Is it Hard to Quit Heroin?

Yes. Heroin is hard to quit. However, with proper medical treatment and support you can succeed! Read more about what makes heroin so addictive, as well as the most appropriate methods for coming off this powerful and highly addictive drug here.

minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Coming off heroin can be very difficult. Many heroin addicts who have tried quitting on their own experienced severe complications which included frequent relapses and life threatening situations. But when coming off heroin under a doctor’s supervision and medical care, there is a way out!


Read further to discover what make heroin so to quit and learn HOW TO and HOW NOT to try quitting. Feel free to use the section at the end for all your questions and/or personal experiences with stopping heroin.

How Addictive Is Heroin?

Heroin is one of the most addictive opioids. You can get addicted to heroin even from a single dose! In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the classification of heroin in the group of Schedule I drugs. This means that heroin is NOT used for medical purposes and has a HIGH potential for abuse.

The addictive potential of heroin comes from:

  1. The speed with which this drug produces dopamine.
  2. The intensity of dopamine effects.

Heroin crosses the blood brain barrier 100 times faster than morphine. It has very high activity on opioid receptors, which results in intense dopamine effects. Many users reported physical dependence upon heroin after only a few days of regular use.

Brain Changes on Heroin

Each time people consider trying heroin they wonder why getting high on this drug makes stopping so difficult? The answer to this question lies in the way heroin affects the brain.

When heroin enters the brain, it transforms into morphine. Morphine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain responsible for recognizing and regulating pain and reward. Furthermore, this action causes a sense of euphoria that makes users experience extreme sense of power, pleasure and joy, almost like they are on the top of the world and can do everything. Heroin users describe this state as a feeling of happiness and having a different reality. Unfortunately, this empowerment last very shortly.

Further, scientists found that the use of heroin affects 3 (three) opioid receptors in the brain: the mu, kappa, and delta receptors.

  1. Mu opioid receptors (MOR) bond with heroin to produce effects such as: pleasure, acute pain relief, physical dependence and addiction.
  2. Kappa opioid receptors (KOR) bond with heroin to produce effects such as: trance-like states, physical dependence, and addiction.
  3. Delta opioid receptors (DOR) bond with heroin to produce effects such as: relief from persistent pain, reduced gastrointestinal motility and modulation of mood.

When heroin wears off, the overwhelming feel-good feelings go away and all that is left is the longing for the initial euphoric state. The mini explosions of pleasure induced by heroin combined with the psychological bliss and beauty vanish very quickly.

When the body adapts to the presence of heroin, the new chemical reality brings strong cravings and urges to continue taking it until users reach the point where they no longer feel pleasure from heroin so when they make an attempt to suddenly stop, they are hit by extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

What Makes Stopping Heroin Dangerous?

Quitting cocaine cold turkey, without a doctor’s clearance or medical supervision, lowering doses abruptly… all make stopping harmful! Here is why each of these methods is NOT recommended.

1. Cold turkey heroin detox causes severe withdrawal symptoms.

Going cold turkey off heroin can expose you to serious and severe withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Restlessness

Additionally, cold turkey, as a quitting method increases your chances of relapse. Instead, going through all of this, it’s best to seek medical advice on how to stop taking heroin safely. Medical aid during heroin withdrawal is consisted of tapering regimens or replacement therapies to lowers the dosage of heroin in your system over a period of time. This way, your body will not experience such intensive and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

2. Stopping heroin without medical supervision can lead to complications.

Quitting heroin without professional counseling is unsafe and can be very uncomfortable. In fact, quitting heroin at home is rarely recommended, and advised only if you get clearance from your doctor. Why?

Getting heroin out of your life is not only a physical journey, in requires behavioral changes, as well. In other words, once you quit heroin you will need to learn how to live without this powerful drug.

Choosing to stop using heroin without medical supervision can result in unnecessary pain and suffering. Plus, it will simply lead you back to using. This is why you should not consider trying this method. Instead, doctors and addiction professionals are trained to not only teach you how to manage the strong heroin cravings but to help you develop coping skills and a support system to stay quit,

3. Lowering doses of heroin suddenly and abruptly provokes relapse.

This type of heroin cessation causes severe withdrawal symptoms and provokes relapse. Instead, plan your stopping thoroughly. Talk to a medical professional, or check in at an addiction treatment facility and let be supervised. This will significantly increase the chances of successful recovery.

Quitting Heroin Side Effects

People who’ve used heroin chronically for a longer period of time develop dependence, which makes it difficult to quit due to withdrawal symptoms.

The common physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Bone pain.
  • Cold flashes.
  • Goose bumps
  • Diarrhea.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

The more serious withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Painful abdominal cramping.
  • Severe body tremors.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Severe nausea.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Vomiting.

Safety Suggestions

Despite all odds and difficulties, when deciding to end your heroin addiction, there are safer and more comfortable ways of quitting such as:

1. Quitting heroin under medical supervision gives you a better chance at recovery.

Heroin withdrawal includes using prescription meds. Pharmacological treatment for heroin addiction includes:

  • Methadone to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
  • Buprenorphine to reduce cravings and physical symptoms like vomiting and muscle aches.
  • Naltrexone to reduce heroin cravings by blocking receptors in the brain that react to heroin. This medication is designed to occupy the nerve receptors so that you basically trick the brain into thinking it no longer needs heroin.

2. Tapering (coming off heroin slowly) make withdrawal less painful.

Tapering includes a gradual reduction of heroin doses over an extended period of time. Tapering off heroin should be done in accordance with a doctor’s suggestions. Your doctor will prescribe meds that will ease the withdrawal discomfort and design a unique tapering plan tailored to your individual needs.

During most detox periods, doctors will test you before and after you quit for drug presence. Based on this, you’ll create a tapering plan, and your doctor should be at your disposal 24/7 in case of emergencies.

3. Heroin detox clinic supervision helps support you emotionally.

Heroin detox clinics provides a safe space to manage withdrawal symptoms. This is one of the highly recommended options for long-term success. Heroin withdrawal can sometimes bring complications and fatal injuries in case you try detoxing on your own such as becoming severely dehydrated.

Is rapid detox appropriate for quitting heroin?

No, rapid detox is not recommended when coming off heroin. Rapid detox is a procedure where you will be basically put under, as if for surgery, and your body will be rapidly flushed of heroin. This is a relatively new procedure and therefore is not yet covered by insurance companies, so the cost is quite expensive, plus the risks are high and therefore it is NOT recommended as an option for stopping heroin!

4. Inpatient heroin treatment for long term success.

Residential treatment centers for heroin addiction require living at a rehabilitation facility for a specified amount of time min 28 days up to 6 (six) months or longer. Your length of stay at the inpatient drug rehab facility will depend on the extent of your heroin addiction issue. During your residential stay you will start with detox and withdrawal shortly after being enrolled.

Because heroin is a strong drug, you make a tapering plan together with your addiction specialist. You will also receive ongoing psychological counseling that will help you to deal with the underlying causes of your addiction. Another advantage of inpatient treatment for heroin addiction is the opportunity to attend group therapy sessions. This type of therapy will provide you with the opportunity to meet others who have already gone through heroin detox and have successfully started down the path to recovery.

Your Questions

Expect certain difficulties and discomfort during heroin detox, but don’t give up! If you still have questions about quitting heroin difficulties, please leave them in the designated section below. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to a question, we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: DEA: DRUG SCHEDULING
Teen Health: Is Heroin A Depressant Or Stimulant?
Rehab International: Fact and Fiction
Quora: How does it feel to be high on heroin?
Beach House Rehab: Heroin and the Brain: What Everyone Should Know about the Drug’s Scary, Long-Term Side Effects 
How To Kick Heroin: How Heroin Works
Teen Drug Abuse: The Dangers of Quitting Opiates Cold Turkey
Element’s Behavioral Health: Dangerous Detox: Doing It At Home Could Be Deadly
NIH: What are the treatments for heroin addiction?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?