Heroin Addiction Treatment and Rehab Programs

Last updated on February 21st, 2020

How Do I Find Help for a Heroin Addiction?

Heroin rehab programs provide treatment and support for people addicted to heroin. Comprehensive heroin rehab is offered in a number of treatment settings, including both inpatient and outpatient. Many rehabs for heroin or other opioid drugs include a detox program at the start of treatment. Then the patient receives a combination of therapeutic interventions, such as individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, peer support groups, and more, to help address drug-using behaviors and avoid relapse.

Inpatient Treatment vs. Outpatient Treatment

Heroin rehabilitation family counseling

When selecting a heroin treatment center, you have the option of choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Individual treatment needs are naturally going to vary, and there are certain benefits (and drawbacks) to both types of treatment for heroin addiction that may inform the decision for treatment type.

Outpatient facilities can vary widely. Many outpatient rehabs provide treatment in the form of education, group therapy, individual therapy, and in some cases, access to psychiatric care or medication assisted treatment. Outpatient programs range in levels of intensity and, to some extent, the treatment plan can be tailored to each client, with the number and type of scheduled weekly groups varying based on the individual’s needs.1

The time commitment can be substantial in an inpatient (residential) rehab setting, and studies suggest that a minimum of 90 days in treatment is essential for successful outcomes and long-term sobriety. Due to the tenacious nature of heroin addiction and the many facets of an individual’s life it affects, an inpatient treatment program is commonly sought.1

Heroin is highly addictive, both mentally and physically. Those who attempt to quit often suffer from a withdrawal period that can be extremely uncomfortable. A benefit of many inpatient treatment programs is that they commonly include some form of medically supervised detox and around-the-clock support to keep those recovering as safe and comfortable as possible—minimizing relapse risks.



Heroin Tolerance vs. Dependence

Tolerance and dependence on heroin are two different things. The body develops a tolerance to the effects of heroin when it is used regularly enough for the brain to adapt to the level of heroin present.2,3,9 The more tolerance the body builds up, the more heroin it will require for the user to feel the same effects that they experienced when first using.2,3,9 Tolerance is generally a warning sign that an individual is developing heroin dependence.

Dependence occurs when heroin users begin to feel that they need the drug to function normally. Heroin dependent individuals frequently experience uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms which may prompt additional drug-seeking behaviors. The chronic use of heroin seen in those with opioid dependence can also prompt increased tolerance to heroin, requiring the use of ever increasing amounts of heroin to stave off withdrawal symptoms.2,4


Self Assessment
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Duration of Treatment

The length of time spent at an inpatient heroin rehab center varies by individual. The appropriate length of treatment depends on many factors. A commonly offered treatment duration is the 30-day program. Some heroin treatment facilities also offer 60- and 90-day programs. In general, at least 90 days in treatment is recommended, as research has shown that anything shorter is less effective.5,6

Longer programs are available, and may provide additional support for those who have completed a 30-day program and relapsed, individuals with co-occurring mental or physical health issues, or those who lack a stable home environment. There are also heroin rehab centers that offer inpatient treatment for as long as a year. Deciding which option is right for you is an important step toward starting your recovery.


Differences in Preferences before and after Treatment

Advice from people leaving treatment

In 2016, Recovery Brands conducted a survey that asked people leaving a treatment center what clinic attributes they believed to be the most vital things to examine when looking at a program. The top consideration was the program’s payment policies, for example insurance accepted, financial support, and payment options. They also placed a high importance on the facility’s offerings (extra activities, quality of housing, food quality, etc.) a lot more upon leaving treatment. Individuals considering treatment should examine a center’s financial policies as well as program offerings to help with their facility choice. Read More



Heroin Detox

The first step in heroin rehab is detox. The main objective of detox is to relieve withdrawal symptoms while your body adjusts to functioning without the drug.7 Detox from heroin under medical supervision helps ensure that the patient is as safe and comfortable as possible.8

The type of detox program will depend on the facility chosen. Some facilities choose to ease the detox process through medication-assisted treatment.

Heroin Addiction Medications

Providing tapering doses of replacement medications can reduce the symptoms of withdrawal in a safe, medically monitored setting. Some of the medications that are used include the following:8,9

  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that heroin binds to, reducing withdrawal symptoms. It helps relieve cravings while avoiding the dangerous side effects of opioids. Suboxone is a brand name that is taken orally or sublingually and includes naloxone.
  • Methadone: Like buprenorphine, methadone binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is a slow-acting opioid agonist that is taken orally, which reduces the “high” that occurs when taken in other ways while also preventing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid agonist that blocks opioid receptors and thwarts opioid drugs from having an effect. It is not addictive or sedating and does not bring on physical dependence.

Another type of detox method is abstinence-only or social detox. With this type of detox, there is no replacement drug, and the patient will simply stop using the drug, with no opioid replacement support to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal. Many find this form of detox quite challenging in cases of heroin withdrawal. More recently, medication assisted detox is becoming an increasingly common method for managing heroin dependence.


Rehab Therapy

After you complete detox, you will enter into addiction therapy. There are many different options for therapy at heroin rehab facilities. Most rehab centers provide both individual and group therapy, along with education about addiction. Some facilities will also incorporate family therapy sessions into the treatment process, or provide psychiatric treatment if the individual has an underlying mental health disorder.

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Aftercare & Ongoing Support

Because every recovery process is as different as the person recovering, heroin rehab centers will carefully plan for ongoing care once the initial treatment duration has ended. To do so, many treatment programs will offer their own aftercare programs or will go to great lengths to plan for or arrange extended treatment or aftercare for all treatment alumni.

People in recovery tend to do best when they have a plan in place for when they check out. During the treatment process, trained counselors will work with you to develop an aftercare plan, which can include outpatient treatment, private therapy, 12-step meetings, long-term residential treatment, and sober-living housing.


Tips to Prevent Heroin Relapse

Addiction is a treatable disorder and those who misuse heroin can find a path to recovery. While rehab helps those with a heroin addiction work toward sobriety, relapse often occurs and it does not mean that treatment has failed.10

Relapse is actually very common on the path to recovery, and returning to drug use after trying to stop is an often normal part of the process.10 Relapse indicates that a resumption, modification, or change in treatment may be in order.10  While it can be common, though, there are strategies available to help patients have a greater chance of avoiding relapse.

Strategies to avoid relapse include the following:

man in intake appointment for heroin
  • Outpatient treatment.
  • Group counseling.
  • Individual therapy.
  • Addiction support groups, including 12-step programs (AA, NA, etc.)
  • Regularly scheduled follow-up appointments at a hospital/clinic.
  • Controlled living environment.
  • Continued maintenance and updating of relapse prevention strategy.

Recovery isn’t just a one-time effort, it is a lifelong work in progress, so make sure you do all that you can to stay steadfast in your sobriety.

Five Rules of Recovery

When it comes to recovery, there are five rules that can help with continued success. The five rules are:11

  1. Change your life: Create a life in which it is easier not to use.
  2. Be honest: Tell the truth as addiction involves lying.
  3. Ask for help: Having support from others is shown to significantly increase the chance of long-term sobriety.
  4. Practice self-care: Focus on yourself and your needs and know that does not equate to selfishness.
  5. Don’t bend the rules: Don’t try to do recovery your way. Don’t sabotage change.

Paying for Addiction Rehab

A common question is with regard to what it will cost to complete a heroin addiction rehab program. Costs vary between centers, but there are various options to help pay for treatment, including private insurance, sliding-scale fees, loans, or payment plans.


Rehab Near or Away From Home?

Whether you should travel or check in to a heroin rehab center that is near you is a personal choice. If there are a lot of family members and sober supports within the community, staying close may be a better choice.

Some individuals find that traveling helps them start the new path of recovery and avoid outside stressors or triggers. The most important aspect is that the individual seeking treatment feels sufficiently safe and comfortable to focus on treating the addiction.


Are You Ready for Rehab?

Knowing when it is time to enter a heroin rehab center can be difficult. If you have decided that it is time to fix the problem, this is a good indication that you are ready to explore your treatment options.

It’s never too late to turn your life around and free yourself from heroin addiction. Recovery is a long and sometimes difficult process, but it allows individuals the opportunity to live a healthy, happy, sober life.


Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Types of Treatment Programs.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction6: Definition of tolerance.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction8: Definition of dependence.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says: 7: Duration of treatment.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says8: Medical detoxification.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Heroin: What are the treatments for heroin use disorder?
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Heroin.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brain, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery.
  11. Melemis, S.M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Yale J Biol Med, 88(3), 325-332.
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