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Heroin Withdrawal Tips

  1. Medications For Heroin Withdrawal
  2. Behavioral Treatments For Heroin Withdrawal
  3. The Importance of Medical Monitoring
  4. Develop a Taper Schedule
  5. Other Tips

Heroin Withdrawal?

Withdrawing from heroin can be very difficult. People often relapse in the face of experiencing the intensely unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal without having the benefit of proper treatment or medical intervention.

These symptoms are often intolerable and can cause profound anxiety in those experiencing them.

Heroin Withdrawal?

Like any potent opiate, heroin is powerfully addictive--dependence can quickly develop after daily use for several consecutive weeks. Once dependency has developed, should the individual stop using heroin, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Use of the illicit opioid heroin can result in a number of diverse effects exemplified by central nervous system depression, the generation of a pleasant euphoria, warmth, subjective heaviness of the limbs and a decrease in pain perception.

  • Approximately 23% of people who use heroin develop a dependence on the opioid; withdrawal occurs in about 60% of the people who have used heroin in the past year.

  • The best way to quit using heroin is to seek medical supervision at a treatment facility.

    This will ensure that you detox in a safe and comfortable environment.

Below are some common withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin cessation:

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Runny nose.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Sweating.
  • Yawning.

  • Stomach cramping.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dysphoria (general dissatisfaction).
  • Inability to feel pleasure.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Diarrhea.

Medications For Heroin Withdrawal

  • There are a number of medications available to help with heroin withdrawal. These medications are designed to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms while the body detoxifies.

The most common medications that treatment facilities utilize are as follows:


  • A high blood pressure medication that can decrease the anxiety, sweating, cramping, muscle aches, and runny nose associated with heroin withdrawal.


  • Methadone, a slow-acting opioid agonist, is FDA-approved to treat heroin addiction but has been used to treat acute withdrawal symptoms as well.
  • Although it is an opioid, the mode of administration is oral, allowing a more gradual onset of effect than other opioid drugs.
  • In addition to the slower mode of action, methadone is also a less potent opioid than heroin--further diminishing the chances of producing a "high."


  • This partial opioid agonist can be prescribed by a doctor for medically-monitored heroin withdrawal.
  • It is often used in combination with naloxone to help minimize the abuse potential of the buprenorphine itself (by injecting or taking more than prescribed).

The importance of medical monitoring during heroin withdrawal cannot be overstated. If you are afraid to quit heroin because of the fear of not being able to bear withdrawal symptoms, treatment programs can help you. Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to speak with one of our treatment support staff today.

Behavioral Treatments For Heroin Withdrawal

Behavioral treatments are often used in conjunction with medication in order to promote sobriety and lasting recovery once the body is initially detoxified. Even if a patient is medically-managed to ease the withdrawal process, there are some additional behavioral treatment approaches considered to be helpful in coping with cravings and maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

In CBT, the therapist works with the patient to modify negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The individual learns healthy coping skills to be utilized when heroin cravings arise.

It is best if the patient is able to avoid activities that may induce cravings in the first place, such as reconnecting with heroin-using friends and attending parties where people will be using, but sometimes cravings are unavoidable. In these situations, the following coping skills have proven useful:


  • Partake in a distracting activity such as reading a book, going for a swim, riding a bike, or cooking.
  • Talk it through with a friend, loved one, or sponsor.

    • This can help take the power away from the urge, relieve the feeling, and restore honesty in relationships.
  • Challenge and change thoughts.

    • Many people will only think of the positive effects of heroin during a craving and it's important to remind yourself of the negative ramifications of heroin use as well as the benefits of living a sober life.
    • In this manner, you can convince yourself that you won't feel good if you succumb to the craving.

Contingency Management

This behavioral treatment reinforces positive, abstinent behaviors by utilizing incentives and rewards.

  • It has been found that a voucher-based system is especially effective in helping heroin-addicted individuals remain sober after initial withdrawal and detoxification.
  • This system provides patients with a voucher for every drug-free urine sample and this voucher can be used to buy certain movie passes, food, or other rewards.
  • The vouchers increase in value as the individual continues to live drug-free.

A similar reward system enters patients in a draw if they test negative for drugs.

  • They can win a number of different prizes worth anywhere from $1 to $100 and receive extra draws for reaching goals and attending therapy.
  • Both of these reward-based programs are effective in treating heroin addiction and promoting abstinence.

The Importance of Medical Monitoring

It is not recommended that you attempt to quit using heroin on your own.

Although heroin withdrawal is generally not life-threatening, the withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable and distressing and cause extreme anxiety. Medical management can ease some of your unwanted symptoms while facilitating the detox process.

In most cases, merely completing a period of medically managed detox is not sufficient treatment to permanently quit using. It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from a heroin addiction to relapse after detoxification. Tenacious opiate addictions typically require consistent behavioral and medical maintenance in order to remain sober.

If you are considering quitting heroin, it's important that you find a treatment center experienced in heroin detoxification. Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to speak with an experienced treatment support representative who can help you find a program that meets your needs.

Develop a Taper Schedule

It's crucial to understand that it's not advisable to attempt to quit heroin cold turkey.

It's strongly recommended that you find an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility that caters to your specific needs and situation.

Once people surmount the difficult withdrawal period and are successfully detoxed from heroin, they typically attend therapy and/or are put on a medical maintenance program in order to decrease chances of relapse.

  • When the patient is ready to stop taking heroin withdrawal medication, a tapering schedule must be put into place so he or she doesn't again experience undesirable withdrawal symptoms.
  • A mental health professional will create a schedule for the patient and it's important that the patient follows all directions carefully and listens to his or her physician.

Other Tips

  • It may be helpful to join Heroin Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, 12-step fellowship programs that promote camaraderie and foster a supportive environment for recovering addicts. You can surround yourself with those who live a drug-free lifestyle and form new, healthy friendships with like-minded people.

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