Heroin Addiction

Heroin is derived from opium poppy plants. It can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked.

What Are the Effects of Heroin?

Constant use of heroin builds up a tolerance in the body and will require increased amounts to achieve the same feeling.

Heroin use can lead to:

  • Destruction of veins
  • Infections including skin infections such as cellulitis
  • Increased risk of getting HIV (AIDS), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C

Some of the signs to look out for with someone you suspect of using heroin are;

  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • feelings of depression
  • issues surrounding memory functions
  • needle marks on the body and in particular the arms
  • a runny nose
  • changes in appearance or decline in personal hygiene
  • never having any money for the bills or to go out with.
  • poor school reports or issues at work including time off.
  • Behaviour that involves dangerous or risky situations.

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Recovery from Heroin Addiction

Any treatment plan needs to be tailored to the individuals’ needs and prepared by a professional.

Detoxing from Heroin

A detox should be supervised by an appropriate medical practitioner. There is no one way to detox from heroin and any detox will almost certainly involve Pharmacological Treatment. The most commonly used medicines for a heroin detox are;


As an opioid, buprenorphine interacts with the same receptors as heroin, though its effects are limited. This helps with withdrawal and cravings.


Although stronger than buprenorphine, methadone essentially works in the same way. Methadone use is controversial because it can build up in the body if taken too often, making overdose more likely; it is also potentially addictive itself.


Also used in treating alcoholism, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors. This reduces cravings and prevents heroin from having an effect when taken.


This is a combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone. This combination not only relieves withdrawal pain but also inhibits the effects of heroin.

The Addiction Centre sets out a comprehensive withdrawal time frame.

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The following is a guide

Acute Withdrawal Days 1 & 2

In the first two days people often experience muscle aches, panic attacks insomnia and shaking

Acute withdrawal Days 3,4 &5 

The withdrawal symptoms usually intensify and often involve stomach cramps, sweating, vomiting and the shivers.

Withdrawal Days 6 & 7

The acute symptoms experienced in the first 5 days tend to reduce and as the person starts to feel more normal they are often tired and have little energy.

PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)

Common long term symptoms can be irritability, sleeplessness, fatigue and anxiety.


Treatment & Rehab

Most people with a medium to severe heroin habit will seek an in-patient residential treatment program.The traditional drug rehabs offer 30, 60, 90 day programs based on the Therapeutic Community Model and an application of the 12 Step Facilitation Program. We believe this model of treatment while helpful for some has a number of flaws and fails to maximise the client’s time in treatment. The model originated in the USA many years ago, is outdated and fails to adopt new age learning techniques.

At 21Renew everyone commences the program at the same time and they go through 21 life changing days together. This dramatically increases the learning and engagement of each client.


Following treatment, clients need to have a comprehensive plan which takes into account how they intend to remain abstinent and get their life back on track. Just focussing on staying abstinent is thwart with danger and dramatically increases the likelihood of a relapse.

Life Plan

At 21Renew we work with the client to ensure they have a plan going forward with how they want to live their life and what they want to achieve in their life. We believe this is critical to the client being successful in implementing their maintenance plan.

At 21Renew we ensure the client’s path way through these four stages is conducted with the utmost professionalism and where necessary in conjunction with qualified medical practitioners.

It is also important for the client and their family to understand the cycle of change

The Cycle of Change for Heroin Users

1.  Pre-Contemplation

Heroin users who are in the pre-contemplation stage do not recognise they have a problem or issue with their use of heroin.

It’s always preferable to seek professional assistance to move someone out of this stage of the cycle.

2.  Contemplation

When a heroin user moves from pre-contemplation into contemplation it means they are starting to recognise their use of heroin has become a problem and perhaps they should do something about it.

3.  Planning

In this stage of the cycle the person has made the decision they want to change and is preparing an action plan to address their issues with heroin.

The best help you can give someone in this stage is to be supportive and positive.

4.  Action

When a person reaches this stage of the cycle they are putting their plan into action.

Mood swings are often prevalent in the early days of this stage so it helps to be aware of this and remain supportive and positive.

5.  Maintenance

The final stage in the cycle is the maintenance phase. The person is now actively engaged in maintaining their action plan on a daily basis.

Implementing the plan will often involve changes in routine in the persons home and family life and if not handled correctly can cause disruption and hostility. It is important to communicate with the person and get them to create a living plan at the start of each week so as everyone in the household is aware of what is happening

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