Introduction to heroin addiction

Heroin is a dangerous and powerfully addictive drug, and the consequences of misusing it can be devastating and life-long. Heroin addiction is a growing problem in the UK, with drug-related deaths at an all-time high. This chronic and progressive illness is characterised by compulsive seeking and use of heroin, despite all negative and harmful consequences. Repeated and frequent heroin use can lead to significant changes in the brain structure, causing intense cravings, impaired brain functioning and memory loss.

Heroin belongs to a class of drugs called opioids, derived from the opium poppy. Opiates are depressants, which act to slow down a person’s nervous system. Using heroin creates powerful feelings of pleasure, calmness and euphoria, and the intensity of these highs can lead the user to want more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Indeed, many people experiment with heroin thinking that they can try it just the once, or stop when they want. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. Even a single dose of heroin can trigger cravings in the person to use more, starting them on the dangerous path to addiction. As these urges and cravings get stronger, what began as a one-time heroin use can quickly become something darker, with serious consequences.

Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? Want to stop using heroin but just don’t know how? Here at the Providence Projects, we understand what you’re going through and offer heroin detox and heroin rehab to help. We want you to know that recovery is possible. Heroin addiction is a terrifying mental illness, but with the right support and guidance, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a beautiful life to be lived, clean and sober.

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Heroin Withdrawal

Frequent and repeated use of heroin impacts the brain’s reward system, and increases the user’s tolerance to the drug’s effects over time. The user eventually needs higher doses of heroin, to achieve the same initial high. When the addicted person undergoes a heroin detox without medical assistance, the withdrawal symptoms quickly set in.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can feel similar to a particularly bad case of the flu. Symptoms usually begin within 6 and 12 hours of the person’s last dose of heroin, peaking after 2-3 days. They tend to subside within a week to ten days, however those who are gradually detoxing from heroin may experience symptoms for much longer. The cravings during heroin withdrawal can be very strong, and addicts trying to stop may relapse and often go to any lengths to get their drug of choice.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on a range of factors: the frequency and longevity of the heroin addiction, the method by which the person used heroin and the amount taken. Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle aches

What Is Heroin Detox?

Undergoing heroin detox is the first step in recovery from heroin addiction, and it provides a safe space in which to manage the associated withdrawal symptoms. We always recommend a supervised medical heroin detox, so as to minimize any risks. Complications can arise during heroin detox, such as dehydration and severe vomiting, which can be fatal.

That’s why our primary aim at the Providence Projects is always the safety and comfort of each individual. It is only once all drugs are removed from the individual’s system, that they can begin to explore and address different aspects of their addiction, by engaging in an intensive, structured and therapeutic rehab timetable.

Remember, detox from heroin is not an overnight process, nor an easy one. Heroin detox alone will not be sufficient for the addicted person to stop using and to stay stopped. It is by seeking help in the form of professional drug rehab treatment, that you can address your addiction in a safe and supportive environment, and therefore increase your chances of a long-lasting and successful recovery.

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Medical heroin detox

Medications To Help With Heroin Detox

Heroin detox can be a very uncomfortable process, and those battling heroin addiction will often continue using in an effort to combat painful withdrawal symptoms. There are different types of detox drugs, which are prescribed by qualified professionals to help ease symptoms and minimize cravings:


This medication is a partial opioid agonist. So whilst it produces similar effects to heroin or morphine, it doesn’t create the intense highs and pleasurable effects of these drugs. It is one of the most commonly prescribed replacement drugs for heroin and opioid withdrawal, and research suggests it is the most effective medication too, reducing cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms.


Methadone is used to taper the heroin addict slowly off the drug. It is still a powerful opioid but can be reduced gradually and therefore help prevent uncomfortable withdrawals. It can be used for long-term methadone maintenance therapy.


This drug works by blocking receptors in the brain which react to opioids like heroin. It eliminates the desire to take heroin, and is neither addictive nor sedating. It blocks the harmful effects of heroin, however it may not stop cravings for the drug in the same way as buprenorphine or methadone. Naltrexone works best for individuals who have completed the detox and withdrawal stage.

Heroin Rehab

Heroin addiction is a serious and life-threatening mental illness. By entering a private rehab clinic, the individual is able to not only come off all drugs and alcohol and get clean and sober, but also, to address the underlying psychological issues at play. Drugs and alcohol are a symptom of the problem. It is only by exploring the factors which motivate your addiction, such as low self-esteem, trauma, relationships, childhood events or other co-occurring mental health disorders, that the person can really start to heal and move forward.

Our heroin rehab programme is designed to address the entire person, not just their addiction. The timetable is intensive, and incorporates individual counselling, group therapy, workshops, aftercare provisions and a whole host of holistic therapies and exercise classes. It is by removing the addicted person from the triggers associated with their addiction, that they can really start their journey of recovery and a new way of life. Making the decision to enter a heroin rehab facility is no easy task. Here at the Providence Projects, we understand this and we don’t underestimate the investment required: of your time, finances, emotion and energy. We also know it is the best investment you can make, in yourself and your future. We are here to help and offer advice in any we can.

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Heroin rehab counselling

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

The signs of heroin addiction are both physiological and psychological. They will vary depending on the method by which the person has been taking the drug, the frequency and the amount of heroin. Heroin users will go to great lengths to cover up their addiction, but more often than not, the signs that someone is addicted are clear.

Physical signs

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Constricted pupils
  • Watery eyes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Itching
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Chest infections
  • Breathing problems
  • Constipation
  • Bruises / cuts
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Kidney / liver damage
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Blood clots
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C

Psychological symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of interest / enjoyment
  • Obsession with heroin
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of energy
  • Restlessness

How To Seek Help With Heroin Detox

If you’re reading this and think that you or a loved one may be suffering with heroin addiction, and could benefit from heroin detox at a drug rehab, please be proud of yourself for seeking help. We understand how overwhelming this is, and the bravery required to admit, even to yourself, that there may be a problem. We want to reassure you there is a way out. Since our doors opened in 1996, we have treated thousands of people and helped them recover from alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. The same people that arrive, broken by addiction, go on to lead happy lives in recovery, drug and alcohol-free.

Recovery is worth fighting for, and here at the Providence Projects we are here to help in any way we can. Call us today on 0800 955 0945 to find out more about our full range of detox and treatment programmes, and to speak to one of our expert addiction counsellors. Alternatively, you can fill out this quick and easy contact form and one of the team will be in touch as soon as possible.

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Helpful links & references

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