Heroin Rehab - Drug Addiction Treatment

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What is Heroin Addiction?

As powerful drug, heroin’s most sought-after is a sense of euphoria.

Its usage is said to promote the sensation of bliss in a degree that is hard to obtain naturally.

Heroin is capable of altering the brain’s chemistry in such a way that after using heroin, all other forms of pleasure can feel dull [1].

As a result, addiction to heroin has become a major problem.

Originally developed as a painkiller to soothe sleeplessness, diarrhea, and pain, heroin is derived from poppies.

Chemically, it is similar to morphine and other drugs called opioids or opiates.

Heroin is highly addictive.

One of the major obstacles is the high relapse rate [1].

Because it is one of the most serious addictions, overcoming heroin addiction is a pressing public health concern.

So far, government efforts include efforts to prevent its use, restricting heroin supply, and aid in heroin addiction recovery.


Other drugs in opioid family are: [2]

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone


These are obtained legally through prescriptions in order to treat various ailments.

Unfortunately, because of the powerful addictive potential of opioids, they are abused.

Unlike these drugs, which can be obtained through legal means, heroin (in all forms) is illegal.


Heroin is administered by:

  • Injecting
  • Smoking
  • Sniffing


Heroin comes in varying doses; the purity of the drug is always questionable.

Some doses can also be tainted with toxic compounds [1]

Because heroin is used with other drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, and other opiates, drug complications can develop.

The effects of heroin last an average of four hours or a bit longer [3].

After injecting or snorting a does, the effect of the drug comes on in 20 seconds.

In some cases, addiction to heroin can be due to previous exposure to powerful opioid medications from a medical procedure or similar, while others arrive at heroin use via social peers or significant stressors or trauma.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Physical signs [2]

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Flushed/reddish skin
  • Eyes are watery
  • Heavy limbs, slow movement
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or blotchy skin

Psychological Signs [2]


These are signs gathered by observing behaviour.

Although the psychological signs of heroin usage are similar with other illegal drugs, two stand out the most:

  • Abnormally sleeping too much
  • Looking dazed even during peak hours of activity
  • Thinking is clouded/ thoughts are disorganized

Causes of Heroin Addiction

Some are more at risk of heroin addiction than others.

Risk factors include:

  • Having a direct relative who has substance abuse problems (alcohol abuse or drug abuse/misuse)
  • Experiencing childhood trauma or recent trauma
  • Exposure to environments where heroin is used
  • Adolescents who have access to parents’ prescription medication (particularly opioid painkillers) [1]
  • During the course of rehab, participants may recover members of past abuse, exposing unresolved issues surrounding trauma.


Particularly profound are episodes of childhood trauma such as parental neglect and physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.

  • Many turn to heroin use to numb the psychological pain or to escape unbearable stress.
  • Some start using heroin to kindle the feeling of relaxation and care that sound family experiences should have given.
  • Also, heroin can be pushed as an alternative for legitimate antianxiety or antidepressant medication. But because of financial constraints or peer pressure, heroin presented as the best option.
  • As an opioid drug, heroin shares something in common with other drugs in the opioid family: it is highly addictive.


Often heroin use started because of an addiction to painkillers.

Painkillers such as morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and oxycontin can be hard to get when prescriptions run out.

When prescription drugs are no longer available users seek other alternatives to numb the pain.


In many cases, heroin is used as a substitute for painkillers. Heroin is readily available and relatively cheap.

Chemically speaking, long-term usage of heroin also alters the way the brain works so that the withdrawal from the drug feels highly unpleasant.

Some avoid the detox stage in order to avoid the negative experience of heroin withdrawal. [4]

What is Heroin Rehab?

Treatment for heroin addiction is divided into three main phases:

Phase 1: Heroin Detox

Phase 2: Therapeutic Help

Phase 3: Heroin Rehab Aftercare


Heroin rehab can be availed as outpatient or inpatient rehab.

Inpatient heroin rehab means admitting to a facility for a period of time. In this scenario, the client should not leave the clinic until the recommended detox and rehab programme is completed.


Outpatient heroin rehab is mostly provided free for the public by the NHS. In this scenario, the client does not have to admit to a clinic but must attend rehab sessions in a local drug centre.


For NHS sponsored outpatient heroin treatment, methadone is used in two types of programmes:

Maintenance therapy

  • Methadone is substituted for heroin
  • Dosage of methadone is given in an NHS outpatient clinic


Methadone Detox

  • First step: substitution of heroin with methadone
  • Second step, withdrawal from the substitute (methadone) so that there is complete abstinence from heroin and methadone


However, although offered free to the public, there are drawbacks.

Past methadone users have communicated that: [5]

  • Methadone prescription levels can often rise rapidly
  • Withdrawal from methadone can be more challenging that heroin withdrawal itself
  • Sometimes treatment systems for methadone may not be well-coordinated, thus treatment can be delayed


The recent trend in healthcare is to treat heroin addiction comprehensively as a health concern encompassing:

  • Physical aspects
  • Psychological/mental aspects
  • The emotional realm
  • The influence of community and social support


In a private rehab clinic such as Abbeycare, comprehensive heroin rehab treatment is available.

Private clinics are also regarded as better equipped and staffed than public clinics.

What Happens in Heroin Rehab?

Heroin Detox

Two major components of heroin detox are:

  • Stopping the use of heroin
  • Taking medications that ease heroin withdrawal


Medicines used in heroin detox include those that:

  • Lower the effect of withdrawal symptoms
  • Lessen heroin cravings
  • Make overdose less likely
  • Address withdrawal-related conditions such as diarrhoea, nausea, stomach upsets, and minor muscle aches
  • Reduce the feeling of anxiety or sleeplessness


In this phase of treatment, detox is professionally supervised to avoid accidental overdose.

Detoxification processes must be approached moderately, with adequate safety checks in place.

After detoxification, mental and emotional stability is established so as to better handle the work in therapeutic care.

Heroin Detox Duration

Typically, the worse withdrawal symptoms pass within a week. [4]

A withdrawal timeline for heroin detox is given below:

6 hours to 1 day after the last use:

These symptoms are rapidly felt after stopping heroin:

  • Sweating too much
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Twitching
  • Runny nose, as if having a flu
  • Heart beats faster
  • Constant feeling of sleepiness
  • Or, insomnia
  • Moodiness
  • Anger
  • Desire to escape the situation


Between 2 to 4 Days

Described as the worse period of withdrawal, the following symptoms are expected:

  • Nausea, which results in loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Continued experience of muscle twitches
  • Muscle ache
  • Fever
  • Drug cravings
  • Mood can be described as depressed or anxious
  • Continued sleep difficulties
  • With a few individuals, hallucinations may present


After 5 Days

If there is professional help
  • The symptoms would have waned and/or become only slightly noticeable
  • There is a feeling of having overcome difficulty
  • Thinking would be clearer and focused on the road ahead


If detoxing with minimal or no professional help
  • Depressed feelings, moodiness
  • Craving to use heroin to relieve withdrawal symptoms
  • Greater chance of relapse
  • To boost chances of recovery and to avoid relapse, Abbeycare provides heroin detox in a professional setting.


Professional assistance in heroin detox creates a safe environment, where clients are monitored 24/7 by qualified health care workers.


Prolonged Symptoms

Because of long-term, heavy usage, some can experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) from heroin withdrawal. [4]

PAWS means that:

At a brain-level the body has gotten used to heroin, making the problem a weighty issue that needs to be addressed soon


Expected negative experiences are as follows:

  • Stress can lead to mood shifts and outbursts
  • >Or alternatively, feeling numb, unaffected, empty on the inside
  • Thinking can be unclear
  • Memory lapses
  • Physical coordination problems (clumsiness)

Therapeutic Help for Heroin Addiction

What makes heroin recovery treatment effective?

These are the essentials: [3]

  • Medicines that help reduce heroin withdrawal symptoms such as Buprenorphine and Suboxone
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Continuity of care (not hopping from one therapist to another, but as much as possible receiving treatment from one reliable and trusted care provider)


How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps in heroin addiction recovery: [7]

  • Finding the connection between thought, feelings, and behaviours that maintain dependence
  • Identifying triggering situations
  • Build coping mechanisms to deal with stress and change after decision to quit heroin
  • Active participation in recovery
  • Restores self-confidence


How Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF) helps in heroin addiction recovery:

The 12 steps are known to be the most widely used methods to reach sobriety.

Experts use TSF specifically because: [6]

  • It provides a framework to follow. The step-by-step approach is crucial in dealing with a complex situation such as addiction.
  • It encourages reaching out to others. Sometimes, being stuck on a pattern of thinking can only be made apparent when attending a meeting.
  • As a faith-based approach, it appeals to some who find comfort in beliefs during troubling times.
  • Group members are also in recovery, so the meetings can feel less intimidating.
  • The first steps can be initiated during the heroin addiction recovery programme, but the next steps can be continued outside the clinic.
  • TSF groups are more available than other types of meetings by mutual aid groups.


Although 12-Step can be helpful for many, it is vitally important to know that meetings are only one aspect of therapeutic help.

Together with individual therapy and other approaches using collaborative work, TSF can help individuals make long-lasting changes so that heroin addiction is finally overcome.

Heroin Rehab Aftercare

The emphasis on aftercare is because of the following reasons:

  • There are practical matters that need to be addressed whilst getting used to a sober living lifestyle
  • Planning in detail acts as a fail-safe for trying times
  • The end goal is self-sufficiency; aftercare helps gain a level of self-confidence
  • Support and help are made accessible with an action plan


Aftercare is the transition phase between heroin rehab and full recovery.

In Abbeycare, aftercare plans are designed with a dedicated case manager and a caring support group.

Naltrexone Used in Heroin Treatment

Naltrexone is prescribed to treat heroin and opioid addiction. [8]

The drug reduces the craving for heroin.

It blocks the effect of getting high after heroin is used, so that heroin usage seems pointless, and is thus discontinued.

As part of a comprehensive heroin addiction recovery programme, it is considered safe when administered properly by addiction specialists.

Usage of Naltrexone is not associated with Naltrexone withdrawal.

Naltrexone is best recommended for those who have completed heroin detox.

Findings indicate that after completing heroin detox, a person may be better motivated to discontinue heroin usage with the help of the of Naltrexone’s blocking effect.

Naltrexone can be administered through a pill form, using an injection or an implant device.

The side effects of Naltrexone are minor. These are typically headaches, nausea, and feeling quite tired.

Heroin Rehab Cost

For private rehab care, enquire directly via Abbeycare admissions staff can provide personalised guideline pricing for heroin treatment.

Please note that pricing depends on individual needs, and is subject to approval by both Abbeycare admissions and clinical teams.


  • Can heroin addiction be cured?

Yes, but the chances of recovery depend on the intensity and length of treatment used. [4]

The success rate of recovery is enhanced by comprehensive care which covers not only detox and therapeutic help but aftercare planning as well.

Because long-term recovery is the ultimate goal of rehab, some prefer intensive inpatient programmes rather than outpatient programmes.

Inpatient programmes like those in Abbeycare allot for personalised and continuous care that is crucial in heroin addiction recovery.


  • Does relapse from heroin treatment mean treatment has failed?

No. It means that there is progress in the recovery process. [6]

When relapse occurs, changes may need to be made in terms of:

  • Mode of treatment
  • Medication
  • Therapeutic approach


Like other chronic (long-term) health problems, there are valleys and plateaus in the course of healing from such a condition.

Being well-supported by loved ones, having enough resources to cope with the ups and downs of treatment, and embodying a can-do attitude can help in full addiction recovery.


  • What Form of Heroin Treatment is Best for Me?

Look for a treatment option that addresses the problem holistically.

Instead of treatments that offer “a quick detox”, programmes that aim for lasting change would make the most impact.

For facilities that offer rehab, a good choice would be a clinic that has:

  • Care Quality Commission (CQC) approval and good rating
  • Comprehensive approach to recovery, including holistic treatment, detox, therapeutic care, and aftercare support


  • Is Heroin Detox Always Necessary?

Yes, it is necessary to undergo a heroin detox programme.

Well-meaning, home detox, self-detox, or quitting cold turkey from heroin usually leads to relapse. [3]

When an attempt to quit heroin fails, the result is usually a heavy feeling of failure, loss of self-confidence, and emotional breakdown.

These negative feelings can trigger more dependence on heroin, thus perpetuating the cycle of heroin dependence.


  • Is trauma also treated in Heroin Addiction recovery?

In our substance rehabilitation programme at Abbeycare, heroin addiction is treated as the primary concern.

If trauma has caused the addiction, the issues that arise can be tackled in-depth during psychotherapy.

Abbeycare can also refer individual concerns about trauma related to heroin use to partner counseling experts.


  1.  Perez, E., Fraser, M., & Turley, R. (2020). What You Need to Know About Heroin. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1426
  2.  Kaiser Family Foundation. (2018). State Health Facts. Retreived from: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/opioid-overdose-deaths-by-type-of-opioid/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
  3.  National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What are the immediate (short-term) effects of heroin use? Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-heroin-use
  4.  National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What are the long-term effects of heroin use? Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use
  5.  Mitchell, S. et al. (2010). Incarceration and opioid withdrawal: The experiences of methadone patients and out-of-treatment heroin users. J Psychoactive Drugs, 41(2), 145–152. DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2009.10399907. Available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838492/
  6.  Sub National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  7.  Anxiety and Depression Association od America. (2018). Helpful Guide to Different Therapy Options. Available at: https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/therapy
  8.  Krupitsky, E., Zvartau, E., & Woody, G. (2011). Use of Naltrexone to Treat Opioid Addiction in a Country in Which Methadone and Buprenorphine Are Not Available. Curr Psychiatry Rep., 12(5), 448–453. DOI: 10.1007/s11920-010-0135-5. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3160743/

How To Book

To book into Abbeycare for Heroin help, contact Abbeycare direct on 01603 513 091.


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About the author

Melany Heger

Registered Psychologist and Freelance Writer, Jinjin Melany passionately writes about mental health issues, addiction, eating disorders and parenting since 2015. Read more about Melany on LinkedIn. Content reviewed by Laura Morris (Clinical Lead).

Last Updated: January 18, 2023