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Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous opioid drug that is derived from opium poppy plants. The high potential for abuse and addiction to the drug has led to strict regulations on its use. Despite this, heroin remains one of the most commonly abused drugs in the world.

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Why is Heroin Addictive?

Heroin works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and triggering a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This intense rush of pleasure is what makes heroin so addictive, as the brain begins to associate the drug with this intense sense of reward.

With repeated use, the brain becomes dependent on heroin to produce these feelings, leading to physical and psychological addiction. Oftentimes, individuals may start with an addiction to prescription painkillers and then transition to heroin due to its lower cost and easier accessibility.

Dangers of Heroin Use

Aside from its highly addictive nature, heroin use carries a range of potential dangers and risks similar to those found with other opioid use disorders. These include:

  • Overdose: Due to the unpredictable potency of street heroin, users are at risk of accidental heroin overdose, which can result in respiratory failure and death. If you suspect someone has taken a lethal dose of heroin, contact emergency services right away. Treatments administered by medical professionals can lower the number of overdose deaths.
  • Infectious diseases: Sharing needles or injecting equipment can lead to the transmission of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis.
  • Organ damage: Chronic heroin use can cause damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
  • Mental health issues: Long-term heroin use has been linked to an increased risk of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
  • Other health problems: Heroin use has also been associated with a range of other health problems, including collapsed veins from when individuals inject heroin, abscesses, skin infections, and damage to a person’s blood vessels.

Common Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person becomes physically dependent on heroin, abruptly stopping or reducing use can result in withdrawal symptoms. Physical symptoms, as well as emotional and psychological symptoms, can vary in severity and may include the following:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and restlessness 
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Depression and irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches

Heroin withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and may lead to relapse if not managed properly. Seeking professional heroin addiction treatment can help ensure a safe and successful detox process and lead to long-term recovery.

heroin addiction

Drug Abuse Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Successful treatment for heroin addiction often involves a combination of medication-assisted therapy, counseling, and behavioral therapies. Several medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings while also preventing relapse.

Counseling and therapy are also effective treatments for heroin addiction and other substances. These can help individuals address the underlying issues and triggers that led to drug addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and learn relapse prevention strategies.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment Options

There are two main types of heroin addiction treatment programs: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient programs involve living at a treatment facility for a designated period, typically between 30-90 days. This type of program provides round-the-clock support and structure for individuals in the early stages of recovery.

Outpatient programs, on the other hand, allow individuals to live at home while attending treatment sessions during the day. This option may be more suitable for those with less severe addiction or responsibilities such as work or family commitments. Types of outpatient services include:

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP): Similar to inpatient treatment, though individuals return home at night.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): Structured treatment during the day with more flexibility than PHP.
  • Outpatient Counseling: Regular therapy sessions for ongoing support and relapse prevention.

Medical Detox to Treat Heroin Addiction

As the first step of addiction treatment, individuals may need to undergo heroin detox. This process involves tapering off heroin use in a controlled environment while receiving medical supervision and support for withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of the addiction and individual needs. It is crucial to seek professional help for heroin addiction treatment, as attempting to quit cold turkey can be dangerous and increase the risk of relapse.

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Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Heroin Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medications with counseling and emotional support to treat opioid addiction. MAT has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing the risk of relapse and improving overall treatment outcomes for heroin addiction.

Some common medications used in MAT for heroin addiction include:

  • Methadone: A long-acting opioid agonist that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids, making relapse less likely.

Therapeutic Services for Substance Abuse

In addition to medications and counseling, there are various therapeutic services that can be beneficial for individuals struggling with heroin addiction or opioid dependence. These may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of talk therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): A form of CBT that focuses on developing skills to manage intense emotions and improve relationships.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): A therapy that helps individuals accept difficult thoughts and emotions while committing to making positive changes in their lives.
  • Group therapy: Sessions led by a therapist or counselor that allow individuals to connect with others who are going through similar experiences, share support, and learn from one another.
  • Family therapy: A type of therapy that involves family members in the treatment process, helping them understand and support their loved one’s recovery.
  • Holistic treatments: Complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture can also be beneficial for managing stress, promoting relaxation, and improving overall well-being during addiction treatment.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating heroin addiction. Each individual may require a unique combination of treatment modalities, and it’s essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets their specific needs.

heroin addiction treatment

How Long Does Heroin Addiction Treatment Take?

The duration of heroin addiction treatment can vary depending on individual circumstances and needs. Typically, the detox process may take anywhere from a few days to a week or more, while the overall length of treatment may range from several weeks to several months.

It is essential to remember that recovery from heroin addiction is an ongoing process and requires commitment and dedication. Treatment may involve various stages, including detox, therapy, and aftercare support, to help individuals get sober and stay sober long-term.

The Importance of Aftercare in Heroin Addiction Treatment

After completing a treatment program for opioid use disorder, it’s crucial to continue receiving ongoing support and care to prevent relapse.

This can include participation in support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), individual therapy sessions, and regular check-ins with a healthcare professional.

Aftercare services can also help individuals address any challenges or triggers that may arise during their recovery journey. It’s essential to have a strong support system in place to maintain sobriety while recovering from substance use disorder.

Recognizing Heroin Street Names and Slang Terms

Heroin has various street names and slang terms, making it challenging to recognize when someone may be using it. Some common heroin street names include smack, junk, horse, h, and brown sugar.

Other street names for heroin may reference the drug’s appearance or method of use, such as black tar, white or brown powder, black tar heroin, China white, or Chasing the Dragon. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with these terms and stay vigilant for signs of heroin use, as early intervention is crucial in overcoming addiction.

Seeking Addiction Treatment for Heroin and/or Other Drugs

If you or a loved one is struggling to stop using an addictive drug such as heroin, it may be time to seek professional help. With the right treatment and support, recovery from drug use is possible, and individuals can lead healthy and fulfilling lives free from heroin abuse.

At Woburn Wellness, our team of medical professionals is dedicated to providing personalized and comprehensive care for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support if you or someone you know is battling addiction. We are happy to provide more information about our treatment options, including medical detox, MAT, mental health care, and therapeutic services. Recovery is possible, and we are here to help every step of the way. Remember, you are not alone in this journey towards a healthier and happier life. Let’s take the first step together.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide (third edition).
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Drug Facts: Heroin.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.
  4. PBS.org. (1998). Heroin in the brain: Its Chemistry and Effects.
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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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