Heroin Addiction Recovery - Brazos Recovery Center

Heroin Addiction Recovery

Heroin addiction recovery can be a long, difficult process. Millions of people around the world have to go through it every day. Although heroin addiction recovery is a complex topic, it’s one that many seek to understand because of its growing prevalence in society.

People who use opioids such as fentanyl or hydrocodone (Vicodin) are at risk for developing heroin addictions if they increase their drug usage over time and/or try to quit taking those drugs but fail. In fact, between 2002 and 2013, abuse of opioids increased by 137%. In parallel to this trend, the number of deaths from opioid overdose quadrupled during those same years.

In 2012, about 20% of all Americans years and older reported using an illicit drug in the past month, and 6.9% of them reported using heroin during that time. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of people who admitted to trying heroin at least once in their lives grew by 61%.

Accessing recovery resources is also easier now than it ever has been before. Although recovery is generally associated with mental health clinics, there are many different methods for recovery that treat addiction as a medical condition that can be alleviated through adherence to strict procedures under professional supervision.

To better understand what recovery entails (and doesn’t entail), here’s an overview of several major components of recovery work.


Tracking Personal Health

People who want to recover from an addiction will often need assistance staying on track with recovery work. One of the best recovery tools is recovery self-management, or recovery management, which allows people to keep track of recovery through calendars and other data-tracking tools. Seeing recovery day by day and month by month can help addicts to be more motivated and see recovery as achievable. Another important recovery tool is access to recovery coaching. Recovery coaches are recovery experts who use evidence-based methods such as motivational interviewing (brief interventions that allow treatment professionals to understand how well individuals’ recovery goals correspond with their current recovery status) in order to help those addicted to drugs achieve recovery.

Managing Emotions in Recovery

People who suffer from addiction often have trouble managing their emotions due to a combination of biomedical factors, environmental stressors, and mental health problems. Managing recovery emotions can be difficult at first, but many recovery methods are designed to help recovering addicts alleviate negative emotions in a healthy way. One method used is called emotion-focused therapy, which helps people to identify strong emotions that may have been suppressed due to addiction or mental illness.

Living with Heroin Addiction

Although many heroin addiction recovery programs are based on evidence-based therapies, some recovery techniques are less accepted by the mainstream medical community. For instance, some recovery programs focus on spirituality as an essential part of recovery. However, no matter what recovery method an individual pursues, it’s important for them to choose a path they feel comfortable with, so they’ll be more likely to stay engaged in recovery work.

Staying Focused on Recovery

Staying centered in recovery can be difficult for many reasons, not least of which is the presence of triggers that cause people to return to drug or alcohol use because their recovery programs are not yet integrated into their lives. People often surround themselves with friends who may still drink or do drugs, which can lead them to relapse because they’re anxious about being around those who do. At the same time, people recovering from addiction often continue to interact with family members and other loved ones who don’t support recovery. While it’s important for recovering addicts to maintain contact with their families (especially during early recovery), they should also make an effort to find new social groups outside of their family circles which will increase their recovery focus.

People who have been struggling with an addiction for a long time sometimes experience what is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, which can cause cravings and mood swings that last for months after an addict has stopped using drugs. As opioid abuse is a major problem in the United States today, it’s likely that more recovery resources will begin to offer ways to alleviate post-acute withdrawal symptoms as people become more aware of the condition.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome usually lasts from two weeks to six months after someone stops using drugs. During this timeframe, recovering addicts may struggle with memory problems, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances as well as cravings that cause them to relapse.

Long-Term Treatment & Heroin Addiction Recovery

Some recovery programs allow addicts to stay sober in a recovery facility for several months after they’ve stopped using drugs, and some recovery facilities require those they treat to remain there for at least six months so those recovering from addiction can learn how to maintain recovery on their own outside of the structured environment of a recovery center. Some recovery centers also integrate family education into their long-term treatment plan, since many addicts fail to achieve recovery because they lack proper support from loved ones. Three types of outpatient recovery programs include recovery management, recovery coaching, and recovery homes.

Relapse Prevention

During recovery, addicts learn to develop a drug-free lifestyle that includes setting goals for themselves and monitoring their recovery process on a daily basis. Although relapse is a common part of the recovery from addiction, those who have been struggling with substance use disorder can reduce their risk of relapse by maintaining self-care practices such as attending support groups regularly and participating in individual mental health therapy. In some cases, recovering addicts will be able to maintain sobriety during periods of stress if they’ve created a strong support network through consistent participation in recovery meetings or other types of sober social activities. If someone battling addiction fails to manage their emotions throughout the recovery process, they may struggle with recovery long-term because it can be difficult for them to maintain recovery without support. People who have been fighting addiction for a long time and then relapse often face larger challenges maintaining recovery because their recovery has progressed more slowly than that of those who’ve only been struggling with addiction for a short period of time.

Recovery and Addiction Statistics

While recovery is achievable for most people, recovery from opioid addiction is different from recovery from other types of substance abuse like alcohol or marijuana. Approximately 23 percent of adults in the U.S. battle an opioid use disorder, but less than half of those individuals will ever receive treatment. Among adolescents, rates of opioid abuse are skyrocketing as more teenagers become addicted to opioids. A record 872,000 teens in the U.S. abused opioid drugs in 2015, and recovery for this demographic is complicated by the fact that teens who abuse opioids are less likely than adults to receive treatment for addiction.

Trauma and Recovery

Many people who struggle with recovery from addiction also have a history of trauma. Over 80 percent of those entering recovery programs report some form of chronic trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which can lead to poorer recovery outcomes because it’s difficult for many addicts to manage emotional pain that has built up over time if they don’t address their traumatic experiences first.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.