What Are the Steps in a Heroin Treatment Program?

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If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, you may feel like you don’t know where to turn. Many people become addicted to heroin to deal with chronic pain, or they’re trying to self-medicate a mental illness. No matter the reason for usage, heroin is a very dangerous and highly addictive substance. The idea of quitting might seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. What are the steps to a heroin treatment program?

Heroin treatment will generally follow three main stages: detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment. The duration of these stages and the steps involved will vary depending on your circumstances. This is an overview of the basics of what to expect.

How Heroin Treatment Works

To understand the stages of heroin addiction treatment, it’s important to understand how recovery from addiction works. To have a successful recovery, people must manage the following:

  • Getting the toxic substance out of their body
  • Treating the mental health aspect of addiction and dependence
  • Treating any co-occuring mental or physical disorders
  • Treating the physical dependence on the substance

You’ll generally address these criteria in three stages. The first is detox, which is when you’ll go through the detoxification and withdrawal process. A medically monitored detox can help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce pain. The next is inpatient treatment. Most heroin addicts need inpatient treatment for a successful recovery; that said, sometimes people can’t afford to do an inpatient program. In these cases, outpatient treatment would be the next step. Outpatient treatment is also the next step after a heroin addict completes an inpatient rehab program.

Addiction is a lifelong disease that will require consistent maintenance. However, both the physical and mental symptoms will subside the longer you go without relapsing.

1. Detox

Detox is the first step. You need to rid your body of the heroin, which means going through the withdrawal process. Heroin withdrawal can be very painful, but medical detox involves methods that can help.

Professional treatment centers are the best place to go through a heroin detox. Hospitals are capable of medical monitoring, but they may not provide the same mental health services a patient needs. Many detox centers are attached to rehabilitation facilities, so you can go from detoxing to inpatient care without needing to change addresses. That said, detox is handled differently from rehab.

Detox refers to the medical aspect of withdrawal. As such, detox programs tend to last for only a few days, while inpatient rehab often lasts for several months. The longest detox programs tend to be about two weeks long. They involve consistent medical monitoring of your withdrawal symptoms to ensure your withdrawal is as safe and painless as possible.

There are a number of medications that patients may be prescribed during a heroin detox. Some of the common ones include:

  • Buprenorphine – An opioid medication that can help with cravings and withdrawal along with chronic pain
  • Methadone – An opioid stronger than buprenorphine that works similarly; however, the use is controversial due to the risk of overdose
  • Naltrexone – A blocker for opioid receptors that reduces craving and prevents heroin from getting the user high
  • Suboxone – A combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone that inhibits heroin effects while relieving withdrawal pain

2. Inpatient Rehab

After you’ve detoxed from the heroin, you need to deal with the mental aspect of addiction. The best way to do this is in an inpatient rehab facility. Inpatient rehab programs provide stable, controlled environments with constant access to medical professionals and mental health services. These are the best places to explore and treat your mental health.

Rehab programs typically last at least 30 days, but many will last between 3 and 6 months. Residential programs may last even longer. The best program for you will vary depending on your environmental circumstances, the strength of your addiction, and the mental health treatment you need.

2.5. Intensive Outpatient Care

This is labeled as step 2.5 because it’s a potential alternative to inpatient care. Experts highly recommend inpatient care for heroin addiction, as it’s a serious substance use disorder that has a high chance of relapse. For people who can’t afford the cost of inpatient rehab, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) is an option. Intensive outpatient programs will often require you to take time off work, but if you can’t afford that, you may be able to tailor your program around your schedule.

An intensive outpatient program will address the same mental health factors that you’ll cover in an inpatient rehab program. You’ll receive counseling and therapy, explore healthier coping methods, and get to the root of your addiction. You may also have access to family therapy services for your loved ones. Unlike inpatient care, however, you’ll live and sleep at home. Most IOPs involve four to eight hours of therapy per day.

Intensive outpatient care tends to be much cheaper than inpatient rehab. There are some inherent risks, though. If environmental triggers are a big part of your addiction, you might have a higher likelihood of relapse while in treatment. Relapse potential is also higher since it’s easier to get illicit substances outside a rehabilitation facility.

3. Outpatient Services

After completing inpatient treatment, outpatient services are used to maintain the patient’s mental and physical health. Typically, these will involve individual addiction counseling, meetings with psychiatrists for mental health medication, and regular physician appointments for any physical health conditions. Ongoing family therapy is also highly recommended.

4. Support Groups

Both secular and non-secular support groups are available in nearly every community. You can also find support groups online. Experts recommend that addicts attend support groups to connect with people going through the same issues. Peer support greatly reduces the chances of relapse.

If you’re ready to talk to someone about your addiction, we have trained counselors available 24/7. Call 866-802-6848 today.