oral naltrexone is taken three times a week, but there is now a longer-acting, injection form that lasts six to eight weeks, making it more convenient to use. Before you take naltrexone, you have to be heroin-free for at least seven days. Otherwise, you will have acute withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Detox

The first step in your heroin addiction treatment is to stop taking it and detoxify your body in preparation for quitting for good. You can either stop cold turkey or gradually reduce your heroin dose.

If you decide to quit cold turkey, you do so in a hospital unit or a free-standing facility that manages drug detox. You will be given methadone or buprenorphine in decreasing doses to cover the abrupt withdrawal of heroin. Other medicines, such as clonidine, ease the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, sweats, and tremors.

Choosing a Treatment Programs

You can choose the type of heroin addiction treatment and services that best fit your needs and circumstances. People tend to do better with a combination of counseling, behavioral therapy, and methadone or buprenorphine . You can ge t treatment in outpatient or an inpatient programs, which vary in the types and intensity of services they offer.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment programs may only offer drug counseling, behavioral therapy, or medication maintenance, referring you for other services. Others are comprehensive and include all treatments and services, including a 12-step program, medical, psychiatric, and social services, and job and legal rehabilitation.

An outpatient program may be suit you if:

  • You work or go to school or have family commitments and can't take time away
  • You have a good support structure to help you during therapy
  • Your addiction is not severe, or you are already recovering from your addiction and just need additional support or services

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient drug treatment programs may offer detox management and include a comprehensive array of treatments and services.

Inpatient programs include:

  • Short-term residential rehab centers: You stay one to three months if you need intensive, short-term behavioral therapy, to have managed detox, or to initiate medications before going to outpatient treatment.
  • Long-term residential reh ab centers : Also known as therapeutic communities, you stay six to twelve months if you need more extended time away from your environment. Programs are more structured and controlled, provide comprehensive care, and gradually prepare you to function without the drug in your real world.

You can benefit from an inpatient program if your environment is supporting your heroin habit and you:

  • Have difficulty getting to an outpatient center or d on't have a family or social support system
  • Have a moderate to severe drug habit or use multiple drugs and need more intensive treatment
  • Need extended medically managed detox
  • Have a history of multiple relapses after outpatient or short-term residential treatment
  • Have additional psychological problems, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or you are at risk for overdose or suicide

Make a Commitment

Heroin addiction treatment can help you to stop using and stay off the drug, so don't hesitate to ask your family, friends, or your doctor for help to get into a program. Though the path to recovery may not be easy and relapses may occur, make a commitment to stay in treatment until you are free of the shackles your addiction.

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