Heroin, an opioid drug made from morphine, is a lethal substance that creates intense dependency and a high risk of an overdose. Heroin is a natural substance taken from the seed pods of the poppy plants grown in Asia, Mexico and Colombia. Between 1999 and 2019, almost 500,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Many of those were from heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Detox, medication and ongoing counseling provide the best ways to beat the physical dependency and chemical addiction caused by this drug. Fortunately, numerous addiction treatments are available. The first step is to find the best treatment options available.

How Heroin Addiction Is Treated

Using heroin creates a euphoric high. It’s this euphoric feeling that heroin users crave. However, they need increasing amounts of heroin to maintain that high.

Heroin has dramatic effects on the brain and the body. Physically, the user can feel nauseous, have problems sleeping, develop heart, lung, kidney or liver problems or suffer constipation and stomach problems. To overcome heroin addiction, patients frequently need to undergo a comprehensive treatment plan that includes several essential steps.


If a person has used heroin for a long time, their brain has formed a chemical dependency. A long-time user of heroin can’t simply stop using it. If they do, they face possible seizures, loss of consciousness, paranoia and possible sudden death.

When a person struggling with heroin addiction seeks withdrawal treatment in a formal detox center, medications and treatment options minimize the impact of their withdrawal. Treatments include:

  • Medications: Medication can be prescribed to reduce the more severe withdrawal symptoms, gradually helping users be able to stop taking the drug.
  • Behavioral therapy: It’s crucial that during the first stages of detox, users start to figure out the reasons they use the drug and what’s happening in their lives. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management are commonly used during this detox stage.

Residential Treatment

After achieving stability during the initial detox stage, recovering users can enter residential treatment. This treatment is most effective for users with a severe addiction and an unstable living arrangement that places them at significant risk of relapsing into their addiction.

Residential treatment is also known as inpatient treatment and can last from weeks to months. The duration of the stay will depend upon what the user needs to help them withdraw from the drug. Patients will live in a rehabilitation facility that provides ongoing treatment and assistance and a supportive environment. Since this is a safe environment, it’s easier to remove negative influences and triggers that lead to relapses.

Treatments include:

  • Ongoing behavioral therapy: Growing from what they learned in detox, cognitive behavioral therapy helps users recognize the thought processes that lead to poor decisions and actions.
  • Nutritional treatment: Heroin users don’t treat their bodies very well. Poor nutrition, stress and illness caused by repeated drug use devastate the body. Nutritional therapy is crucial to rebuilding the user’s physical and mental health.
  • Group sessions: Patients take part in group sessions where they can work with other patients to talk about addiction issues, share personal struggles and establish a foundation for recovery
  • Holistic treatment: Holistic treatment uses noninvasive techniques like experiential therapy, meditation and yoga to restore the whole person — mind, body and spirit.
  • Family therapy: Some recovering users may benefit from working with their families. This kind of therapy can help them improve familial relationships and resolve obstacles that hinder long-term recovery.

There are many benefits to inpatient care. Recovering users can improve their health, develop healthy habits, have ready access to medical care when needed and build a community for support. Patients develop more structure in their daily lives. These are important elements to prevent relapsing.

Outpatient Treatment

Most recovering users seek outpatient treatment after detox. However, it’s more typical for patients to undergo intensive outpatient treatment, requiring more time in a rehab center. Patients observe a routine schedule while receiving care, but instead of living in a facility, they live at home or in another stable environment.

Several sessions a week are often involved in outpatient care. Intensive treatment and care usually last 4 to 5 hours a day, 3 to 5 times a week. Patients continue with their individual and group therapy sessions and use medications if necessary. Staff help patients develop a customized treatment plan based on their needs.

Why Heroin Addiction Needs Treatment

Using heroin, whether long-term or short-term, creates an intense dependency with devastating results. Treatment is the best and in many cases, the only way to help a user stop taking the drug. It helps a user’s body recover from severe side effects like malnutrition, illness and stress and creates opportunities to overcome heroin addiction that wouldn’t exist without it.

How Long Is Heroin Treatment?

The seriousness of the addiction dictates the length of the stay. It depends upon the needs of the individual user. Some users may only need to spend a few days in detox, while others might spend weeks or months. Patients may then require up to three months in an inpatient program.

Heroin addiction is like any other addiction — many recovering users need to visit counselors regularly to help maintain their sobriety. A lifetime commitment to getting well is essential.

Therapies Used in the Treatment of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a complex knot to unwind. Therefore, therapists have developed numerous ways to provide care for users. While there’s a wide range of therapies to choose from, they’ll select the one that best suits the unique needs of the recovering person. Treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Emotions and thought processes play an important role in addiction. CBT teaches a recovering user how to recognize these emotions and thought processes. It then helps them learn how to change these thoughts and deal with negative emotions to lead to more positive outcomes.
  • 12-step programs: Probably most famous for their use with alcohol addiction, a 12-step program helps recovering individuals uncover the causes of their addiction and make the necessary changes to overcome the risk of relapse.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: This therapy teaches people how to make better decisions and then reinforces them.
  • Contingency management: Common in heroin treatment, it uses stimulus control and when it produces good results, positive reinforcement is given. It changes behavior on a deeper level.

Medical Treatment for Heroin

People in recovery can require medical and medication treatment for years because of the high level of intensity created by heroin addiction. Many users receive medications when they first enter detox, and others will require them for ongoing support while they recover from their addiction. Medication options include:

  • Clonidine: Controls cravings and manages the desire to use
  • Loperamide: Controls diarrhea and gastrointestinal complications common in heroin use
  • Methadone: Methadone stimulates receptors in the brain like opioids but without euphoria and is highly effective at controlling addiction
  • Naltrexone: Blocks the function of receptors in the brain triggered by opioids, eliminating the benefit of using heroin
  • Suboxone: A lessened form of heroin, it provides similar benefits to the brain, allowing for less shock to the system when heroin is removed

Holistic Treatment for Heroin Use

Holistic treatment takes place throughout heroin recovery. It provides recovering users help in a nontraditional environment.

Treatments include:

  • Meditation
  • Hiking or equine therapy
  • Exercises like yoga or Pilates

Lifelong Recovery From Heroin Addiction

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. Many users will require intense support for the first few years after receiving their initial stages of easement for heroin addiction. Support groups and 12-step programs help many people stay grounded and avoid relapses. Patients work with a mentor or a sponsor and eventually become one to help others.

If you live in South Florida and struggle with heroin addiction and you want treatment, we can help. At Sunlight Recovery, our compassionate counselors are standing by to talk to you right now and explain your detox options. Call us at (844) 299-0618. There’s never been a better time to take your first step on the road to recovery.