Last updated: 10/8/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Heroin recovery is a life-long process that requires the person to stay vigilant in their efforts to abstain from using heroin. This can involve a multitude of strategies from detox, treatment, and long term medication assisted maintenance to; changes in lifestyles, getting involved in support groups, or finding alternative motivators such as practicing faith, becoming gainfully employed, or moving to a new area.
Like the personal aspects of the individual themselves, and the complexities and consequences of their addiction, heroin recovery will be different for everyone, requiring different routes to keep it, but, it absolutely, is possible for those who remain committed.
Heroin is a deceitful drug that can make you feel good and able to handle just about anything in the beginning, but, once you develop a dependency on it, and you will, after using it just a couple of times, it becomes the master of your every being. According to the National institute on Drug Abuse, “In 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 1.6 percent) had used heroin at least once in their lives. It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.”
In the 1970’s, a bag of heroin was, generally, enough to get the user high once, at a cost of about $30 a bag and was only about 25 – 30 percent pure. Today, heroin costs around $10 a bag, is significantly more potent at around 80- 90 percent pure, and is more available on the street than ever before. Being a heroin addict has never been easy and is now more complicated than ever because of the cheaper costs, higher potency, and greater availability. It requires significant willpower and endurance to make the necessary changes and to keep recovery going.
Beginning with the contemplation of quitting, you can be sure that this is your first step toward recovery. Now all you have to do is keep walking towards that goal. It may be the most difficult journey you will ever take, but, as you go along, you will see the rewards of persistence and it can become the most rewarding.
Yes, you will have set backs and probably relapse multiple times, with an ever nagging sense that you may never get there, but, heroin recovery isn’t about an ending destination, it’s about sticking to the plans and when you fall off your path, you get back on it as quickly as possible.
Most heroin addicts find it hard to remember when their use of heroin was strictly for pleasure or how they became powerless over the physical and psychological impacts of its use. All they can really think about is; how they are going to feel when the heroin wears off and they go into withdrawals, how they will be able to manage the overwhelming cravings that occupy their minds and find the resources to get more, or how they will survive the devastating consequences of its use.
The greatest fears of heroin recovery are the acute withdrawal symptoms and fear of relapse. It takes a while to put other fears into their proper perspectives, and that is why treatments for heroin addiction often involves long term methadone or buprenorphine maintenance therapies to help reestablish stable functioning and maintain that stability for the time it takes to get some resolutions.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Maintenance treatment combines pharmacotherapy with a full program of assessment, psychosocial intervention, and support services; it is the approach with the greatest likelihood of long-term success for many patients.”
The Heroin Recovery Plan
Without a multi-faceted heroin recovery plan, you, as a heroin addict, will be unable to function in any “normal” sense of the word. Once you are detoxed from the heroin, the acute physical withdrawal symptoms can be put in the back of your mind, but, you are still left with many issues that require ongoing attention and support.
You may need to resolve domestic, medical, social, legal, housing, employment and other issues by reaching out to others. Finding support and making behavioral changes that place your well-being as the top priority in your life is crucial to implementing the plans. You may need to let go of some people or things that you have held onto for a long time.
We all have a natural ambivalence to making any change. We get comfortable in our surroundings and figure out how to manipulate things to go our way. Making changes, we think, will make us vulnerable to higher levels of stress, doubts, and unworthiness, but, without these changes we cannot progress through any recovery goal.
Although, an opiate addiction treatment can help you develop coping skills, relapse prevention tools, motivations for change, and help you remain engaged in recovery goals through methadone or buprenorphine maintenance therapies, you have to make the specific and personal choices that no one else can teach you. Again, you will make mistakes, but, as long as you return to your plans, recovery should get a little easier over time.