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Treating A Heroin Addiction

by Landmark Recovery

August 31, 2020
A woman talking to her friend at a lake about her heroin addiction


Heroin is a street drug classed as an opioid. Like opium, morphine, and codeine, it is derived from a type of poppy, papaver somniferum. It is synthesized from morphine through a chemical process and found on the street in various forms, including white powder, brown powder, and black tar.


It is used by injecting, snorting, smoking, or ingesting. Taken in any form, it is highly addictive, and once addiction takes hold, it’s very tough—and dangerous—to treat without professional help.


Understanding the Addiction

A woman talking to her friend at a lake about her heroin addiction

Heroin creates a sensation of intense, immediate surge (or rush) of euphoria. Addicts often refer to its high as “the nod,” as it gives users a sensation of dreaming, even while awake. The high allows the user to dissociate from reality and distance themselves from any physical and emotional pain.


Addiction is an uncontrollable dependence that can be physical, mental, or both. Once a heroin addiction takes hold, it isn’t just the brain that craves the rush of using, as the body becomes dependent too. An addicted individual will exhibit drug-seeking behaviors at any cost. Very quickly, it becomes their primary function in life, both to chase the high and also to calm the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.


Treating Heroin Addiction

In overcoming heroin addiction, the first recommended step is medical detox, followed by behavioral therapy and sometimes medication. Detox occurs in a clinical environment under medical supervision as the withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, to say the least.


Some symptoms of heroin withdrawal include restlessness (also known as “the kick”), severe muscle cramps, bone aches, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, sweating, goosebumps, flu symptoms, and insomnia – all of which start to present within a few hours of last use. The worst of the symptoms peak at 24 to 48 hours, but will begin to taper off after about four days.


Depending on individual circumstances, some may choose to undergo maintenance therapy, which swaps out the heroin for a substitute like methadone, buprenorphine, or suboxone, or naltrexone. These replacement substances help to wean the user off heroin under medical supervision, allowing them to mitigate the effects of withdrawal symptoms and continue functioning in their daily lives.


Because the withdrawal can be so intense, painful, and potentially fatal, a doctor should oversee it. Landmark Recovery offers medically-assisted detoxification on an in-patient basis, as when the goal is complete detox, the individual must be adequately supported during this time.


During and after detox, an individual will undergo behavioral therapies. Landmark Recovery offers both in-patient and outpatient services, from 35-day residential treatments and intensive outpatient programs, to the middle-ground partial hospitalization services. All three services include behavioral therapies, including group and one-on-one sessions. Patients will learn new coping strategies and have frequent check-ins and check-ups to track their progress.


Overcoming an addiction to heroin is not easy. But taking that first step is critical to rediscovering a healthy, fulfilling life.


If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, we know how scary it can be. We want you to know that you are not alone. Reach out today to learn how to get started.


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We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.

About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.