5 Tips For Tapering Off Heroin

Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Heroin is an addictive, illicit drug. It belongs to a class of drugs known as opiates, or opioids. Tapering off heroin after developing addiction may, for some, be the safest way to get off heroin.

Stopping heroin all at once, especially without medical support, can be dangerous for people who have become dependent on or addicted to heroin. Here you can learn more about tapering off heroin.

What Does It Mean To Taper Off Heroin?

Tapering off heroin is a process of slowly reducing the amount of heroin you’re using over a period of time. This may help to reduce the risk of experiencing severe side effects and cravings.

Tapering is a strategy used to help people stop taking many types of drugs, including:

  • illicit drugs like heroin
  • prescription sedatives (e.g. benzodiazepines)
  • prescription opioids (oxycodone/OxyContin, hydrocodone, fentanyl)

The risks of stopping heroin all at once may be even greater for people who misuse other types of substances, including benzodiazepines, stimulants, and alcohol.

Tips For Tapering Off Heroin

Heroin can be stopped cold-turkey. But this shouldn’t be attempted outside of a medical detox or outpatient detox program. Severe cases of withdrawal from heroin can be life-threatening.

If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, or multiple drugs, here are tips for how to safely taper off heroin:

1. Don’t Do It Alone

Like stopping cold-turkey, tapering off heroin isn’t a strategy that should be attempted alone. Ideally, this taper process should be discussed with a healthcare provider or detox professional.

Healthcare professionals can help you develop a schedule for tapering off heroin, based on how long you’ve used heroin, the amount you use, and other factors.

Trying to taper off heroin without medical guidance can be risky. If you taper too quickly, this could lead to severe withdrawal symptoms that may require medical attention.

2. Create A Plan For Tapering Off Heroin

Through a consultation with a doctor or addiction treatment provider, you or your loved one can make a customized plan for tapering off heroin that’s based on your specific needs.

What a plan for tapering off heroin may include:

  • Timeline: You may create a timeline for scheduling dose reductions, appropriate dosing, and how long the process will take.
  • Support: Identifying people in your life who can offer emotional and material support during the detox process for safety purposes and for comfort.
  • Coping strategies: Tapering off heroin can be uncomfortable. It can be helpful to plan ahead by identifying potential strategies for coping with potential discomfort.
  • Preparation: Creating a plan for how to call for emergency medical assistance, or seek the help of a medical professional, when and if complications occur.

Creating a tapering plan will ideally be a collaborative process. By talking to a doctor, you can discuss what type of tapering plan or detox setting may be most suitable for you.

3. Ask For Help When You Need It

Detoxing off heroin alone, even through a tapering process, can be dangerous. If you’re struggling, whether that’s with cravings or severe withdrawal, don’t put off asking for help.

Seeking help may refer to seeking the assistance of a medical professional, calling 911 in an emergency, or seeking support from a family member or friend.

Tapering off heroin may cause strong drug cravings, as well as flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and emotional distress. 

Asking for help during a tapering process, with the ultimate goal to get off heroin, is a sign of strength, not weakness. And it can be life-saving.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is key when tapering off heroin, in part because common symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as vomiting and diarrhea, can be dehydrating.

Dehydration during the detox process can increase the risk of medical complications. One example is electrolyte imbalances, which can affect the normal function of organs like the heart.

Drinking enough water, and eating a nutrient-rich diet, can help prevent severe withdrawal as well as support physical recovery from heroin abuse and addiction.

5. Seek Out Substance Abuse Treatment After Detox

Heroin overdose, which can be deadly, is a major concern during the tapering process and after detox, largely because this process can reduce a person’s tolerance for heroin.

Finding an opiate addiction treatment program can help prevent relapse while tapering off heroin, and thereby reduce the risk for accidental overdose.

What a drug addiction rehab program can offer:

  • Substance use counseling: Behavioral therapy and drug counseling can help address the emotional, mental, and psychological aspects of opioid addiction.
  • Medical supervision: Rehab programs may offer clinical care and treatment to help address ongoing physical health concerns, including pain management.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: Treatment with medications like methadone, Suboxone, and naltrexone can reduce cravings and the risk of relapse.
  • Social support services: Many rehab programs offer assistance for helping people find employment, housing, aftercare, and mental health services after stopping their drug use.

Recovering from heroin doesn’t end with getting off the drug. 

Addiction recovery is a journey. Finding behavioral health treatment in the early stages of this process can help lay the foundation for a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life in recovery.

Is Tapering Off Heroin Safe?

Tapering off heroin can be safe when done with the support or guidance of healthcare professionals. Tapering off heroin alone may come with certain health risks.

Can You Stop Heroin Cold-Turkey?

While stopping heroin cold-turkey may seem like the obvious choice for getting off heroin, the truth is that this is not as simple, nor as painless, as it might seem.

Quitting heroin cold-turkey can cause physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal that can be highly uncomfortable and distressing without medical treatment.

What Can Help With Tapering Off Heroin?

One of the most effective treatments for quitting heroin is transitioning to the use of the opioid agonist methadone, or the partial opioid agonist buprenorphine (e.g. Subutex, Suboxone).

This form of treatment is known as medication-assisted treatment, or medications for opioid use disorder, which is offered alongside medical care and counseling.

Medication-Assisted Treatment For Tapering Off Heroin

Medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based treatment for heroin addiction and opioid use disorder that can help individuals achieve addiction recovery.

Benefits of this type of treatment include:

  • reduced cravings for heroin
  • less severe withdrawal
  • increased motivation to attend treatment
  • reduced risk for relapse and overdose
  • can help people return to normalcy

Supportive Care Through A Heroin Detoxification Program

Tapering off heroin can also be made easier and safer by beginning a drug detox program, either through an inpatient facility or outpatient detox center.

This can offer medical supervision, regular check-ins with medical staff, as well as medication for heroin use disorder, counseling, and treatment referrals.

Call Today To Find Treatment For Heroin Addiction

Searching for a way to get off heroin is a positive sign. If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, you’re not alone. And our quality staff at Bedrock may be able to help.

Bedrock Recovery Center is a Massachusetts-based treatment center that offers inpatient detox and residential rehab for people addicted to heroin and other substances.

For more information about tapering off heroin, or to learn more about Bedrock’s leading heroin detox program, call our helpline to connect with a representative today.

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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