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Heroin Rehab and Recovery: What to Expect

heroin rehabHeroin rehab and recovery are similar to those of most addictive drugs, with one notable exception: Heroin withdrawal can last significantly longer than the withdrawal associated with other drugs, which makes it that much more difficult to accomplish without the assistance of a professional medical rehab center. For example, the Harvard Medical Center reports that the average dose of heroin produces symptoms that last for about four to six hours, but the withdrawal symptoms from that single dose can stretch on for a full week. During that week, it would be reasonable for an addicted person to return to heroin, just to make the pain stop. And when the withdrawal process is through, the cravings for heroin might make people go back to drugs, even if they had achieved sobriety.

A rehab and recovery program can help to break the cycle. Here, people have access to medical interventions that can soothe withdrawal distress, and they have access to therapies they can use to change their lives. It’s intensive help, and it really does work.


The first step in the recovery process is heroin detoxification. This treatment speaks specifically to the physical hold that heroin has over an addicted person and the chemical changes that have happened within the person’s body as the addiction has moved forward. This is vital help, as attempting heroin addiction detoxification without professional assistance is not only dangerous, but it is sometimes deadly, especially if people are suffering from other medical conditions simultaneously. Detox provides support and monitoring, with the oversight of consulting physicians, that people need during this delicate time, so they can get sober and ready for recovery.

Medications can be used as replacements for heroin, fooling the body into believing it has access to the drugs it craves. Medications can also help to soothe some of the physical discomfort caused by withdrawal, including:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Watering eyes

At the end of a program like this, a person can be considered clean and sober. It’s quite an accomplishment, but it is only the first step in the recovery process. Many misinterpret heroin detox, believing that recovery is complete. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that detox can’t be considered a treatment for heroin addiction when it’s the only therapy provided. Instead, it’s only considered an appropriate therapy when it’s followed up by complete therapy programs that can help people to change their behaviors for good.

Maintenance and Medication

In some cases, the dose of heroin that one is accustomed to is far too high for a standard withdrawal protocol. People like this can’t take medications only during the detox process and then leave those medications behind just a week later. Their bodies rebel when left without medications, and they run the risk of relapsing as a result. People like this won’t be expected to simply stop using their medications overnight. Instead, they may take maintenance medications as they begin their therapy sessions. The most popular medications used for this purpose are methadone and buprenorphine. Depending upon situation, one or the other may be more appropriate.

Using Therapy

There are a number of reasons why people first use heroin and eventually become addicted to the drug. For some, it may be a case of simple experimentation gone wrong. For others, it may be a way to deal with life stressors or childhood trauma. For still others, the use came about due to peer pressure. For example, in a study in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 63 percent of male illicit drug users and 51 percent of female illicit drug users were introduced to their drugs by a close friend.

No matter how the drug use started, in heroin rehab, a major goal is to identify the reason for first use, as well as the reasons that tend to support current use. Those triggers can then be addressed head on. Addicted people will also need to learn social and emotional coping mechanisms that do not involve drugs, and they’ll need to develop robust relapse prevention skills, which will aid in situations where heroin previously seemed like the only answer. All of these goals will be accomplished through:

  • Group therapy sessions
  • One-on-one therapy sessions
  • Alternative therapy treatments
  • Educational classes

Heroin Rehab at The Canyon

At The Canyon, we provide a comprehensive heroin rehab experience that begins with heroin detox, overseen by consulting physicians. It continues with heroin maintenance and medication if necessary, expands with heroin addiction treatment through a variety of therapy options, and wraps up with relapse prevention services and aftercare to help you fight your heroin addiction after you return home. At The Canyon, you will create your own unique treatment plan with the help and supervision of our staff of addiction treatment specialists and take advantage of the wide range of therapies and treatments we have to offer on our luxurious estate here in the Santa Monica Mountains. Contact us at The Canyon today for more information.