A Complete Guide To Heroin Recovery

Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Millions of Americans struggle with some form of drug addiction — including addiction to heroin, an illicit opioid that can be deadly in high doses.

Recovering from heroin addiction is possible, and can be best accomplished through access to some form of substance abuse treatment, such as an inpatient or outpatient treatment program followed by aftercare.

What Is The Process Of Heroin Recovery?

Heroin addiction, also known as heroin use disorder, affects an estimated 691,000 people in the United States, including both teens and adults.

Opioids like heroin can be psychologically addictive. They can also cause physical dependence with chronic drug use, due to the effects of heroin on the brain.

When ingested, heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain which produce powerful painkillers and sensations of euphoria in the person using the drug. 

Addiction recovery is a long-term process. It doesn’t happen in a day, a week, or even a month. But it is possible with a strong support system and treatment.

For most, this intervention will begin with a detox program, followed by either an inpatient or outpatient rehab program, and eventually followed with continued long-term therapy. 

Here, you will find more information on:

  • early recovery
  • outpatient care and sober living
  • individual therapy and 12-step programs
  • the importance of a support system during recovery
  • achieving long-term recovery from heroin addiction

The journey to sobriety will be different for every person, depending on the severity of addiction, length of time using heroin, and their progress through each stage of recovery. 

Early Recovery From Heroin Addiction

The first step in the recovery process is entering a treatment program. Depending on your needs, this could include detox programs, inpatient programs, medication-assisted treatment, and more.

Detoxing From Heroin

Detox may be accomplished in an inpatient or outpatient setting. However, it is recommended that people using heroin begin with inpatient detox so their withdrawal symptoms can be monitored closely.

Find out more about heroin detox programs.

Inpatient Heroin Addiction Treatment

After the detox process, which may last up to two weeks, people are encouraged to continue treatment at an inpatient drug rehab center where intensive therapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can continue.

During this time, people may receive opioid agonist medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, or suboxone to manage the intense withdrawal symptoms that may occur. 

Inpatient programs usually take a minimum of 30 to 90 days to complete. 

Depending on how well a person responds to residential treatment, they can transition, or “step down” to a lower level of intensity.

Learn about inpatient programs for heroin addiction.

Continuing Care Treatment Options In Heroin Recovery

Outpatient heroin recovery services may come in a variety of forms and will be determined by a person’s progress in the recovery process. 

Sober Living Homes For Heroin Recovery

One of the most common steps that people take after residential treatment is entering a sober living community. These homes may be directly associated with the rehab center.

While in sober living, people may continue receiving treatment services in an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program designed to help them integrate back into society.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) For Heroin Recovery

Partial hospitalization programs are considered the first step down from comprehensive 24-hour care at an inpatient facility. A person may be referred to PHP after a formal evaluation from their therapist. 

A typical day in partial hospitalization may include individual and group therapy, psychotherapy, and family therapy to help build a strong support network going forward. 

PHP is structured so clients will spend several hours a day, three to five days a week in treatment. People will participate in the scheduled treatments and return home at the end of the day.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) For Heroin Recovery

Intensive outpatient programs are appropriate for people who still need to spend time in a rehab setting receiving services such as MAT, counseling, and other treatments for heroin abuse.

During IOP, a therapist will create a treatment plan for the recovering person that determines how many days and hours they will spend in treatment each week. 

Find out more about outpatient heroin treatment.

Long-Term Heroin Recovery: 12-Step Programs And Support Groups

The lowest-intensity level of recovery treatment may occur when people have finished more intensive programs, such as inpatient drug rehab or IOP. 

Years into addiction recovery, people may need only to be involved in weekly support groups. For heroin recovery, the most well-known and effective support group is Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

The 12 steps were initially created to be used for alcohol addiction, but due to the success of the program, it has been adapted to address a range of substance use disorders including heroin abuse.

One of the main tenets of 12-step recovery is admitting that you are powerless against the substance in question, and your life has become unmanageable because of the addiction.

Through active involvement in 12-step meetings and related activities, people in long-term recovery may harness the tools necessary to cope with their addiction for years to come.  

Learn more about 12-step programs for heroin addiction.

The Importance Of A Support Network In Heroin Recovery

Perhaps the most important factor during addiction recovery is creating a strong support network with your peers in treatment, as well as family and friends outside of the rehab setting. 

The most common ways to build a support system are through connections made with others during group therapy or activities. People with similar issues and backgrounds will be able to empathize with the recovery process.  

A support network will help you stay on track during recovery in the years after completing treatment. If temptations to relapse arise, a supportive friend can help you maintain sobriety.

How To Avoid Relapse During Heroin Recovery

Addiction relapse is a common concern among both people who seek treatment for addiction, as well as their loved ones.

More than half of people who receive treatment for addiction relapse at some point. It’s not uncommon, and it isn’t a sign of failure. But there are ways to help prevent it.

Tips for relapse prevention in heroin recovery include:

  • staying in treatment for the recommended time
  • taking medication for heroin addiction as directed
  • being honest with your treatment team
  • asking for help if you’re struggling with urges to use
  • finding and attending peer support groups

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we work with all of our clients to help set them up for success by meeting them where they are in their recovery journey.

We’ll help you create a relapse prevention plan based on your needs, and teach you skills that can help you build a successful future in recovery.

Managing Drug Use Triggers In Heroin Recovery

Even after months at a treatment center, opioid addiction can never be fully overcome. People who have been addicted to heroin may continue to have cravings or urges to use heroin their entire life.

Oftentimes, people recovering from use of heroin will encounter triggers in their life that will entice them to seek the dopamine rush from heroin again.

This is where the skills learned from rehab will be most effective.  Behavioral therapies can help people understand why certain things trigger them to want to use drugs.

One of the most important steps in managing these triggers is being self-aware enough to know when they’re occurring. There are several ways to manage triggers in a healthy manner.

Common methods of managing drug use triggers include:

  • exercising
  • mindfulness meditation
  • eating healthy
  • positive distractions, such as artistic expression
  • therapy or counseling

While addiction recovery is a life-long journey, the coping mechanisms you will learn during treatment will help you in long-term recovery.

Achieving Long-Term Recovery From Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction can wreak havoc on the mind, body, and spirit. While asking for help is the first step, overcoming your addiction will be a long-term journey.

Healing may require treatment for consequences of heroin use, such as hepatitis B, as well as underlying causes, such as chronic pain or symptoms of a mental health disorder.

Achieving recovery occurs one step at a time. You take it day by day in stride, ideally with a personal support system and healthcare treatment team by your side.

Begin Your Journey Towards Heroin Recovery At Bedrock Recovery Center

The treatment providers at Bedrock Recovery Center in Massachusetts can help people with opioid use disorder begin their path toward a fulfilling, addiction-free future.

For more information about our heroin addiction recovery programs and other behavioral health services, call our helpline to speak with an admissions specialist today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin Overdose Data https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/deaths/heroin/index.html
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH) — 12-Step Facilitation Therapy (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opiates) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies/12-step
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Opioid Medications https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/opioid-medications
  5. U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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