How Are Heroin Addiction Treatment Medications Used in Drug Rehab?

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Heroin exists as the “cocaine” of opiate drugs, creating a vicious cycle of addiction while warping a person’s overall character within a short period of time. No doubt, the longer a person abuses heroin the more pronounced the effects.

Anyone living with a heroin addiction well knows how the drug has all but become a very real part of his or her life, much like food, water and air. Under these conditions, any attempts at recovery will likely be in vain without some form of medical treatment, which is where addiction treatment medications can help.

Heroin addiction treatment medications most benefit individuals who’ve seen little to no success from the more traditional forms of drug treatment.

When Are Addiction Treatment Medications Needed?

Heroin Addiction Treatment Medications

Replacement therapies eliminate drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

People who’ve been battling heroin addiction for months or years have the most difficult time stopping drug use. The physical damage done to the brain and body makes it all but impossible to maintain abstinence on one’s own.

In effect, chronic or long-term heroin abuse re-configures the brain’s chemical pathways and gradually changes how the different areas of the brain work. According to the Journal of Addictive Diseases, addiction treatment medications help restore normal brain functioning, which translates into minimal withdrawal and/or drug cravings effects depending on the type of medication used.

If you or someone you know are considering getting treatment, don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addiction counselors.

Types of Addiction Treatment Medications

Replacement Therapies

Replacement-type addiction treatment medications essentially mimic the effects of heroin in the brain to the point where the brain’s “need” for heroin is met. Medications commonly used as replacement therapies include:

Each of the above contains a synthetic opiate formulation that delivers controlled amounts of the drug into a person’s bloodstream. This mechanism of action doesn’t produce a high effect, eliminates withdrawal and drug cravings and breaks the cycle of compulsive drug-using behavior.

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47,300* People Addicted
23,100* Getting Help
8,209* Deaths
*Statistic from 2015

Preventative Approaches

For the most part, preventative-type addiction treatment medications work to discourage heroin abuse by producing withdrawal effects whenever a person uses heroin. Naloxone, one of a few drugs used in this capacity, does this by occupying the same brain cell receptor sites that heroin targets. When heroin is present in the brain, a person will experience harsh withdrawal effects, such as nausea, anxiety and sweating.

According to the Journal of Social Work in Public Health, Naltrexone, another preventative approach, also occupies cell receptor sites for the purpose of blocking heroin access. These interactions prevent a person from experiencing a “high” in the event of relapse.

Suboxone, one of the replacement-type addiction treatment medications contains buprenorphine (a synthetic opiate) and naloxone as a preventative agent, so Suboxone produces a two-fold effect.


Replacement therapies and preventative approaches serve two different purposes, meaning some people may benefit from one or the other while others may benefit from using both approaches. What’s most important is to ensure you receive the level of treatment support needed for you to maintain abstinence from heroin on a continuous basis.

We can help you determine which addiction treatment medication approach will work best for you. Call our toll-free helpline at 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) .

the Take-Away

The medications used in drug rehab for heroin addiction work as either replacement therapies or preventative approaches.