Key takeaways:

  • For most people, the first step in recovery from heroin addiction is detox. Heroin detox can be painful and uncomfortable but treatment can make this process easier. A combination of medication and therapy can help people get through the first weeks of withdrawal while also learning tools to maintain their sobriety
  • Some people benefit from receiving medication that can ease the withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings during early recovery from heroin addiction
  • The pain and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms mean many addicts struggle to begin detoxification on their own. That’s why addiction treatment and rehab centers are vital resources for those looking to recover

Many people find it hard to overcome an opioid addiction on their own. Seeking residential treatment from an inpatient rehab center or outpatient rehab clinic can help people overcome their addictions.

Treating heroin addiction

Heroin addiction treatment involves both outpatient and inpatient services. Depending on the facility, treatment may involve medication-assisted treatment (MAT), therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), supervision, support groups, and case management, or some combination of these. 

Treatment centers offer the best environment to aid withdrawal and increase the chances of successful recovery from heroin addiction. Co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety can also often be treated in a heroin addiction rehab center.

For most people, the first step in recovery from heroin addiction is detox. Heroin detox can be painful and uncomfortable but treatment can make this process easier. A combination of medication and therapy can help people get through the first weeks of withdrawal while also learning tools to maintain their sobriety.

The detox process from heroin can be strenuous on the mind and body, and withdrawal symptoms can leave people feeling ill and achy for a week, or sometimes even longer. Many treatment programs offer both prescribed medication that can help the heroin withdrawal process as well as group or individual therapy to teach new coping skills.

When choosing a treatment center, someone suffering from heroin addiction should consider seeking input from a licensed professional who specializes in addiction. This way, they can receive clinical guidance about what options are available to them, and which treatment might best meet their needs. There are numerous treatment programs ready to help those struggling with heroin addiction including those listed below.

Get help during covid-19

Get help during Covid-19

At Recovered, we recognize the impact COVID-19 has had and the continued challenges it poses to getting advice and treatment for substance use disorders. SAMHSA has a wealth of information and resources to assist providers, individuals, communities, and states during this difficult time and is ready to help in any way possible.

Speak to SAMSHA

Inpatient heroin rehab

Some people benefit from inpatient rehab programs when they are first working to overcome a heroin addiction. Inpatient treatment centers eliminate external factors, like environmental and social triggers, and help with the detox process, making it easier to get through initial heroin withdrawal symptoms

Along with medical treatment, inpatient programs offer therapy, group support, and other activities to help shift focus from heroin abuse. Each rehab is different and may offer specialties that others don’t. For example, some offer specialized treatments using CBT, equine therapy, or art therapy, and some facilities even offer high-end luxury accommodations. Stays at inpatient treatment centers often last between 30 and 90 days, though some will be longer.

Outpatient heroin rehab

Outpatient treatment is recommended for those who have completed inpatient rehab to continue treatment and prevent relapse. Research shows that staying in treatment for 6 months or more helps to greatly improve the rates of long-term sobriety. [2] There are many forms of outpatient treatment that are recommended for different stages of recovery from heroin addiction.

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)

Often classed as the most intense form of outpatient care, PHP requires patients to attend treatment most, if not all, days of the week while living at home. Treatment normally involves structured whole-day programs that may include individual and group treatment, drug screens, and meetings with a psychiatrist or prescriber (if needed). This treatment is beneficial for those who require a high level of care and support with their recovery, or for those who are stepping down from inpatient rehab.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)

The step down from partial hospitalization programs (often used by PHP patients as the next step) IOP requires patients to attend treatment for three hours a day, often for five days a week but declining as recovery improves. Most IOP programs offer a mix of psychiatric medication (if needed), urine drug screens, recovery skills groups, and individual counseling or case management.

Standard outpatient treatment

Standard outpatient treatment usually only requires attendance one to two times a week and often involves individual counseling, group counseling, family therapy, or some blend of these. Those with less severe addictions or who have already established their sobriety may find this level of treatment meets their needs.

Medications for recovery from heroin addiction

Some people benefit from receiving medication that can ease the withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings during early recovery from heroin addiction. The most common forms of medication used to treat heroin addiction include: [4]

  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is highly effective at helping with cravings and painful opioid withdrawal symptoms as well as being used in medically assisted therapy (MAT). 

  • Methadone: Methadone, often known by the brand name Dolophine, is an opioid that works in the same way as buprenorphine, despite being stronger. This medicine has more side effects than some other medications and does carry the risk of abuse.

  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone blocks heroin from reaching the opioid receptors in the brain, effectively preventing the drug from working. By blocking the euphoric effect of heroin on the limbic system, it is intended to reduce heroin dependence by making the process of heroin abuse unfulfilling. 

  • Suboxone: A combination of buprenorphine and Naltrexone, Suboxone helps with withdrawal symptoms and inhibits the effects of heroin on the brain. This medication is often preferred over methadone because it is thought to be non-intoxicating. It does, however, cause withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using it.

  • Clonidine: A medication that can help to ease many of the physical symptoms associated with heroin and other opioid withdrawals.

Support groups for heroin recovery

Some people benefit from peer-led support groups that provide a safe place for people in recovery to come together, share, and discuss their recovery. These groups can be a great supplement for those receiving other forms of treatment or for those who have already completed other treatments. While not considered a formal treatment, support groups like 12 step meetings (i.e. AA or NA) and SMART recovery have proven success in helping people get and stay clean and sober. (White)

Certain groups, such as Heroin Anonymous (HA), are specifically designed for those who have suffered from heroin use disorder. These meetings provide a chance to share experiences with others who have been through the same issues and provide support and ways of coping. These groups are offered in most communities around the USA and are often free to attend.

Get help with heroin addiction today

Heroin addiction can be devastating for the user and their loved ones. The pain and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms mean many addicts struggle to begin detoxification on their own. That’s why addiction treatment and rehab centers are vital resources for those looking to recover. Setting up a call or appointment with a treatment center or licensed addiction specialist can help you determine which treatment is right for you. With treatment, many people are able to overcome their addiction to heroin or other opioids and establish a fulfilling drug-free lifestyle.