Heroin Treatment: Quitting Heroin and Getting Heroin Addiction Treatment

Quitting heroin and getting heroin addiction treatment is daunting, but new treatments for heroin addiction make the odds of successful recovery much better.

Quitting heroin and getting into heroin treatment is a big decision, but it's also a big step forward to a healthier life. Quitting heroin may even seem impossible at times, but there are several treatments for heroin addiction that are designed to help someone quit heroin.

Medical heroin treatment may be required for:

Estimates vary widely, but some estimate up to 97% of those getting treatment for heroin addiction will relapse.1 The best heroin addiction treatments involve initial withdrawal from heroin under medical supervision and then heroin treatment in a therapeutic community residential program lasting 3 - 6 months.2

Heroin Treatment - Acute Treatment for Heroin

If under the influence of heroin when medical heroin addiction help is sought, the doctor will first determine if treatment for heroin overdose is required. The doctor may:

  • Ensure breathing, with assistance if needed
  • Provide IV fluids
  • Monitor vital signs

Heroin treatment, when under the influence, also typically involves the administration of naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid receptor blocker that reverses the effects of heroin.

Heroin Treatment - Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal and Heroin Treatment Maintenance

Treatment for heroin withdrawal can be crucial to the success of heroin treatment as it's often the withdrawal pains that send an addict back to using heroin. While withdrawal is unpleasant and possibly painful, it is not life-threatening and there is treatment available for heroin withdrawal effects.

Heroin withdrawal begins 6 - 12 hours after heroin use, peaks at 1 - 3 days and subsides in 5 - 7 days. The first seven days of heroin withdrawal treatment is often done in a heroin treatment facility. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating, cold sweats
  • Mood changes like anxiety or depression
  • Restlessness
  • Cramps, severe muscle and bone aches
  • Tears, running nose
  • Insomnia
  • Chills, Fever
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • And others

Treatment for heroin withdrawal can minimize these effects and shorten withdrawal time. Medication treatment for heroin addicts going through withdrawal includes:

  • Clonidine - Reduces anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramping
  • Buprenorphine - a pain medication that blocks withdrawal symptoms, thought to be the safest option with lower risk of addiction

Ongoing medication treatment for heroin addiction often includes buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone:

  • Methadone - reduces pain sensations and can be used during pregnancy
  • Naltrexone - blocks the effects heroin

For medications used in heroin treatment, the ultimate goal is to discontinue them completely. Maintenance treatment for heroin addiction often tapers off these medications very slowly to avoid withdrawal pain.

Heroin Treatment - Non-medication Treatment of Heroin Addiction

While heroin addiction treatment almost always includes some medication, the best chance at long-lasting recovery is the inclusion of behavioral heroin treatments. Both residential and outpatient heroin treatments are available.

Heroin treatment therapies include:

  • Contingency management therapy - a system where addicts earn "points" for drug-free screenings. These points can then be exchanged for items that encourage healthy living.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy - designed to challenge the thoughts and actions associated with drug use. Stress-tolerance and life skills are taught to encourage a new way of approaching everyday life.

Heroin treatment also frequently includes group therapy or support either in a heroin rehab center or in a community group such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Being around others also quitting heroin can be key to successful heroin treatment.

article references

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2021, December 15). Heroin Treatment: Quitting Heroin and Getting Heroin Addiction Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info