Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict
Addiction Treatment Options

Heroin Addiction Treatment Programs – What are my Options?

Feeling Hopeless?

Hopeless. Hopeless perfectly describes how I felt researching the different heroin addiction treatment programs. Luckily, my loving family had not given up on me yet, but they had no idea where to start. No one in my family ever had a heroin addiction (abuse disorder).

Addiction issues have long been a shameful family secret for many families. Understandably, families are concerned the problem becoming public may negative affect their loved one’s future. My family was no different. (Later in my recovery, my parents became more comfortable reaching out to friends and counselors for advice, but initially, this was not the case.)

Knowing my mum, after crying her eyes out and losing sleep for a few days, she would have resorted to a Google search: heroin addiction treatment centers. My mother’s Google search returned information that may as well have been in Portuguese. Without a basic understanding of recovery program terminology, it is near impossible to put together an appropriate treatment plan.

When I tried to take research into my own hands, I was bombarded with SALES PITCHES! It was extremely frustrating because I had no idea who to trust. Be aware that many people receive kickbacks for sending clients to certain treatment and detox centers. The qualifications these ‘salesmen’ hold extend no further than the top salesman on the last used car lot they worked at. And no, that car lot was not holding recovery meetings after hours! Either way, they disguise themselves as benevolent, even charitable, but make no mistake, a check is cut.

I want families and/or drug users seeking treatment to understand what heroin addiction treatment options are out there, starting with the terminology. This article serves as an Addiction Recovery Guide. Hopefully it helps to make educated decisions when formulating a recovery plan.

Option 1: Inpatient Rehab Centers

“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no no/ Yes, I been black/ but when I come back/ you’ll know know know.” -Amy Winehouse (Rehab, Back to Black album)

Among heroin addiction treatment centers, inpatient rehab is the most inclusive option. Inpatient rehab centers are what most people are referring to when speaking of going to ‘rehab.’ Frequently, entertainment news reporters cover the list of celebrities entering rehab centers. Most frequented by celebrities are inpatient rehab centers such as, the Betty Ford Clinic (celebrity patients: Drew Barrymore, Ozzy Osbourne, Liza Minelli, and David Hasselhoff) or Passages, Malibu (celebrity patients: Mel Gibson, Andy Dick, and again, David Hasselhoff). Unfortunately, most people seeking heroin addiction treatment programs cannot afford the $9,000 dollars per week fee required to stay at places such as Promises, Malibu. (

No need to be discouraged! Many inpatient rehabilitation centers, that are just as effective, offer much more affordable pricing.

What are inpatient rehab centers?

Inpatient rehab centers are all inclusive programs.

  • The programs are voluntary, but implement strict guidelines and rules for residents.
  • Most programs require a clean drug test for admission.
  • There are different types of rehab centers, the most prevalent being traditional and ‘Florida-style.’
  • Inpatient centers each have their own curriculum, implemented by knowledgeable staff.
  • Length of programs vary
  • Different activities, depending on recovery style, are offered.

For more detail on inpatient rehab centers, check out this post: Inpatient Rehab Centers

Option 2: Outpatient Rehab Programs

  • Outpatient Rehab Programs, also known as Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), include recovery lessons and group therapy.
  • Outpatient programs do not house attendees.
  • Therefore, for outpatient to work, you must be strong-willed to stay sober.  Even though you attend hours of classes at a time, you will still have free time during which relapse is likely to occur.
  • Outpatient programs are most successful when paired with a medication maintenance program.
  • Lengths of outpatient programs vary, some hold classes nightly for a month and some are a few times a week for a few months.

For more detailed information on Outpatient Rehab Programs, check out this link: Outpatient Rehab Programs

Option 3: Recovery Meetings

  • Recovery meetings are usually an hour long
  • Recovery meetings are held in all major cities across the U.S. and Canada
  • Great for continuing recovery, after inpatient or outpatient
  • The two most common recovery meetings are:
    • ‘Anonymous’ Meetings and
    • S.M.A.R.T. Recovery Meetings

For a detailed description of what each program offers, click here: Recovery Meetings

Option 4: Individual Counseling

  • Individual counseling is one-on-one recovery training with a healthcare professional
  • Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselors (LISACs) specialize in treatment of substance abuse disorders
  • Psychiatrists can prescribe medication for any underlying psychological issues you may have been self medicating for
  • It is important to find professionals you trust and always check credentials

For more information click here: Individual Counseling

Option 5: Medicated Maintenance Programs

  • Some of the most popular programs are:
    • Suboxone Maintenance Programs
    • Methadone Treatment
    • Vivitrol Shot
  • Each have pros and cons

For a detailed description and comparison of medicated maintenance programs, click here: Medicated Maintenance Programs

Option 6: Sober Companions/Life Coaches

A sober companion can be hired full time, meaning he or she will accompany the recovering user 24/7. Companions and coaches are there to inspire, teach, advise, and help set goals while ensuring healthy choices are being made. Do your due diligence when hiring a sober companion, as I do not believe there is a set list of credentials required for one to call themselves a sober companion. Schools and programs training coaches and companions have started to appear so there is hope the industry will become more streamlined.

Usually, hiring a companion or coach is expensive. If you are fortunate enough to afford to hire one, it could be beneficial in that it gives peace of mind to family members to know their loved one is under constant supervision. However, don’t forget the ‘bubble’ effect discussed above. It may be difficult for the drug user if a sober companion’s contract ends abruptly.

Option 7: Sober Living Houses

The two types of sober living houses are halfway houses and three-quarter houses. These houses are great for patients fresh out of inpatient rehab clinics because it provides a positive living environment to return to. These houses are also ideal for recovering users enrolled in outpatient programs.

A halfway house is more restrictive than a three-quarter house. Halfway houses require proof of meeting attendance, stricter curfews, attendance in outpatient programs(IOP), etc. Three-quarter houses are another step closer to a recovering drug user living on their own. Three-quarter houses have fewer rules, later curfews, and less meeting requirements. However, residents are usually finished with IOP programs so three-quarter houses will expect residents to be working or attending school.

Always check references from potential houses, as most states have not enacted many regulations for sober living houses. Ask about their relapse policy. Make sure there is a procedure for reentry into detox or inpatient in the case of relapse. Sober living houses have been known to kick residents out immediately if they relapse, which is a very unsafe policy.

Meet with house managers and have long conversations with them. Most house managers are former clients, who have lived in the house successfully and are involved in a good recovery program. Be sure you trust the house managers you and feel comfortable with other occupants in the house. If correct research is done, sober living houses are wonderful for facilitating transition back to the ‘real world.’

Note: Detox Strongly Recommended

Let’s get real! If you are in heroin withdrawal, the only thing you are thinking is. how to escape and how to get more heroin. You won’t be focusing on recovery, that is for sure. Before attending any of these treatment programs, I strongly suggest, and most of them require, attending a good detoxification center.

Start your program IMMEDIATELY after detox. Many inpatient programs offer shuttles to transport from detox to their center. All outpatient programs will require a clean urine test within the first week of attendance. Look out for a future article examining different detoxification options.

There is no Cure All

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to cure substance abuse disorders. Trust me, if there was, I would probably be abusing it. 🙂 Try not to get discouraged. Keep in mind, new programs, like marijuana maintenance, are slowly gaining popularity. (Stay posted for more information on this)

I hope this article has provided clarification of the most popular heroin addiction treatment options offered today. The most successful recoveries I have witnessed incorporate many treatment options into the recovery plan.


Recoveries are as unique as we are individuals.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments in the box below.


2 comments on “Heroin Addiction Treatment Programs – What are my Options?

  1. You talked about one of the things I hate most in this field and that’s patient brokering. It occurs in IOP as well through different types of websites and commercials that come on late at nights. My suggestion for anyone coming down off of heroin is finding a detox with a residential program attached to it. They are out there and some even offer MAT while transitioning into a residential program. People just need to ask around and again I emphasize this for individuals coming down from heroin or alcohol.

    1. Absolutely! Also, don’t be afraid to ask the person referring you if they are paid for their referrals. When my mother tried to talk to someone about which center to send me to, she felt many people were giving here a sales pitch. Some were more persistent than car salesmen, calling many times a day, ultimately taking advantage of her fragile emotional state. They most definitely did not have hers or my best interests in mind. Therefore, it is SO important to understand the motivation behind these referrals, whether philanthropic or more Machiavellian in nature. Thanks Jason!

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