Last updated: 02/20/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
It is a long and difficult road to recover from heroin addiction. Heroin is very addictive because it is usually injected or smoked, which sends it to the brain very quickly. The drug can cause severe addiction very fast which often goes along with tolerance, dependence, and the increased risk for overdose. Recovering from heroin addiction is not easy, but it is possible.
Medication is often one of the components necessary for recovering from heroin addiction. The addiction syndrome created by the drug is very strong, and it is very difficult to break the habit without the use of some kind of medication. There are actually three commonly prescribed medications to help a person recover from heroin addiction. They are:
- Methadone is a “slow-acting opioid agonist” that can be taken in low doses and is given to patients on a daily basis, usually by outpatient treatment programs. Methadone is often used for long-term maintenance which is necessary for the recovery of heroin addicts who are severely addicted or have tried treatment before and not been successful.
- Buprenorphine is “a partial opioid agonist,” meaning that it has both agonist and antagonist properties. The drug blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and also is sold with naloxone so that a person cannot get high by abusing the drug.
- Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that “blocks the action of opioids, is not addictive or sedating, and does not result in physical dependence.” However, it is not tolerated well by patients in most cases.
Medications, while effective, are not the sole treatment for heroin addiction in most cases. People who want to recover from heroin addiction do so many times with the help of behavioral therapies like:
Behavioral treatments help teach patients new ways to view their addictions, coping mechanisms that do not involve taking drugs, ways to fight cravings and triggers, and other highly important tools for a successful recovery. Patients who attend treatment, whether in an inpatient or outpatient center, benefit most from the combination of medication and therapy.
After treatment, many individuals still need help in order to fully recover from heroin addiction. Methadone treatment can actually last for months or even years. More than 100,000 American addicts are now using methadone as a maintenance treatment.
Some other ways to continue good recovery practices after heroin addiction treatment or just to have more time to get back on your feet are:
- Halfway houses
- Sober living facilities
- Getting help or a place to stay from individuals and friends in your support system
Support groups are also extremely helpful during heroin addiction recovery. Many people are comforted by knowing and speaking with others who are dealing with the same issues they are. Heroin recovery is difficult, and relapse is common. But, if you attend treatment and ask for help, it can be made easier and you can be better protected from the issues that plague many recovering heroin addicts.