Heroin: get help

Find out where you can get help and what treatment options are available if you've got a problem with heroin.

If you ask your GP or local drug treatment service for help, you will be assessed and offered treatment. You will receive a care plan that's tailored to your needs. This may include the following types of treatment.

Stabilising your heroin habit

If you're addicted to opiates and usually take them every day, and if you're prepared to change your drug-taking habits, you may be prescribed a heroin substitute, such as methadone or buprenorphine.

At first, a heroin substitute will be prescribed at a level that minimises your withdrawal from heroin.

Methadone and buprenorphine help you to:

  • stabilise your drug use 
  • stop using illegal drugs 
  • change risky behaviour, such as injecting and sharing needles and equipment 
  • stop the need to commit any crimes to fund your habit

Talking therapies for addiction

As well as prescribed medication, talking therapies, such as counselling, can help you to understand and overcome your addiction and plan for your future. You may also be offered couples therapy if you have a partner who wants to support you. Or you could be offered family therapy to help you and your family change your behaviour around drugs. A care plan will be developed to identify any other help you need, and your keyworker will make sure you receive this help.

Your keyworker may arrange help for you with issues such as housing, benefits, education and employment. You may be offered the opportunity to learn computer skills or try activities, such as sport and exercise.

Self help for heroin

It may be recommended that you join a self-help group where people who have had problems meet and support one another. The groups vary from one area to another, and your drug service can tell you what is available in your area.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a self-help organisation with groups across the country. It welcomes newcomers who want to stop using drugs. For more information, call the UKNA helpline on 0300 999 1212.

Stopping heroin completely

Once stabilised, and in the right circumstances, you will have the option of coming off methadone (or other substitute drugs) and becoming drug-free. You may be given the choice of a community or inpatient detox.

Community detox

Community detox is when your methadone (or other substitute drug) dose is reduced gradually over a period of time, minimising potentially uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. You may then be offered a drug called naltrexone. 

Naltrexone can stop you relapsing by blocking the effects of drugs like heroin and reducing your desire to use them.

Inpatient detox

Inpatient detox involves a two-to-three-week stay in a hospital or residential rehab centre with detox facilities. It allows you to reduce your prescribed drug substitute dose much more quickly.

Inpatient detox is often followed by a period in a residential rehab centre or other suitable aftercare project. It is important that you continue to make progress after the detox, and you will almost certainly need some help to stay off drugs when you leave. This can be a particularly vulnerable time. If you start using illegal opiates again, the chances of overdose are much higher than before detox.

Residential rehab centres

Residential rehab may be offered if you’ve already tried to give up drugs in the community and failed. You may also be offered residential rehab if you have a high drug dependency, do not have a supportive family or employment situation, have complex physical or psychiatric problems, or are addicted to alcohol as well as drugs.

Residential rehab centres usually offer a combination of one-to-one counselling and group therapy as well as other therapies, social and vocational skills development and educational opportunities.

Residential rehab centres are almost always provided by either specialist voluntary sector or private organisations. You may be able to access funding through your local community drug services or social services community care team to allow you to enter a specialist voluntary sector rehab centre.

 You usually have to pay to access private clinics.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2014

Next review due: 09/10/2016


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The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

pabby said on 18 July 2013

Legalizing it... would cut many bla, bla, which leads to ignorance in the very terms of the word ... Simple. It is not "the issue" which people have been told, is you need to live it, to tell on how to get out or at least to cope, well enough. Be integrated within society , is a very possible task . As everything , we are individuals and need to be treated as such.
Ignorance is again, as education, the main problem. Opium is used for medicinal use throughout centuries or more, just consider that, and any poison has it`s own antidote, and that`s a fact. What`s the difference between "controlled" (which are being sold to the black market, anyway) artificial opioids and illegal`s one? Well, it is very easy to guess the answer for anyone.

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alannazoe said on 20 February 2012

My daughter has severe anorexia and has been using heroin for 7 years and although I have not acted deliberately in my attempt to keep her 'safe' from crime the streets and arrest as a last resort after years of sleepless nights and a breakdown I have lied for her and loaned/ given her money to bring some peace at home. All of this has been futile her sister is constanlty worried but angry the family are torn apart, she has increased her use struggles to tell the truth wants to get off the heroin but has not previously had the strength to do it.. This vicious circle has finally taken its toll on all of our relationships and there will be a lot of family bridges to mend.

I cannot explain the hurt shame or endless love I felt for the loss of my daughter and the shame I felt but could not share with others. I am proud to say that we never lost hope and she finally has the motivation to go to detox and rehab. My love for her is overwhelming and I wish her and all the other daughters and sons of parents and partnerswho have endured this hellish life a healthy recovery and a happy ever after life. NEVER LOSE HOPE OR YOU MAY LOSE THE PEOPLE YOU MOST LOVE. I wish all the recovering addicts and their families the best.

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sonico said on 25 February 2010

My family and methadone, without i dunno where i would be? I mind once phonin up me dad nex tday after conin him oot o £50, asked for a Ton, but he know, so did i but what else could he do, its the durgs that do it...I phoned him next day, all i could do was cry, fine now, we get on great...thanks to dad and methaonde i am still here, methadone forever and well, keep it up dad.

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jkhdfk said on 13 February 2010

People often either ignore or forget that some people take heroin for their depression.

of course, you then have all the associated problems that go along with opiate addiction (which are legion). but if it's a choice between that and hanging yourself i know which one i went for.

in between the heroin and the blessed nhs i am now clean and my mind is in a much better place. whether or not it was just a 'phase' i would have grown out of anyway, i'll never know. but it worked for me.

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Doug66SM said on 07 February 2010

I've had long standing problems with depression and opiate addiction. I was on subutex but I came off it and was ill for ages, and I feel that has led to my relapse into addiction again. I should know better after the amount of experience I've had, but maybe I don't. I feel that when you're aged early 40's as I am, with failed marriage and family behind me, you just get kinda written off. I have asked for help again, but it doesn't really seem to be forthcoming in any hurry. I don't seem to know what to do next, as I have long standing problems with depression as well and it seems to get worse.

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ness93 said on 28 May 2008

a loving partner

my childrens father has been clean from drugs for 3 yrs with 1 relapse. it has not only destroyed a part of him but also a huge part of me. we are still living with the problem on a day 2 day basis n i so badly wish it didnt have this hold over us nemore. i moved bk 2 my home town wich is where his drug problem first startd. he hasnt been able 2 move bk here with us as he is too scared of giong bk on heroin. i cant put into words, the shame, guilt, and fear that i see in him every time he comes to see us. this drug has destroyed so much in our lives n i just hope that one day he could be here living with hs family xxx

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TOM said on 23 May 2008

a recovering heroin addict

i have been of heroin for 5 months now.
i am on a metherdone programe at the moment witch is helping i am not comiting crime to pay for my habbit my familey & frends are talking to me now and geting my life back on track and i feel good

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A loving Mother said on 19 May 2008

A Loving Mother

My son aged 39 is a drug addict, I am at the end. Last week he stole jewellery from me and pawned it I can only presume to fund his habit. I love my son dearly, but I am sorry to say that I do not like him one bit. I have tried to help him in lots of ways, he was homeless I gave him and his partner a home, and they stole from me, and lied. I do not know what to do next, my heart is broken into pieces. Anyone reading this who has problem please get help, stick with it, do not go on hurting yourself and others that love you.

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a concerned drug worker said on 27 April 2008

people use drugs because they have pressure from society, they may be unemployed and this leads to using drugs, or in an unstable relationship, which all can lead to crime when the person becomes addidicted to drugs. There is help out there, please find it, it will help you.

A concerned drug worker

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