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What Are The Steps Of Heroin Recovery?

Updated on July 31, 2013
Heroin Recovery
Heroin Recovery

Realizing You Have A Problem

The very first step in Heroin Recovery is realizing you have a problem. It's very important that you realize a problem exists and that you need help overcoming it. Here are a few signs that you or someone you know is a heroin addict:

  1. A sudden change in attitude and/or demeanor.
  2. Change of appearance or suddenly unconcerned with appearance
  3. Fluctuation in weight
  4. Needle marks on arms, legs, hands, neck, or between toes
  5. Slow or slurred speech
  6. Do they have the shakes?
  7. Sweaty palms and/or cold and sweaty
  8. Dilated pupils (Like pins or real small)
  9. Presence of paraphernalia. (Needles, Baggies, Spoons)

Few heroin addicts have successfully recovered without some sort of professional help. I really believe that realizing your addiction is such an important first step. Recognizing this for me was when I started to feel successful and confident about my recovery. After that things start getting easier.

Hitting Lows And The Definition Of Bottom

A lot of rehabilitation professionals recognize the fact that as an addict, you must hit "Rock Bottom" before you'll be ready for treatment. To me this line of thinking does carry some weight, but it is not a must. In my experience relapse is more likely to occur if you are not at the bottom so to speak, but there is no reason to let that stop you from trying to get help. For me personally, it took several attempts before things finally stuck and I was successful. It's important to remember that everyone is different and addicts respond to the recovery process in their own way.

You Know That You've Hit Bottom If:

  1. You keep telling everyone what you do for a living, yet you have not shown up at work for over a month.

  2. Your Boss /Clients are the first 10 messages on the answer machine.
  3. Running out of gas while on the highway twice in one day.
  4. The crack head that borrowed your car for "20 minuets" to go get more stuff has not returned in 3 days.
  5. You lost the only car key twice in one month, then yell at your parents for being angry about sending money for a re-key - again!
  6. Power keeps getting shut off.
  7. Good friends no longer wish to be around you and/or dodge calls.
  8. Hookers keep showing up to smoke dope with you and use the phone.
  9. Can't remember the last time you had something to eat.
  10. Hiding in your bathroom while hookers "work" in the bedroom.

All of these things really happened to me and I never realized it while I was using. So now you know.


Detox is the most dreaded part of this process for most addicts. There are many physical and mental hardships while detoxing. Especially in the beginning. There are a few ways in which this process works. For the patients getting off of heroin or any other opiate, this is a very painful experience if done "cold turkey". At this point it's all about withdrawal. Here are some of the symptoms:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Vomiting and Diarrhea at the same time
  4. Cold sweats
  5. Muscle and Bone pain
  6. Involuntary Muscle Movement
  7. Disorientation
  8. Hot/Cold Flashes

Just to name a few. Withdrawal feels like your guts are getting ripped out as well. That's the best way I can describe the feeling. It's like there is a severe rage building up inside your stomach and muscles. Very uncomfortable! These symptoms last anywhere from 3 days to 1 month, although it is at its worst for the first three days or so.

Cocaine addicts will have some physical discomfort, however most of it will be extreme lethargy and depression for about a week.

Medical Detox

Detox doesn't have to be as messy as I described above.  I recommend that you or your loved one detox in a professional medical facility that specializes in substance abuse.  This is really the first few weeks of a live in rehabilitation program, but you can sign up just to detox and then get out of there.  It is a lot more comfortable and safe to do it this way.  You will be under medical supervision the whole time and the doctor will administer certain medications to make the withdrawals more comfortable.  Every place is a little different in what they give you, but i guarantee that it beats going "cold turkey".


Finally, we get to the actual rehabilitation part of the process. You must realize that this is the most important part of recovery. It's at this stage that you figure out how to emotionally handle this mess and also figure out what got you medicating yourself in the first place. It is so important to really dig deep and confront the demons. If you don't, success cannot be reached.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Live in facility - This is the place that you will go to detox and then follow through with treatment for the addiction(s). Most places want you to stay for at least 30 days, but really you should go for 60 - 90. It really depends on your situation. There are one that cost $5,000 to $30,000 per month. Also, every state has some sort of free center you can go to. The food just won't be as good.
  2. Outpatient - There are two main outpatient options for opiate addicts. Methadone vs Suboxone. I want to give my real opinion here. I've used both at different times, and I can say that for me the Suboxone was a miracle. I never got sick and I got the mental and addiction therapy that was needed. Then I tapered off very slowly. It was painless and I don't think I could have done it any other way. That being said, it is not for everyone. People are affected indifferent ways. Methadone is more harmful in my opinion because it is very painful to get off of and it makes you a drooling mess anyway. So what's the point? It wasn't for me, but there are many success stories for it as well.

I hope this little talk we had opened your eyes a little more and gave you a few options for you and your loved ones.


Submit a Comment

  • pressingtheissue profile image

    pressingtheissue 6 years ago from Pa

    Thanks Brett, I believe that good information is the key to getting into a recovery situation that will work the best. Each Individual is different in their needs.

  • Brett.Tesol profile image

    Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

    A very worthy cause that people need to know about! Voted up and awesome.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I'm more of a meth monster - definitely not an opiate addict. I did get a few droppers full of methadone liquid from a heroin addict friend once. I would have been content to law in a pool of vomit while high on that stuff - and that scared me!

  • zzron profile image

    zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

    Thanks for sharing this information. People need to know the dangers of drug abuse and how difficult their recovery can be but I believe in the end it is worth it.

  • pressingtheissue profile image

    pressingtheissue 6 years ago from Pa

    Thanks for your kind words Karanda.

  • Karanda profile image

    Karen Wilton 6 years ago from Australia

    Congratulations on taking your first steps to becoming a former heroin user. The road is not an easy one, so I am told and have watched as many dear friends have taken the alternate path.

    You have written a most informative and helpful article for those who need it. I wish you well in each step of a most difficult journey.