Treating Heroin Addiction

Man sitting on couch talking with therapist.The best treatment for you will depend on your needs. But certain medicines combined with behavioral therapy may help most. Detoxification is usually the first step. This helps relieve symptoms while your body adjusts to a drug-free state.

Methadone and other anti-narcotic medicines

Methadone has been used to treat heroin abuse for more than 30 years. It works by relieving your craving for the drug. When used as prescribed, it doesn’t make you tired or groggy. And it doesn’t affect your normal routine. You take methadone once a day. Instead of methadone, you may use newer medicines such as naltrexone or buprenorphine, which work in different ways to help you limit your use.

Behavioral therapy

There are many types of behavioral therapy to treat drug dependency. Some therapies help change the way you think and act. Others, such as contingency management therapy, reward you for staying drug-free. These treatments may be part of a residential or outpatient program. In a residential program, you live with others who have the same problem. You may stay in treatment for 3 to 6 months. As an outpatient, you receive therapy while living your normal life.

Self-help groups

These groups offer support and encouragement and are a lifeline throughout recovery. At first, you may go to meetings every day. Later, you may go only when you need extra support. There are also groups for the loved ones of people addicted to drugs.

Where can I find help?

Healing from drug addiction isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to a healthcare provider or drug counselor. Or try the resources listed below.


Drug treatment programs and mental health clinics are listed in your phone book. Look for groups such as Narcotics Anonymous. Other resources to try:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline  800-662-4357

  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information  800-729-6686

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse  301-443-1124