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How to Quit Heroin and What to Expect When Quitting Heroin

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a heroin addict?

Most people think of dirty, homeless “junkies” sticking needles in their arms. Probably in a back alley or run down house. This is not always the case.

quit heroin

The landscape of heroin addiction has changed over the last decade. A recent study by the JAMA network concluded that most individuals who enter treatment to quit heroin are white 23 year old females.

Our data show that the demographic composition of heroin users entering treatment has shifted over the last 50 years such that heroin use has changed from an inner-city, minority-centered problem to one that has a more widespread geographical distribution, involving primarily white men and women in their late 20s living outside of large urban areas.

[via Jama Network Study]

It is important to understand why this is the case.

Heroin is rarely the drug that users start with. In most cases, teens start with prescription painkillers and eventually resort to heroin because it is less expensive than RX drugs. Once this happens the effects of heroin quickly take a tole and it becomes very difficult to quit.

Most of the time, help is needed to quit heroin.

What are the Effects of Heroin??

Heroin is an opioid. It acts as a depressant on your central nervous system. Opioids are used as pain relievers and people who are addicted to prescription painkillers typically experience similar effects.

The tools and techniques for how to quit heroin are similar to methods used to quit painkillers. However, heroin can cause its own unique problems because it is a drug that is commonly used intravenously. This carries an increased risk for diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and also infected abscesses.

Finding help to quit heroin can save your life. There is a common saying in the recovery community that “heroin addicts don’t grow old.”

Some of the short term effects of heroin use include…

  • Sense of euphoria
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation

The “high” that heroin brings is so euphoric that it can be difficult to live without. Heroin is very chemically addictive, but it is also psychologically addictive. The effects of the high that heroin produces change your perspective on reality and can quickly become a coping mechanism for users.

What to Know about Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal from opioids like heroin is a nightmarish experience. Heroin has a notoriously painful withdrawal process and in many cases relapse happens simply due to a person using simply to diminish the pain of withdrawal. Many times the abuser will report that he or she didn’t even want to get high. It really takes a toll on the emotional and mental well-being of the person seeking to quit heroin.

It doesn’t take long to become physically dependent to the drug and quitting heroin usually means going through a detox process, in which a professional will monitor you and give medication to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

Help for heroin detox and heroin treatment is available. If you are ready to get better, call us for help. 866-317-7050.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include…

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Depression
  • Chills and intense cold sweats
  • Severe headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach cramps
  • Leg pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trembling

Medication can help alleviate the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Seeking professional help is a suggestion that cannot be overstated. If looking to quit heroin alone, unfortunately the statistics show that very few people can quit and stay quit for good.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

PAWS symptoms can last up to 2 years after quitting heroin. They include difficulty in thinking clearly, managing emotions and stress, sleeping, physical coordination, and memory. PAWS symptoms can be managed with continued addiction treatment and through an addict’s best efforts to live a healthy, balanced life.

More about Opiate Withdrawal

The withdrawal symptoms are similar to people who are in withdrawal from narcotic pain medication. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the person and their usage habits. In general, withdrawal symptoms start to appear about 6-12 hours after their last use. The symptoms peak at about 1-3 days and in about 5-7 days the physical withdrawal will begin to subside.

Withdrawal effects of oxycontin and other prescription pain medication are also very severe.

Medical Detox Treatments

In detox centers, there are a variety of medications that might be used to help treat the withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine is a medication that reduces muscle aches, sweating, cramping, runny nose and alleviate anxiety and agitation.

Buprenorphine helps to eliminate pain and it’s often considered to be the safest drug to use.

Methadone is a drug that can reduce physical pain and it can be used while pregnant. Suboxone also reduces symptoms.

How to Quit Heroin – Treatment and After Care Plans

It is important to know that withdrawal symptoms from quitting heroin are not fatal. Eventually the short term withdrawals will go away. The problem however, does not fully subside once physical symptoms have stopped. Your brain chemistry takes a much longer time to regulate itself. The irregularities in dopamine and serotonin levels often leads to depression, anxiety, strange sleep habits and mood swings.

It is at this point where many heroin overdose deaths occur. Depression leads to relapse. The body no longer has the tolerance for the drug it once did. The dose that the user was at one time using regularly can no longer be tolerated and the hit kills them.

Because of all these risks, the best way to quit heroin is by attending an addiction treatment center.

So much has been learned about addiction in the last century. Treatment centers now offer a range of treatment options. Most treatment facilities incorporate individual therapy, group therapy, spiritual measures, life skills and other phases into their treatment plan.

There is no one size fits all process to treatment for heroin addiction. Many different people have quit heroin using a multitude of techniques. If you are serious about quitting heroin, we recommend this 5 Phase Step Down Model.

5 phase step down treatment process

Via Delray Recovery Center – for more information call 866-317-7050.

More on Methadone and Suboxone

Methadone and Suboxone are two drugs that can help you quit heroin.

There has been a lot of controversy over the use and prescription of methadone. There are many different views on the effectiveness of the drug. Sober Nation has even gone as far to take an official stand on the topic. This drug has proven to be very helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms, but many times it leads to dependence on its own.

Talk to your doctor about the possibility of using methadone as an assist in quitting heroin.

The drugs block the effects of heroin, so that taking heroin will either make you sick or not affect your body at all. They also help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You might be prescribed these medicines in a detox center and you can also receive them in outpatient clinics.

Methadone is not a replacement for quitting. When researching how to quit heroin, replacing your heroin addiction for a methadone addiction should never be an option.

There are risks associated with Methadone and Suboxone. However, many people also report that these drugs have helped immensely in their attempt to get clean and maintain long term recovery.

Methadone and Suboxone are not intended to be taken for more than several months and you will need to wean yourself of them.

Behavioral and Cognitive Treatments

Learning behavioral methods to cope with addiction is just as important as getting off the drugs. Physically quitting usually isn’t enough and recovery has to be supplemented with therapy and support.

Rehab programs will often use a 12-step program (usually AA or NA). They may offer group counseling therapy and individual therapy, and they’ll teach coping skills that can help an addict manage their addiction and avoid relapse.

Holistic treatment may also be an option. If you struggle with the 12 step approach you can find holistic therapy that find other ways to work on the mind, body and spirit. Meditation, yoga nutritional eating habits and service work can all have a huge impact on your recovery. Many holistic options use these strategies.

Rehab programs often last 30 days to 3 months, but therapy can last as long as an addict needs it and involvement in counseling or 12-step programs is encouraged.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Support is crucial. Getting clean and sober is difficult no matter what, but getting off heroin and other opiotes has a very inique and cruel set of challenges that will absolutely take a toll. Help and support will help you get through the hard times in which relapse is most dangerous.

Every addict will have different experiences with quitting heroin and knowing what to expect can help. With the genuine will to quit and change their lifestyle, help from professionals and a support network – you or your loved one can persevere and live a long happy life.


  1. jhonson port says

    Nice blog and here i read good information about Heroin treatment. Intense heroin cravings during withdrawal are often the cause of relapse when someone is trying to quit using heroin. To minimize heroin cravings and the pain of withdrawal, heroin detox programs administer medications such as methadone and Suboxone.
    Medically supervised heroin detox programs are designed to help heroin addicts gradually wean off drugs and prepare to work a program of addiction recovery. Going through detox without any follow-up care is a recipe for relapse. Heroin detox is just the first step in a longer process of learning new skills and addressing the issues underlying the heroin addiction.
    For more details: CRChealth.com

  2. Michele says

    After 25+ years of heroin addiction, 13 treatment centers, numerous incarcerations, I am proud to say I’m into my 5th year clean & sober. This article was very accurate and on point. Very refreshing to read something with such accuracy.

  3. shady says

    Me and my boyfriend are trying to quit heroin, i just recently started he has been doing it for years has been fhru several good treatments centers. I am currently on suboxone but i went to jail and tjey threw the remaini g of my prescription away so i and him stopped using but i was throwing up so badly we went and got some. My appointment for my doctor is coming up but not for another 2 weeks i want to be done with this devil i want ro be able to get offf the suboxone as well. He feels the same we both talked about going to rehab together we love each other so much we dont want to lose each other, but unfortunately we have a lot of stress on our relationship where his ex family is upset his with me. His ex wife is in pprison was active user badly, he said he will leave me before he had me on it real bad, he works 7 days a week. And can be a active user and can quit when he wants but i get so sick. I just need some advice on this how 2 make thi gs better for the both of us. .. meetings really help him and i been to so e in the ppast myself but he says he feels like his forcing me to go when i want to go as well… please help with some advice on this situation. Thanks

    • sheila says

      For starters: Have you honestly gotten humble about your drug abuse and needing help.? If the answer is yes! Then you will pick up the phone right now and get yourself into treatment. And if the answer is no! You need to ask yourself one question: Is my life unmanageable? If the answer is yes! Then you will pick up the phone right now and get yourself into treatment. If the answer is no! Then you are not being honest with YOURSELF!. And treatment for your drug abuse starts with SELF. You need to ask yourself one question. Do I honestly, truly care about myself? If the answer is yes! You do not want treatment for your drug abuse. If the answer is no! Then you will pick up the phone right now and get yourself into treatment. Then they will teach you HOW to honestly, truly care about self. Now ask yourself three questions; 1. H- DO I HONESTLY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH DRUG ABUSE?
      3.W- Oh The big W-!! WILLING TO DO WHAT EVER THE

  4. Spacegrl7 says

    You can quit. If you can get in to see a doctor who will help you it will be easier. Hopefully you want to quit for yourself and not anyone else. I was addicted to opiates for 7 years. I quit. It wasn’t easy but I finally got clean. The physical withdrawal symptoms go away in about a week or so but the mental issues stay for a while. You can do this. There are support groups out there that you can utilize. I’m not sure where you live but lots of cities have assistance programs for addicts. Suboxone and methadone are both viable options for quitting.

  5. d says

    i am trying to wing off starting with needle just snort and smoke a little i just woke up and did a shot hopefully my last i fucken missed though so im a little agitaded

    • GREM says

      I think you meant “wean off” not “wing”… How is it that you’re a junkie yet you don’t even know how to differentiate weaning off drugs and… winging it? I don’t even know how that would make any sense… Wing off? Yeah you’re a lost cause, the dope has already rotted your brain to it’s core 😛 I’m taking my subs, trying to live a straight life right now, but it’s tough… At least I can be thankful to know that I can spell and differentiate words still. There might just be hope for me yet.

  6. Rachel R. says

    Need advice. What if you b kept relapsing once a month. You know t
    he consequences,know are going out be tested, know if you give a dirty then there goes you baby, iI have five. Only my last one is temporarly in a foster home… I know my p.o. we
    I’ll lock me up, I know I could just leave and know all the tools to not use, I know I won’t feel it BC I’ve been on methadone for seven years…. But! There i go buying a twenty bag and using heroin… Even when it’s my last twenty and my kids just asked 1 minute ago to buy them something from store, I say I don’t have money and then spend it on myself…. Really on nothing! It makes me feel so selfish before during and after but I still choose to use every now and then….. Why???????? I’ll try to do other things but my mind stays on it at the time, even if I do stop thinking about it while I’m doing whatever to distract myself, it pops right back into my mind as soon as I’m done…… What the hell is my problem….? I’ve been struggling with this for nine years, seven on methadone so during those seven years I didn’t have to do it. I wasn’t sick….. Wth?????!

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