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: 30/04/2017


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