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Loved Ones’ Guide to Heroin Recovery: Building Stronger Support

Loved one supporting someone how is recovering from heroin addiction

If you’re a family member, spouse, or friend of someone who is in recovery from heroin, you might feel a mix of concern, love, and uncertainty about how to best support them during this crucial time. It’s a journey that requires both strength and sensitivity, and your role in this new chapter is more impactful than you might realize. To help you approach this with the right balance of care and effectiveness, we’ve crafted a guide that sheds light on the delicate obstacles of providing support during recovery.

3 Tips to Help Someone in Recovery from Heroin Addiction

Embarking on the journey to assist someone in recovery from heroin addiction can be daunting. However, your support can be a pivotal factor in their recovery. Here, we offer three insightful tips to guide your efforts in providing meaningful support:

Educate Yourself About Opioid Addiction 

When supporting someone in recovery from heroin, fentanyl, pain pills, or other drug addiction, it’s crucial to educate yourself about the nature of addiction. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment emphasizes the deep connections within families, describing them as interdependent groups bound by enduring emotional, social, and financial ties and commitments to each other.This means that if you care about someone struggling with addiction, you are a part of their support network. Understanding addiction’s complexities can help you provide more effective support and empathy during their recovery journey. 

Tackling addiction is a team effort, involving more than just the individual in recovery. Family and friends play a crucial role. If you’re supporting someone overcoming heroin use, gaining a deep understanding of addiction is essential. Remember, addiction impacts not only the individual but also those close to them. The person struggling must make the choice to heal, but they also rely heavily on support from loved ones. When family and friends demonstrate understanding and compassion, it significantly aids the recovery process, fostering a more nurturing and supportive environment for everyone.

Explore your local library or delve into online resources for valuable reading material to deepen your understanding. To start your journey, consider reading these two articles:

Recognizing the Impact of Heroin

Understanding how heroin impacts a person is key to providing compassionate support. Initially, heroin use may cause physical signs like skin warmth and dilated pupils, along with a reduced interest in physical activities. Overuse can lead to a state often referred to as “nodding out,” where the person may struggle to stay conscious.

Heroin can also have long-term side effects and can significantly affect emotional and mental development. It alters brain chemistry, affecting areas responsible for happiness and reward. This can lead to emotional stunting, where someone might not emotionally mature past the age when they started using heroin.

Heroin can change how the brain functions, leading to hormonal imbalances and a shift in how neurotransmitters, which are responsible for feelings of pleasure, are produced. This reliance on heroin for these feelings means that during detox, a person might not find joy in activities they once enjoyed. Their reaction to social outings, like a dinner or a game, might seem underwhelming, but it’s important to remember that their ability to feel joy is recovering. Simple, calm activities can be positive steps on their path to recovery.

Promote Overall Health and Regular Checkups:

person who is struggling from heroin addiction is getting a physical check up

Encourage your loved one to prioritize their overall health. This includes regular medical checkups, as well as attention to nutrition and personal hygiene. Being mindful of these aspects plays a significant role in holistic recovery.

Regular medical check-ups are essential, as health issues can sometimes go unnoticed, particularly in those who have experienced challenges with substance use. Sharing needles can lead to the transmission of infectious diseases, and it’s important to be aware of this risk. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for individuals to face challenges with decision-making that could increase their risk of sexually transmitted infections. Addressing nutritional needs and personal hygiene, including dental care, is also crucial, as these can sometimes be overlooked. Offering support and understanding in these areas is key to promoting holistic health and recovery.

Discern Between Helping and Enabling:

It’s crucial to understand the difference between supportive actions and enabling behavior. Learning to recognize and avoid enabling can significantly impact your loved one’s journey towards recovery. Understanding codependency and enabling is vital in addiction recovery because it helps in identifying and modifying behaviors that may hinder the recovery process. Learn the difference between the two below:


In supporting someone with substance use challenges, it’s essential to be aware of enabling behaviors. Enabling occurs when actions inadvertently facilitate continued substance use. For example, if an individual requests money for various needs, consider addressing these needs directly rather than providing cash. This approach helps ensure that financial support is not diverted towards substance use. It’s important to recognize that fulfilling these requests might indirectly enable the person to allocate their resources towards substance use, which can be a sensitive and challenging issue to navigate.


Codependency in the context of supporting someone with substance use challenges involves putting another person’s needs before your own to the point where your self-worth becomes tied to their dependence on you. This might happen if you feel it’s your duty to take care of them and they can’t manage without you. It can be hard to distinguish between genuinely helping and being codependent. Discussing these feelings with a counselor can be helpful. For more insights, consider reading “Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

a man going through withdrawal from heroin

Portrayals of individuals with substance use challenges in media can often be misleading. In reality, withdrawal from substances such as heroin or any opioid is a significant medical concern and includes symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Cold flashes

These symptoms require understanding and appropriate medical attention, not just for their physical impact but also for the overall well-being of the individual.

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal from heroin is a complex medical condition that varies in duration among individuals. While major withdrawal symptoms often peak within a few days after the last substance use, it’s important to understand that some individuals may experience these symptoms for an extended period, even months. Additionally, cravings for the substance can persist for years, requiring ongoing support and management.

Different Types of Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

When considering support for someone in recovery, it’s a common misconception that residential rehabilitation, as often depicted in media, is the primary or only solution. In reality, treatment typically begins with a more discreet and accessible approach. Substance use treatment professionals, upon evaluating a new client, usually recommend the least restrictive level of care necessary. For many, this journey starts with outpatient counseling, which may occur once or twice a week, providing a balanced approach to recovery.

For individuals recovering from heroin use, prompt and appropriate treatment is crucial due to the substance’s high risk. While some might consider residential rehabilitation centers for immediate admission, it’s important to note that other forms of treatment, such as methadone maintenance, often show higher success rates

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), an FDA-approved method, plays a pivotal role in supporting individuals who are in recovery from heroin, offering relief from intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This treatment includes options like methadone and buprenorphine, both designed to manage the cravings and dependencies linked to highly addictive substances such as heroin, fentanyl, pain pills, and other opioids like morphine and tramadol. While these medications bear some similarities to the misused drugs, they are processed more quickly in the body and are closely supervised by healthcare professionals in licensed programs. Methadone is broadly accessible for anyone beginning their recovery journey from heroin, whereas buprenorphine (known by its brand name, Suboxone) is typically offered to those who haven’t found success with other treatment modalities. Understanding the nature and classification of these substances is crucial for effective recovery and treatment planning.

Get Started On Recovery Today with MedMark

While you can’t force a loved one to seek treatment, guiding them towards recovery is a constructive step. Educate yourself about the substances they’re using and reflect on your role in their situation, including how your actions might affect their substance use. Understanding these aspects is key to offering effective support. Remember, methadone programs and other treatment facilities require confidentiality, so approach discussions about treatment with sensitivity and respect for their decision-making process. Encourage your loved one to consider treatment by discussing the risks of continued use and the benefits of seeking help. To begin this supportive journey, direct them to contact MedMark Treatment Centers or one of our many locations for compassionate, professional assistance.

Give them a number to a local methadone treatment center and urge them to call.

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