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Heroin Addiction has become a serious and tragic problem across the United States. Between 2010-2017 the rates of overdose deaths have increased fivefold, destroying lives and hurting families and all involved. In 2018, a study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were 15,000 deaths resulting from heroin overdose in 2017. In recent years, the risk of death related to heroin has increased dramatically due to the potent fentanyl that is often involved, usually unknown to the person who purchased the heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, it is urgent to get help now. A big deterrent to get help may be the fear of heroin withdrawal symptoms, but the reality is, there are a number of options that can help relieve the discomfort. The withdrawal symptoms are only TEMPORARY and can be overcome with help and support.

In addition to the medically supported detox process, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been shown to significantly increase the recovery success for individuals. These are medications such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, Suboxone, and methadone that can help the individual better stabilize in the early phases of addiction recovery. Combined with ongoing outpatient therapy, those prescribed MAT find that the medical support helps them resume healthy daily functioning and improves overall quality of life.


Heroin is in the opiate family of drugs, derived from morphine, and is a natural byproduct of certain poppy plants cultivated and harvested in Southeast Asia. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that caused a rapid increase of tolerance to the effects of the drug, leading to higher and more frequent dosing in an effort to experience the desired high. Heroin use causes a powerful reaction in the brain’s chemistry, attaching to opioid receptors in the pain and pleasure centers. A flood of dopamine leads to the “rush” that is felt upon injecting, snorting, or smoking the drug.

This powerful substance makes lasting changes in brain cells, causing the heroin to eventually take the place of dopamine production that would occur naturally. Without the drug, the user will eventually be unable to experience pleasure at all, leading to ever higher dosing. When chemical dependence takes hold, any attempt to stop taking heroin results in highly uncomfortable flu-like withdrawal symptoms. At this point the user takes the drug to avoid being sick due to the withdrawals.


The telltale withdrawal symptoms will emerge when the heroin is withheld. These symptoms of the body rebelling when the heroin is not provided are the signs of heroin dependency. Symptoms begin as mild flu-like symptoms, then peak at about 72 hours before beginning to subside. Generally, heroin detox takes about one week.

  • Body aches and pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea and Vomiting
  • Chills and cold flashes
  • Shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive yawning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restless leg movements
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Heroin cravings

Again, heroin withdrawal is temporary, and with the right treatment and support team, you can get past the withdrawal and start healing your brain to produce natural and health chemical again.


The majority of people using heroin will typically require admission to a medically monitored heroin detox and rehab. This will allow the treatment team to minimize the withdrawal symptoms for a higher chance that the individual will complete the detox portion of the treatment. In addition to medical support, the detox team will provide the important psychological support that can help the individual remain committed to completing the detox process and then transitioning to treatment.

Over-the-counter medications are provided to help mitigate the discomforts of heroin detox for such symptoms as diarrhea, nausea, and body aches. To help reduce drug cravings, the individual may be started on a prescription medication, such as buprenorphine or methadone at a safe point during the detox timeline.  Use of these drugs may help alleviate the powerful cravings that can cause the individual to relapse back into active addiction.

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is determined by a number of factors. These include:

  • History of heroin addiction
  • Usual daily dosing
  • Presence of additional substance addictions
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Age and general health status


Following detox, a recommendation of 30+ days of inpatient, residential, outpatient, and sober living support options are crucial to the long-term recovery from heroin addiction. Heroin addiction treatment will begin through a variety of treatment elements provided through the rehab provider of choice. While these programs vary in intensity, the programming for treating heroin addiction will involve the following:

  • Psychotherapy: The role of psychotherapy is central in addiction recovery. The psychotherapist will utilize a number of evidence-based therapies to effectively guide the person toward adopting new healthy thought patterns while introducing coping skills to assist them in recovery. In addition, the therapist can help the individual explore their emotional state and work through any lingering or unresolved issues that need attention during the recovery process.
  • Group therapy: Addiction and depression can leave someone feeling very isolated and alone in their disease. Bringing together small groups of peers who can discuss their points of view and personal experiences with each other can give each participant a feeling of belonging. This shared experience, the recovery journey, can bond the participants and even foster new friendships that will endure after rehab is completed.
  • Recovery meetings.  Recovery meetings offer opportunities for peers in recovery to learn from each other and to become inspired by those who have achieved a sustained recovery. These groups include 12-step programs like A.A. and N.A., as well as non 12-step programs like Smart Recovery or others.
  • Psychosocial education: Clients are taught about how addiction develops and how to recognize the risks associated with relapse. They will be coached in developing their own specific relapse prevention plan, and will be equipped with the necessary recovery tools to sustain recovery.
  • Adjunct therapies:  To promote stress reduction and relaxation therapies such as yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, and other holistic practices can be beneficial in heroin recovery.


To truly overcome a heroin addiction it is essential to include aftercare planning in the overall treatment picture. These are the actions taken following detox and treatment that will help solidify a sustained recovery. Attempting to go it alone after rehab is a serious mistake, as the brain will take months, even years, to stabilize in recovery. During this period, having sources of support is a necessity. These may include:

  • Sober living Near Me.  One’s home environment can present problems in recovery if there is not a supportive family to return to. If this is the case, it is essential to locate a sober living environment that provides substance-free housing and support.
  • Medication management. MAT can be a useful recovery tool for the first year or more in heroin addiction recovery. These drugs are tightly monitored through ongoing outpatient support.
  • Outpatient resources. Having access to regular outpatient therapy and support groups is an important source of guidance and reinforcement during the vulnerable early phase of recovery.
  • Recovery community. Finding a recovery community that fits the individual’s personal philosophy and preferences can provide a significant protective factor in recovery. Meetings offer social support and opportunities for cultivating new sober friendships.

To further enhance the chances of a successful recovery, attention should be paid to restoring physical and mental health and wellbeing. This can be accomplished through a nutritious diet, getting quality sleep, and engaging in regular exercise.


Call 877-408-0734 to connect with a treatment center. You will receive a free confidential assessment to review your complete heroin and substance abuse history, medical conditions, psych-social, and psychiatric conditions. Receive individualized support and guidance to you or your loved one and find you the best possible treatment option for your unique situation and needs.

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