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Information on Heroin, Detox and Rehab

Last updated on: Friday, 15 September 2023
  • What You'll Learn

Treating heroin addiction involves adequate detox, withdrawal management, inpatient drug rehab, and extensive aftercare support. DRS provides a directory listing these available resources within your state.


How Do I Help Someone Addicted to Heroin?

There is no easy way to help someone addicted to heroin. When someone becomes addicted to heroin, it creates a strong physical and psychological need to use the drug. The body experiences painful withdrawal symptoms when it does not have heroin, and the mind requires the effects of heroin to function. The urge to use the drug causes a person to ignore the consequences of their drug use.

Consider the following steps to help a heroin addict:

Plan and execute a family intervention—An intervention is likely needed whether the family hires a professional interventionist or not. Heroin creates an intense physical and psychological addiction.

Arrange adequate detox—Generally, this would involve a medical detox program to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Most states have private medical detox clinics and partial hospital inpatient help through local hospitals. Detox is a critical step and cannot be avoided.

Arrange long-term inpatient drug rehab—The reality of heroin addiction is that most addicts have a history of drug misuse, whether with pain medication, alcohol, cocaine, or methamphetamine. Generally, before using heroin, they were likely misusing pain medication. Long-term inpatient rehab is the best choice after detox.

Arrange lengthy aftercare support—Recovering heroin addicts require ongoing support, such as 12-step meetings, outpatient treatment, or sober living homes. Relapse brings dangerous consequences. Overdose is much more severe when sober and more life-threatening. Adequate aftercare can help ensure sobriety during the first year.

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Ask a Professional

  • What type of drug is heroin?

    Heroin is a powerful, illicit opioid drug. As an opioid, heroin causes pain reduction, euphoria, and many other effects that can be deadly in too large a dose. As a central nervous system depressant, opioids depress breathing and ultimately kill by suffocation. The relatively low cost and potency of heroin make it one of the most commonly abused illicit opioids in the US.

  • What does heroin look like?

    Heroin can vary widely in appearance but is commonly either a whitish powder or a dark brown, tar-like material. But heroin may also take on other forms depending upon the manufacturing process and any additives used. It may even resemble gunpowder or come pressed into pills. Depending on the region, different areas may have various forms of heroin. For example, heroin in the northeastern US has traditionally been a whitish powder, whereas, on the West Coast, black tar heroin has been the predominant form for many years.

  • How long does heroin stay in your system?

    Heroin can be detected in the urine for up to three days after use. However, if the drug is used infrequently and in small amounts, it may only be detectable for one or two days. But because of heroin’s highly addictive properties, infrequent use is uncommon. Other factors like the person’s physiology and health habits can impact how quickly heroin leaves the system.

  • Why is heroin so addictive?

    Heroin is so addictive because of the strong physical dependence it causes. After only a few days of regular use, a dependence develops. Dependence is a condition where the body has become accustomed to the effects of the drug and now needs it to function normally. Without it, the person will suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings for more opioids. So, after only a few uses, a person may become physically addicted to heroin. When this physical component is combined with the mental aspects of opioid addiction, it illustrates why opioids have caused such a scourge across America.

  • How is heroin used?

    Heroin is most commonly used by intravenous injection. That’s because when heroin is consumed this way, it produces a fast and powerful “rush” of intoxicating effects. These effects are all produced by other methods of consumption, but with injection, the rapid accumulation of the substance in the bloodstream can become an addiction in itself. IV drug users generally do not return to other methods of ingestion once they begin shooting up. However, when someone begins experimenting with heroin, they may smoke or snort the drug. Snorting it is much more common when the heroin is in a powdered form, as opposed to the tacky composition of black tar heroin, which is more easily smoked. Heroin may also be consumed orally, but this approach is far less common and mainly occurs when the heroin is pressed into a pill.

  • Want to know more?

    The questions from Addicted.org’s “Learn from our Experts” are answered by Michael Leach, CCMA. If you need further clarification on any of the questions above or have any other questions you can contact him directly at mike@addicted.org.

Common Terminology Surrounding Heroin

Black Tar Heroin
is a sticky, gooey version of heroin, and 70 to 75% of it contains toxic contaminants and additives, giving the drug its sticky tar-like consistency and appearance.
is the combination of heroin and cocaine being used intravenously or snorted simultaneously, and it produces a more intense long-lasting high.
White Powder Heroin
is the purest form of heroin and is a salt form of the drug known as diacetylmorphine hydrochloride, which is also mixed or cut with other white powders.
Brown Powder Heroin
the further process of black tar heroin and cutting it with lactose usually produces heroin that is brown in color.
Viral Infections
intravenous drug use causes viral infection and increases the risk of transmitting these infections, such as HIV/Aids and hepatitis.
is a slang term used primarily in the 1960s to refer to heroin.
Heroin Detox
is a process of utilizing withdrawal management to help a heroin addict control and manage withdrawal symptoms before counseling and therapy.
Heroin Overdose
occurs with a large or small amount of heroin affecting the central nervous system causing respiratory depression and heart failure resulting in death or coma.
these are substances derived from the opium poppy plant that vary in structure and effects on the body.




More Information

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.



More Information

Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.