A 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 681,000 Americans used heroin in 2012, an explosive spike from the 314,000-455,000 who had used it between 2002 and 2005. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that heroin abuse has doubled for Americans aged 18-25. In 2013, about 8,200 deaths from heroin overdose occurred, nearly quadruple that of 2002. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers it a Schedule I drug, meaning it is highly addictive, likely to be abused and has no medicinal purposes in the U.S.

What Is Heroin Addiction Treatment?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Heroin is extremely addicting, and about 23 percent of those who use it will become addicted to it.

Pleasurable feelings happen within minutes of taking a heroin hit because the drug fits perfectly into certain receptors in the brain. And even one hit changes the brain cells

Substance abuse, like opioid addictions, is a serious and growing problem. But there are a number of treatments available to help heroin users break the cycle of heroin addiction. Treatment options may include a combination of medication, therapy, activities, lifestyle changes and self-help support groups. These activities may be conducted at a residential rehab center.

Why Seek Heroin Addiction Treatment?

As the body gets used to the effects of the drug, it requires more and more to give it that same euphoric feeling. And as usage increases, health risks do too. Heroin addiction opens users up to a number of serious health issues that include:

  • Liver disease
  • Pulmonary infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heart infections
  • Hepatitis
  • Skin infections
  • HIV
  • Infertility (in women)
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Inability to control and manage stress
  • Miscarriage
  • Death

Types of Heroin Addiction Treatments

Treatment is about helping users find news ways to cope with urges, cravings and the stresses of life, and to find the strength within themselves and their community of support to resist relapse.

There are a number of treatment options that can be tailored to people based on their needs. The most common include:

Residential Rehab

Professional Residential treatment centers are best for heroin detox and long-term treatment. Heroin withdrawals can trap users not only in the physical withdrawal symptoms but a host of psychological ones as well. Residential treatment centers offer 24/7 care during the detox phase.

Residential treatment programs provide a safe place for heroin detoxing and starting on the road to lifelong recovery from opioid dependence. Residential treatment centers have achieved great results, and a majority of former heroin users have overcome their addiction and maintained sobriety after completing residential treatment. Residential rehab centers and programs eliminate the outside influences and stressors that tempt people back into heroin use and provide professional and group support into long-term recovery. Residential treatment includes a variety of activities to prevent boredom that often leads to relapse. These programs often include activities like hiking, windsurfing, and sports to aid in recovery by getting people healthy in body and mind.

Between daily therapy and support groups and counseling for co-occurring disorders or drug addictions that may incorporate behavioral therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy, caring professionals help residential dive deep down to the roots of addiction to heal wounds of the past and ensure more productive and lifelong sobriety.

Medications for Heroin Addiction

Medications can help reduce cravings and make the detox and rehab process smoother and more sustainable.


Buprenorphine is itself an opioid. Since it affects the same receptors as heroin it can help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and heroin cravings. Because it has limited effects, and is less likely to form an addiction, it is sometimes used as an ongoing form of abstinence maintenance therapy because. Some studies have shown a 40-60% sobriety rate after one year using this medication.


Naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors to block the feel-good effects of heroin. That means that if a patient happens to use heroin while on it, they won’t get the high they were looking for. This medication can also help cut cravings, and is often used in alcohol treatment programs.


Methadone is federally regulated, and must be used carefully because it can be addicting itself. It’s easier to overdose on this medication because of its tendency to build up within the body. The long-acting drug is often given as one pill a day. The prescription is tapered over time to allow the brain to start producing its own chemicals again. This medication helps with withdrawal symptoms and cravings much like buprenorphine, but is much stronger.


Suboxone does triple duty to prevent pain and withdrawal symptoms, cut cravings and prevent the feel-good high of heroin use.

Long-Term Treatment

Drug detox may take several weeks. But drug recovery and sobriety is a lifelong endeavor. While it begins with moment-by-moment decisions to abstain, it can be helped by ongoing treatments, such as therapy, medication and forming new habits.

Therapists and support groups can help people maintain their new lives with ongoing accountability and provide help in identifying triggers and an arm of support to stay strong.

Medications such as buprenorphine may sometimes be prescribed to assist with keeping cravings at bay. It’s shown some success as a long-term treatment aide.

An addiction-free life requires lifestyle changes, like making new friends and finding new hobbies to help those in recovery continue working toward their goals of long-term sobriety. Support groups offer a starting point for developing new, sober friendships and a supportive network.

What About Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms go hand-in-hand with drug detox, and can begin within hours of the last hit, and can last for up to 10 days as users purge their bodies of the drug. These withdrawal symptoms may be painful, a fact that often keeps heroin users from seeking help. But when heroin detox is done with the aid of a professional, medications are often prescribed to reduce or eliminate discomfort while the body adjusts and is weaned off of the drug. This gentle therapy can help heroin addicts find their sense of normal again.

Typical withdrawal symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, sweating, shaking, restlessness, muscle pain or spasms, agitation, depression, drug cravings or relapse. But with the right heroin addiction treatment program, users can minimize the discomfort to successfully wean themselves off of the drug. The opioid addiction detox process is often paired with a number of treatments, including medication, therapy and activities to help a patient get back on their feet and learn new coping methods and strategies to fight temptation.

Because heroin affects physiological process like breathing and heart rate, it’s vital to monitor the body during detox. In an residential treatment facility, professional can monitor a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and temperature levels to ensure safety through the process.

There Is Help for Heroin Addiction

If you’re addicted to heroin, know this: there is help available, and heroin addiction treatment has helped many heroin users press forward toward lifelong recovery. Do you have co-occurring disorders? Or deep emotional scars that that require simultaneous treatment? Determining your unique needs is the first step. There are a plethora of resources available to help you get the help you need to get on the path to your addiction-free life. Not sure where to start? Get in touch with one of our addiction specialists today to take the first step toward you new life.