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Treatment for Heroin Abuse and Addiction

If you are worried about your loved one's heroin addiction, treatment through the process is complicated. However, if the victim is willing to become committed to overcoming addiction, treatment is the most effective method.

Though heroin treatment is most effective when heroin abuse is at its early stages, there is still hope for those who have been using heroin for a long time and are ready to get help. Treatment involves a range of therapeutic approaches and techniques to give the victim the highest chance for recovery.

Heroin Addiction

When left untreated, heroin addiction is devastating, deadly, and disengaging, with potential lifetime consequences to the user, including health problems and diseases, side effects, and deterioration. Like any other opioid, heroin is highly addictive; taking heroin increases dopamine in your limbic reward system. This part of your brain is responsible for pleasurable feelings such as drinking, sex, and eating.


The released dopamine increases the rush of pleasure and euphoria that incites using the drug repeatedly. Within no time, your body and brain refuse to function without the drug, and hence you become addicted.

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Medication-Assisted Treatments

Scientific studies show that pharmacological treatments for opioid use disorders decrease drug use and increase the retention of victims in treatment programs. It also reduces criminal activities and infectious disease transmission.


People addicted to heroin first undergo withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe depending on how long they have been using the drug. During the detox stage, individuals develop withdrawal symptoms, including mild ones like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, and more life-threatening ones like seizures. Medications are helpful during this stage to ease the drug cravings or other symptoms that may prompt a victim to relapse.


Medications used to treat opioid use disorders act the same as an addictive drug but are safer and less likely to bring out harmful behaviors that characterize substance use disorders. The three types of medication include:

  • Agonists; activate opioid receptors.

  • Partial agonists; activate opioid receptors yet produce a smaller response.

  • Antagonists; block the receptors and interfere with the opioid's rewarding effects

Medication-assisted treatment involves using pharmacological therapies tailored to meet a specific patient's needs. They include:


  • Methadone (Methadone® or Adolophine®); is an opioid agonist and acts slowly. Methadone is effective for patients who do not respond well to other forms of heroin treatment. Medical professionals recommend taking this slow-acting agonist orally to gradually reach the brain, dampening " high " feelings while eliminating withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone is highly addictive; hence, monthly, you should take it under careful monitoring of a medical examiner to prevent overdose. Medical professionals dispense methadone under approved outpatient programs.


  • Buprenorphine (Subutex ®); is a partial opioid agonist that relieves drug cravings while eliminating the associated harmful side effects or the "high" feeling of using heroin. On the other hand, you can take Subutex ® medication either sublingually or orally. Medical examiners use Subutex ® to help prevent patients from getting high by injecting the medication. Instead, if you inject Subutex ®, you will experience withdrawal symptoms that you don’t feel when you take the drug orally.


Unlike Methadone, Buprenorphine eliminates the daily trip to the clinic because FDA approves certified physicians to prescribe Subutex ®. This makes its treatment more accessible than methadone. Buprenorphine also has generic versions of suboxone and hence becomes cheaper than methadone.

Naltrexone (Vivitrol®), an injectable opioid antagonist not sedating or addictive, blocks opioid actions and eliminates physical drug dependence. However, it has limited effectiveness since most patients find it challenging to comply with its treatment. FDA approved Naltrexone (Vivitrol®) in 2010 as a preventive drug for opioid dependence or relapse following opioid detox. Naltrexone (Vivitrol®) is administered monthly and improves compliance since it eliminates the need for a daily dosage.

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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Behavioral Therapies at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Techniques used in behavioral therapies help patients reinforce desirable behaviors while eliminating the harmful ones. Medical professionals provide behavioral therapies in outpatient and partial heroin addiction treatment centers. Various therapy approaches work effectively to treat heroin addiction. They include:


Contingency Management

Contingency management for treating heroin addiction uses positive reinforcement by rewarding patients with rewards and incentives for continued abstinence. This mode of therapy follows a predetermined treatment plan which lists specific goals and objectives. When you meet a set purpose, the counselor reinforces the behavior. Over time, positive reinforcements enable the brain to retain a reward system that associates contentment and pleasure with positive thoughts instead of drug-using ones.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, CBT, is usually a one-on-one therapy between the patient and the counselor though it also has a group setting where necessary. During CBT sessions, patients break down their problems into smaller parts and identify the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that lead to unwanted behaviors. CBT believes that the views and ideas about a situation usually affect you emotionally, affecting how you behave in response. Recognizing these beliefs and opinions allows you to modify how you view a problem and lead to healthier, positive, and productive behaviors.


Family and Couple's Therapy

Heroin addiction affects the life of the victim and those closest to them. Destructive relationship patterns are bound to occur within the context of a family or a couple when a victim is trying to recover; these patterns usually hamper the recovery process. Couples and family therapies for heroin addiction act as a platform for discovering destructive communication patterns between family members or partners. It helps the family members develop healthy and nurturing relationships that allow a recovering addict to follow behavioral treatment objectives.


Other behavioral therapies include:


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The Bottom Line

Do not be afraid to seek treatment for yourself or your loved ones when you notice a heroin addiction problem. It may be challenging initially, but hey, what isn't? The hard part is beginning; once you enroll at Rolling Hills Recovery Center, the rest falls in place.


Yes, you will have sleepless nights, and withdrawal symptoms may hit you hard, but it would be worth it in the long run. Just keep in mind that a healthier and more purposeful life waits for you at the end of it all.

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