What Happens After Heroin Detox?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is an extremely addictive drug. Although not all people who try heroin become addicted, the addiction rat is extremely high and on the rise. Most addicts cannot see past the initial issues with going through withdrawal. It is little wonder that many want to understand what happens after heroin detox. In order to understand that, you need to know what heroin detox really is, what secondary withdrawal is, and what happens after both.

What is Heroin Detox?

Heroin detox is the heroin completely leaving the body. When you use heroin it binds to the receptors in your brain. This causes the brain and body to flood with dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that causes you to feel wonderful, euphoric, and generally pleasant. Unfortunately when the heroin leaves the body so do those feelings. The receptors essentially ask for more of the heroin. If it cannot be found then the body goes into withdrawal. This primary withdrawal is known as detoxing from heroin. The symptoms of withdrawal are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • irritability
  • cramping
  • muscle soreness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

This is a dangerous time because not only are the detox symptoms severe the cravings are as well. Most people who relapse do so to stop the withdrawal and the cravings.

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Secondary Withdrawal

Sometimes after heroin detox symptoms called secondary withdrawal occur. Although there is not very much information on secondary withdrawal, many addicts experience it. After the heroin has left your system, it is still possible to experience some of the withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are almost worse than the initial detox. The symptoms include:

  • depression
  • severe back pain
  • boredom
  • loss of pleasurable feeling in normal circumstances
  • nausea

These symptoms may last a few days but sometimes last months. It is important to speak to a doctor about them. The psychological symptoms are very dangerous. The depression, loss of pleasure and boredom can lead to hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Secondary withdrawal is responsible for a large number of relapse cases. It seems to some people that just as they get through the initial symptoms of detox, the secondary withdrawal forces them to go through it again. Fortunately, these symptoms are treatable with a variety of drugs.

Addiction Treatment after Heroin Detox

after heroin detox

Medication management can help you stay off heroin for good!

Even before the detox is complete counselors and therapist being treating the psychological side of the addiction. Addiction treatment usually consists of medication management and therapy. Due to modern science there are a wide variety of medications that help to reduce cravings and end addition. Medications like methadone and Suboxone help users to deal with the remnants of the addiction. By blocking the opiate receptors, the same medications that stopped the full on withdrawal can stop future cravings. Many people continue to use these medications for months, even years after detox.

Another form of medication management that usually happens after detox is through antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Most people who detox from heroin end up suffering from depression and generalized anxiety. This medication helps to stabilize their moods so they can continue with their treatment.

One of the most successful forms of treatment for the emotional, social, and situational causes of heroin addiction is therapy and counseling. There are different forms of counseling that happen after the initial detox. These forms are:

  • individual counseling – therapists conduct this type of counseling with the individual alone. They might engage in cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, or guided meditation.
  • group counseling – therapists usually conduct this type of counseling with their peers. It helps addicts to identify, commiserate, and understand that they are not alone.
  • family counseling – family is an important factor in addiction recovery. Many family relationships are damaged or destroyed by an addiction. These relationships are recoverable but only through counseling and outside help.

These counseling sessions help you deal with both the issues of heroin addiction and the issues that it creates. These counseling sessions are an important part of recovery and help recovering addicts deal with all of the problems the addiction caused. They can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Counseling and therapy sessions set you up to regain control of your life.

Finding Life Again

Two of the major problems with heroin addiction recovery are the boredom and loss of pleasure. After detox it is important to find a way to regain part of what the addiction stole from you. Finding activities that you enjoy again and filling the time that is left by the heroin addiction. When on heroin life becomes about obtaining and using the drug. When the addiction stops, it leaves a void. There are a few things that you can do to avoid this void taking control of your life. These are:

  • join a club – there are clubs for every interest and desire,
  • get a hobby – keeping your hands and mind busy is a great way to keep from getting bored and relapsing,
  • volunteer – many people volunteer in a drug treatment center or a hospital in order to give back.
  • work – some people find comfort in keeping busy with work and redefining themselves that way.

Many more activities help to alleviate the boredom and depression. Finding them is not difficult, it is just a matter of looking at your interests and deciding what you want to do.

Sober Living

According to the American Psychological Association, people are less likely to relapse when they engage in a comprehensive program after heroin detox. Even though it might not seem like it there is life after detox, finding that life is up to you.

Find heroin detox and addiction treatment centers by searching our directory, or by calling our helpline at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Heroin- Overview. 
  2. American Psychological Association. (2001). Preventing Relapse. 
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