Substance Use

Heroin Addiction Treatment: What Are the Options?

heroin addict with needle handing it to someone

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Treatment for heroin addiction includes various methods that tackle the physical, mental, and social facets of the disorder. A widely used strategy is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which merges prescription medications with counseling and different forms of therapy. (1)

Among these therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management stand out. (2) They focus on changing drug-related attitudes and behaviors, teaching ways to manage stress and triggers, and enhancing skills for dealing with life’s challenges.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offers a community of support, sharing encouragement and understanding from others who’ve faced similar battles with addiction.

Whether through inpatient or outpatient rehab programs, individuals can find a structured setting that provides all-around care—from medical attention to therapy and additional support services.

As a disclaimer, the best path to overcoming heroin addiction might differ for everyone, highlighting the need for treatment plans that cater to each person’s unique situation, goals, and challenges. Personalized care coupled with continuous support plays a key role in navigating the journey to recovery.

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The Options for Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin dependence is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires professional help to overcome. (3) Fortunately, many treatment options are available for those struggling with heroin addiction, short-term and long-term.

These options include:

  • Detox programs
  • Interventions
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy

Ultimately, heroin addiction is life-threatening, increasing the risk of other diseases like hepatitis. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment options available for those struggling with this type of drug use. (4)

Types Of Treatments For Heroin Addiction

The following are types of treatments for heroin addiction:

1. Detox

Detox is the initial step in addiction treatment. It is a medically supervised process that allows the body to rid itself of the toxins associated with heroin use.

Typically, heroin detoxification is an intensive residential program that provides around-the-clock care and support to help individuals manage their withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

2. Medications

According to MedlinePlus, medications can treat heroin addiction by blocking the effects of the drug in the brain. (5

Commonly prescribed medications for heroin addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. This type of treatment helps minimize physical symptoms of dependence on heroin and aids in relapse prevention or opioid use disorder. (5)

3. Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), are designed to help individuals identify and cope with underlying issues that contribute to heroin addiction. (6)

With these therapies, individuals can develop new coping skills and strategies to manage cravings and triggers better. These therapies can also assist care providers in managing underlying mental health issues and offering emotional support.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that through cognitive-behavioral therapy, patients are equipped with the tools to mitigate drug cravings and manage stressful circumstances. This approach alters their expectations of substance use and helps them adjust negative behaviors accordingly. (7

Contingency management is an effective behavioral treatment that offers motivational incentives, like vouchers or minor cash rewards, for positive behaviors like remaining drug-free. This approach to addiction recovery becomes even more successful when combined with medication and getting rid of stressors in a patient’s life.

4. Aftercare

Aftercare is an important part of heroin addiction treatment. Aftercare can include ongoing therapy, support groups, family therapy, case management, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These services provide additional support to individuals in recovery as they adjust to life after completing inpatient or outpatient treatment.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, individual, family, social, genetic, environmental, and peer-related factors are associated with heroin addiction prognosis. (8

Those with a robust support system, excellent impulse control, and beneficial genetic predispositions will likely experience more positive health outcomes.

Additionally, those who are likely to follow through with their outpatient care and complete a detoxification program under the guidance of a psychiatrist have an optimistic outlook for recovery.

Effects of Heroin

When someone takes heroin, it quickly gets into the brain and attaches to certain areas called opioid receptors, making them feel extremely happy and relaxed—this is often described as a “rush.” (9)

Right after taking it, people might notice their heartbeats slowing. Sometimes, they might go in and out of sleepiness, which some call “nodding off.” If someone keeps using heroin over time, they’ll need more of the drug to get that same happy feeling because their body gets used to it. This leads to a physical dependence.

Using heroin over a long period can lead to many serious health issues. It can make breathing shallow, cause heart problems, and harm the liver and kidneys.

There’s also a higher risk of catching infections like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis due to unsafe practices associated with drug use. (10)

Beyond physical health, heroin can take a toll on mental well-being, too, leading to feelings of deep sadness and nervousness and making it hard to think or remember things clearly. This shows just how critical it is to stop heroin use before it starts.

Create a treatment plan or seek health care professionals quickly if someone is showing signs of addiction or side effects of heroin use.

Am I Addicted to Heroin?

Figuring out if you’re addicted to heroin isn’t always straightforward, but certain signs can give you a clue. If you notice that you can’t seem to control how much heroin you use, feel a strong need for it, or go through withdrawal when trying to cut back or quit, these might be red flags.

Also, if using the drug starts taking over your life—meaning you’re skipping out on work, ignoring friends and family, or running into trouble with the law because of it—it’s time to consider getting help.

Addiction is tricky and often needs expert substance abuse treatment and care for recovery.

When To Seek Treatment

If considering when to seek treatment, users should assess their level of dependence on heroin.

According to MedlinePlus, with repeated heroin use, an individual’s body will become increasingly tolerant of the drug. This means that greater and greater amounts of heroin must be taken for any effect to occur. (11

Prolonged use of heroin will lead to dependence. If this happens and the user decides to quit or is unable to access the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when their body attempts to adjust back without it.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include: (12

  • Restlessness
  • Pain in the muscles and bone
  • Stomach problems like diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps

Other signs that a person should seek treatment for heroin addiction include: (12

  • Financial troubles
  • Social problems
  • Legal issues
  • Health concerns related to heroin use

How to Find a Heroin Treatment Center

When looking for a treatment center, it is important to do your research and find one that best suits your needs. It is also important to find a center that has experience in treating heroin addiction specifically.

Zinnia Health offers heroin addiction treatment centers across the country. Explore our locations to find one that is best for you.

You can search online for listings of treatment centers in your area or speak with your doctor about recommendations.

Questions to ask include:

  • What types of heroin treatment programs do they offer?
  • Do they accept insurance?
  • Do they provide follow-up care and support?
  • Are their clinicians licensed or certified to treat heroin addiction?

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about heroin addiction treatment and drug addiction include:

1. Does Insurance Cover Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Many health insurance plans cover some or all of the costs of heroin addiction treatment. However, it is essential to check with your provider to determine your coverage type and any restrictions that may apply.

2. Are Medications Used in Heroin Treatment?

Yes, medications are used in heroin treatment to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

Some of the most commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that you can safely take these medications for an extended period of time, whether it be months or years. However, as with any medication, consult your doctor before changing anything regarding your dosage or discontinuing use. (13)

They work in the following ways:

  • Buprenorphine suppresses and reduces cravings for heroin
  • Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of heroin and prevents feelings of euphoria
  • Methadone reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of heroin

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) points out that the length of time in methadone treatment varies but is typically at least 12 months. (14

If a patient wishes to discontinue methadone treatment, it must be done gradually to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, an experienced physician should always oversee this process.

Another medication commonly used in treatment for heroin addiction is naloxone, which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose.

3. Are Drug Treatment Programs Effective for Heroin Addiction?

Yes, drug treatment programs can be effective in treating heroin addiction. These programs typically combine medical detoxification with behavioral therapies to help individuals manage their cravings and underlying issues contributing to the addiction.

Get On the Right Path To Recovery Today

Zinnia Health provides expert opioid dependence treatment with a true sense of care and commitment. Your healing journey will be tailored to your individual needs, ensuring that you or your loved one completes a personalized treatment program for successful long-term recovery from your substance use disorder. Contact us today at (855) 430-9439 to find a treatment facility near you.


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