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Dr William Shanahan 360x246

Page medically reviewed by Dr William Shanahan, Medical Director and Clinical Director of Addictions (BAO, BCh, DCH, D'OBS, FRCPsych, MB), Priory Hospital Roehampton, in November 2022.

Heroin is one of the most addictive and highly destructive drugs there is. An addiction can take hold with as little as one or two uses of heroin, leading to short and long-term risks to your physical and mental health.  

The seriousness of heroin addiction makes treatment a vital part of any user’s recovery. Effective treatments like rehab, detoxing and therapy can help you not only remove your reliance on the drug, but also put you on a path to better long-term wellbeing.

If you, or someone you love, has been experiencing signs of heroin addiction, read on for more about how it is treated and how you can start your recovery journey with Priory.  

How is heroin addiction treated?

At Priory, we provide expert heroin addiction treatment through a network of world class treatment sites across the UK. With the right treatment, you can open a new chapter of your life, free from the grip of addiction.

To do that, you’ll likely undergo some of the treatments detailed below:

Medically assisted heroin detox

To allow you to focus fully on long-term recovery, you’ll need to break the cycle of addiction that your heroin use has drawn you into. To do that, you’ll undergo a medically-assisted detoxification at one of our specialist treatment clinics.

A drux is the process where toxic substances, like heroin, are flushed out of your system. Usually lasting between 10-14 days, detoxes can involve an uncomfortable period of withdrawal. As your body adjusts to no longer being under the influence of the drug, medication may be used to maintain your wellbeing during the detox and help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxes dramatically improve your physical wellbeing and break you free from the damaging cycle of addiction, allowing you to continue through rehab and put you on a pathway to long-term recovery.

At Priory, detoxes take place in a supportive, clinical environment, where your physical and mental health can be closely monitored and any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be controlled. Given the dangerous nature of some withdrawal symptoms, you should never try to detox from a drug like heroin without medical supervision.

Heroin rehab

When overcoming heroin addiction, a detox will be the first stage of a comprehensive drug rehabilitation programme. Usually lasting 28-days, rehab involves an inpatient stay at a purpose-built environment away from the potential triggers of normal life.

There, you will work with specialist psychiatrists, therapists and other expert practitioners, through a dedicated treatment programme that works for you. During rehab, you’ll undergo treatments such as therapy, medication and other wellbeing activities, identifying the underlying causes of your addiction and building effective coping strategies that are effective well beyond your inpatient stay.

Our heroin rehab centres

Heroin addiction treatment at Priory takes place at one of our world-class treatment clinics throughout the UK. Find a location near you to start your recovery journey with us.


The underlying causes of substance abuse are often complex. Personal trauma, a family history of drug addiction, mental health issues, or negative personal life events (such as divorce or job loss) can all lead to drug abuse and addiction.

During any treatment programme for addiction, you’ll put these underlying causes under the microscope during therapy. Therapy gives you the skills you need to identify potential triggers and coping skills to ensure you can stay sober.

Many different types of therapies might be effective for your addiction, but common examples include:

  • Group or family therapy: a safe, supportive environment with peers or loved ones where you are encouraged to have an honest dialogue about the impact of your addiction on yourself and those around you. In groups, it may be informed by the 12-Step programme of addiction recovery.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): identify negative thought patterns and beliefs that are contributing to your substance use, and replace them with healthier ones.
  • Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT): challenge and replace destructive thoughts and emotions. Develops the idea that rational thinking comes from within and can be done in spite of external stressors.


Prescribed by a consultant psychiatrist, medication can play a supportive role in detox and recovery from heroin addiction. Medications can help to reduce cravings, improve your mood and generally remove any distractions as you continue on your recovery journey.

When coupled with therapy, medication can remove any harmful symptoms of withdrawing from heroin and allow you to fully focus on behavioural and psychological factors that underpin your addiction.

Outpatient treatment

Given the seriousness of heroin addiction, inpatient rehab is likely to be the most effective method of treatment. However, once initial rehab has been completed, some may step into outpatient care, or aftercare support, in order to maintain their newfound sobriety and reduce the chance of a relapse. Outpatient care involves someone visiting an addiction treatment clinic while maintaining their home and work life as normal.

This form of treatment can create a ‘soft landing’ as you make your way back into normal life, reinforcing what you’ve learned in therapy and offering you access to peer support in the form of support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Heroin Anonymous (HA).

FREE Addiction Assessment

Priory deliver expert addiction treatment and rehabilitation. To find out how we can help you to get your life back on track, call us today on 0330 056 6023 or enquire online. Book your FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT.

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Heroin withdrawal symptoms

Heroin is a very powerful, addictive drug. When you withdraw from heroin, you’re likely to experience some uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, drug withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often drive people to re-use the drug, contributing to their ongoing cycle of addiction. 

Common drug withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • High temperature and/or chills
  • Heart palpitations
  • Intense craving for the drug

How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

Typically, symptoms will start anywhere between 8 to 24 hours after your last use of the drug.

The severity and longevity of your withdrawal symptoms will depend on how long you’ve been addicted to heroin and how much you typically take. However, short-term, acute withdrawal symptoms from heroin can last anywhere between 3 to 10 days.

Some withdrawal symptoms can be, in rare cases, life-threatening, emphasising the importance of detoxing from heroin in a safe, medically-assisted environment. Medical support, including medication and monitoring of your overall physical and mental health, can help to reduce symptoms faster.

Getting heroin addiction help

If you’ve been struggling with a heroin addiction, or you’re concerned a loved one is, know that recovery is possible through effective treatment for drug addiction here at Priory.

You can take your first step towards a brighter future by booking your free addiction assessment at Priory. During this, we’ll assess your suitability for treatment at Priory and give you the chance to ask any questions about the care we provide. From there, we can work towards building you a dedicated treatment programme that ends the damage addiction has brought to your life.

Use the information below to book your free assessment today, or get in touch via phone or email to get more information about how treatment at Priory can turn your life around or that of a loved one.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0330 056 6023 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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