heroin addiction treatment

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a life-destroying affliction. Sadly, it is not uncommon, especially on the heels of the nationwide opiate epidemic. There is hope: with millions of Americans suffering from addiction, there are many options for treatment.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Outpatient programs allow those who have managed to maintain a semblance of a normal life to continue their daily routines while undergoing treatment for their addiction.

Inpatient heroin addiction treatment centers are recommended for those who have overdosed or are long-term heroin users. The treatment protocol is more intensive and focused, and chances of success are increased when one is removed from the triggers of daily life. It is also an opportunity to address other issues or ailments that have occurred as a consequence of heroin use.

In either case, the detox period is one that should be overseen by a qualified medical professional: the process can be painful and dangerous.

Recovery Process

The recovery professionals who run the rehab center will do an intake interview to help determine the best route to treatment, including the length of stay. If one has descended to the point where the addiction has resulted in the loss of livelihood and destroyed relationships, then a program of longer than the 30-day minimum may be the best choice.

Heroin addiction may mean health issues for which the patient will need to receive care. Chronic users experience a variety of complications such as insomnia and constipation, in addition to lung diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which result from heroin’s effect of depressing respiration combined with the general poor health of a user.

If the heroin was snorted, the mucosal tissues in the nose can be damaged, and the nasal septum may be perforated. The injection can result in scarred and/or collapsed veins, as well as bacterial or other infections from shared needles (hepatitis B and C, HIV, and a host of other blood-borne viruses). Abscesses, boils, and other soft-tissue infections frequently occur.

Street heroin contains additives that clog the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. Such clogs can cause infection or even destroy cells in vital organs. Immune reactions to such contaminants can cause rheumatologic problems such as arthritis. Such complications may extend the stay to a minimum of 90 days, up to 12 months if necessary.

The treatment of the physical aspects of withdrawal and complications will be combined with an address to the psychological damage from the addiction. Uncovering underlying reasons leading to the addiction goes a long way to ensuring a successful recovery.

These issues will be addressed with various forms of therapy and/or group counseling. Various programs offer a variety of options to assist this recovery process.

Medication vs. Holistic

Opioid addiction treatment medications are used based on a patient’s specific medical needs and other factors. These work through the same opioid receptors, but are considered safer. Agonists activate opioid receptors; antagonists block the receptor and interfere with the rewarding effects of opioids. Effective medications include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

An increasing number of arguments have been made for a holistic approach to rehabilitation, but as with addiction itself, the choice is a personal one.


Regardless of the path chosen, support during recovery is an essential element of rehabilitation. An aftercare program needs to be established well before departure from the treatment center, and regular follow up with a support group or medical professional need to be part of it.

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