Heroin Addiction Treatment

The US continues to face an opioid crisis, which was officially declared an epidemic in 2017. Whether in prescription drug or illicit recreational drug form, a substantial number of US adults engage in misuse of opioids.  Opioids are highly addictive and often a danger to the individual’s health and life, as this drug category includes such notorious substances as fentanyl and heroin. Heroin in particular is one of the most addictive opioids in circulation, and also one of the most lethal ones. It’s also a very hard substance to quit without the services of heroin rehab Pennsylvania, as it comes with powerful withdrawal symptoms.

If you or your loved ones are in need of heroin detox services, here we have gathered relevant information which can hopefully inform your choice.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an illegal opioid that’s made from morphine, which is a natural substance derived from the seed pod of different opium poppy plants. Heroin usually comes in the form of white or brown powder or that of a sticky, black, tar-like substance.

In the US, heroin is a Schedule I substance, which makes its possession, use, and distribution illegal under federal law. This classification means that heroin has high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Like all opioids, heroin causes an intense euphoric effect that numbs physical and emotional pain. Heroin produces these effects by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors and nervous system. This function makes heroin a powerful depressant drug, and its strong effects can easily kindle addiction within few uses. Often, heroin use can lead to overdose as the individual continues to chase more powerful euphoric feelings.

A syringe next to bottles of drugs on a table.
Heroin is an addictive and often lethal opioid.

How Do People Use Heroin?

There are unfortunately many ways to use heroin, as heroin rehab centers often have to take into account. People typically snort it, sniff it, smoke it, or inject heroin. Some people even choose to mix this dangerous substance with other substances, such as other opioids. This is called polydrug use, and has two main forms:

  • Using similar substances to enhance their effects, eg using two depressants like heroin and Xanax
  • Using different substances to have one combat the effects of the other, eg using a depressant like heroin and a stimulant like cocaine

In both cases, heroin use can endanger the individual. When used alongside depressants, it can cause such symptoms as respiratory depression and lead to death. When used alongside stimulants, the stimulants’ effects can make it harder to control the dose and lead to overdose.

Regardless of the way that people use heroin, it’s likely that they’ll eventually develop an addiction to the substance. This process typically follows this pattern:

  • Use leads to tolerance, as the body gets used to the substance over time
  • Tolerance leads to larger doses, eventually causing dependence – where the body can’t function without the substance
  • Dependence leads to addiction, as the individual becomes preoccupied with substance use and can’t quit it

Once that happens, such individuals must attend heroin detox followed by heroin addiction treatment.

The Effects of Heroin

There are a wide variety of ways that heroin can negatively affect the health of people that use it. The severity of the effects of heroin use that people will likely experience depends on how much of the substance they’ve abused, and the length of time that they’ve been abusing the substance. In every case, any program for heroin rehab Pennsylvania offers will have to cater to all such symptoms to ensure a successful recovery and help prevent relapse.

The bare back of a depressed woman in need of heroin addiction treatment.
Short-term euphoria soon gives way to detrimental long-term effects on the health of heroin users.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use

When people use heroin, they’ll immediately experience a rush of euphoria. While this euphoria may seem pleasurable, the effects of heroin use that come soon after are likely not.

Common short-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Dry mouth
  • A warm flush of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Poor mental function
  • Going in and out of consciousness

These effects will of course differ from one person to the next. Their severity will also depend on the amount of heroin used, addiction duration, polydrug use, and other factors.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Once individuals use heroin for an extended period of time, the negative effects of the substance will increase in severity. Therefore, the long-term effects of heroin use are often life-threatening.

Common long-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins where heroin is injected
  • Damaged tissue inside of the nose
  • Infection of heart valves and lining
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramping
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung complications
  • Pneumonia
  • Depression
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women
  • Contraction of hepatitis or HIV due to shooting up heroin with shared needles

As with short-term effects, these too can vary considerably. However, prolonged heroin use will in all cases impact the user’s physical and mental health in substantial ways.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Finally, attempting to quit heroin comes with powerful withdrawal symptoms of its own. As all heroin rehab centers will attest to, these symptoms are often too severe for the individual to handle on their own. This is why DIY home detox typically fails, and just has the individual relapse to heroin use soon after.

Heroin withdrawals are negative symptoms that people experience when their bodies are dependent on heroin and are no longer receiving enough of the substance to function. The body attempts to achieve homeostasis, but the absence of heroin makes the brain perceive powerful pain signals from the body.

An infographic on heroin withdrawal symptoms present during heroin addiction treatment.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last heroin dose, and only intensify as time goes on. Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Severe muscle and bone pain
  • Troubled sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe heroin cravings

Of course, withdrawal symptoms are not identical across all cases. The intensity of cravings will also vary somewhat, but is most often severe.

Heroin Overdose

Another crucial factor that should discourage users from attempting to detox on their own is overdosing. People that use large amounts of heroin can easily overdose (OD) on the substance, which primarily happens when the individual:

  • Can’t handle withdrawal symptoms and uses heroin again, often without clarity of mind
  • Uses heroin in combination with other substances that obscure the exact dose of heroin taken
  • Has developed such tolerance to heroin that large doses are necessary to achieve euphoria

While overdosing doesn’t necessarily lead to death, it is always very dangerous to the individual’s health. Heroin specifically is markedly more lethal than most opioids, with the exception of fentanyl. All centers for heroin rehab Pennsylvania offers will attest to the sheer dangers of overdosing and the health complications it can cause.

Common heroin overdose symptoms will look similar to opioid overdose symptoms, and can include:

  • Loss of consciousness or being unresponsive
  • Respiratory arrest, which can cause death
  • Breathing difficulties or irregularities, which can decrease oxygen supply to the brain and cause hypoxia

Hypoxia specifically is a highly dangerous health complication all in itself. When people suffer from hypoxia, it affects their brains and central nervous systems. This could cause a person to experience a coma and/or permanent brain damage.

An unconscious woman on an operating table.
Even when it’s not lethal, a heroin overdose can cause serious health complications.

Heroin Overdose Treatment

Having outlined the above, it should be clear that one should never attempt to detox on their own. Withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, and the danger of overdose if one relapses is very present. Detox is always best left to heroin rehab centers, where healthcare professionals can offer monitoring and clinical support.

Still, if someone you know does overdose and you can help, there are ways to. One way to treat a heroin overdose is to inject the person that OD’d with an injectable form of naloxone. Naloxone helps treat heroin overdose by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and blocking the effects of heroin along with all other opioids. Naloxone comes in the form of an injectable such as EVZIO or a nasal spray such as NARCAN nasal spray.

While naloxone injections can help treat a heroin overdose, it’s still important that the person that overdosed on heroin receives emergency help from a doctor at a hospital. That way the person that overdosed on heroin can receive any additional support that they need.

Heroin Detox

Individuals addicted to substances as strong as heroin need to attend medical detox to get sober. Medical detox, as the name suggests, is a medical process that helps ensure successful detoxification. It is carried out at a clinical facility that provides 24/7 supervision and assistance from physicians and medical staff. Most centers for heroin rehab Pennsylvania has to offer will provide medical detox services.

During medical heroin detox, individuals must rid the body of all heroin and any other toxic substances. The best way to rid the body of toxins while detoxing is to taper one’s use of heroin. This means slowly decreasing the amount of heroin that a person is using.

Two heroin addiction treatment providers in blue scrub suits smiling at the camera representing heroin rehab pennsylvania
Heroin detoxification should always be done in a clinical environment.


It’s best to taper the use of heroin during medical detox because stopping all use of heroin cold turkey could shock the body’s systems. This, in turn, could be harmful to a person’s health and could even lead to death.

Even when individuals taper their use of heroin during heroin detox, they will still experience withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can be severe. To help heroin detox patients manage detox withdrawal symptoms, physicians will prescribe prescription withdrawal medications. The use of medications to help people manage their withdrawal symptoms during detox is called medication-assisted treatment.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Once individuals complete heroin detox, they should attend heroin addiction treatment. During heroin addiction treatment, patients will receive different forms of addiction therapy.

While attending addiction therapy, patients that are in recovery from heroin addiction will discover what their addiction triggers are. Once individuals in heroin addiction treatment discover what their heroin addiction triggers are, they’ll learn how to manage them without the use of substances.

If you’re interested in the typical treatment process heroin rehab centers offer, it is as follows.

Inpatient and Residential Heroin Addiction Treatment

There are different levels of addiction treatment. The level of heroin addiction treatment that each person attends depends on the severity of his or her addiction. For example, individuals with severe heroin addictions should attend inpatient or residential addiction treatment. This is because inpatient and residential heroin addiction treatment programs make patients live in rehab facilities while in care so that they can receive 24/7 guidance and supervision.

The only difference between inpatient and residential treatment programs is that residential treatment programs are slightly more casual, and thus give patients more free time. Thus, residential treatment program residents get more time for themselves and more time to participate in fun, holistic treatment sessions than residents of standard inpatient treatment programs.

A patient and a doctor discussing in an office representing heroin rehab pennsylvania
Inpatient programs are an invaluable step toward recovery, and are often necessary in more severe cases.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Once a patient completes an inpatient or residential program, they may still not be ready to proceed to outpatient programs. They may still need some clinical care or have other conditions that require treatment. For such cases, heroin rehab Pennsylvania providers may offer the option of a partial hospitalization program (PHP) before outpatient programs. PHP requires individuals to attend rehab five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. It offers some clinical services as needed, but it also offers the individual the freedom to stay at home. PHP treatments are typically for individuals with moderate to severe heroin addictions, and are commonly a step-down service.

Outpatient Heroin Addiction Treatment

Finally, individuals with moderate heroin addictions or ones who have completed prior programs should attend outpatient programs. These come in two primary forms:

  • Outpatient programs (OPs), which are standard outpatient programs in terms of treatment and intensity. These only require patients to attend rehab a couple of hours a day, once or twice a week.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), which are more intense variants of OPs. IOP treatment sessions require people to attend rehab for a few hours a day, a few days a week.

Typically, IOPs are better suited to more severe cases while OPs are for milder cases. There’s no standard approach, however, as each journey to recovery is different. Which sequence of programs a patient follows and how long they last should always depend on their exact needs, and their treatment should be highly personalized to them.

A group of friends during a group therapy session holding hands representing heroin rehab pennsylvania
During outpatient Pennsylvania heroin rehab programs the individual will begin to socialize and participate in group therapy.

If You Need The Best Heroin Rehab Pennsylvania Has To Offer, We’re Here For You

At Little Creek Lodge, we know that heroin is a substance that’s commonly misused. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to provide the perfect heroin addiction treatment program.

Here at Little Creek Lodge, we specialize in men’s addiction treatment. Therefore, our inpatient treatment programs are only for our male residents. We still offer outpatient treatment programs for both men and women, though.

Our mission here at Little Creek is to provide a strong foundation while integrating internalized recovery through therapeutic and 12-step models, with a focus on the spiritual paradigm. To accomplish our mission, we here at Little Creek Recovery focus on a 12-step philosophy in conjunction with reality-based therapies. Therefore, we incorporate 12-step philosophy and spirituality in all of our addiction treatment programs, including our heroin rehab Pennsylvania.

To learn more about our heroin addiction treatment program or any of our other addiction treatment programs or therapies, contact us today! Our teams are available 24/7, and will be more than glad to help you start your journey to recovery.

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