How To Help A Heroin Addict

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

There are several ways you can help a heroin addict. Whether you’re a spouse, friend, or coworker, there are ways you can help that include seeking education about heroin addiction, finding addiction treatment centers, and more.

How To Help

Most people are connected to addiction in one form or another. You might have experienced it yourself, or have a relative, spouse, significant other, or friend with an addiction to heroin.

If you want to help someone you love through a heroin addiction but don’t know where to start, take a few of the suggestions listed below as a starting point.

The best thing you can do for a heroin addict* is to offer unconditional support in whatever needs they may have.

*Important note: We avoid using stigmatic language such as ‘addict’ or ‘heroin user’ as much as possible. However, we will use this language in this article to inform and equip those struggling with drug use and their loved ones.

Learn more about the signs of a heroin addict

Determining Your Level Of Support

Before you begin exploring ways to help your loved one with a heroin addiction, it’s important to identify your specific relationship and what might be an appropriate level of support.

If you are a spouse or a close family member, you’ll likely be much more involved in the process of helping the person recovering from heroin addiction.

You may be involved in family support groups, be in counseling sessions with and without your family member or spouse, attend doctor’s appointments, and offer other areas of support.

However, if this is a friend or someone not in your immediate family, you may prefer to offer a more limited approach to your support and have more boundaries to how you’d like to help.

This might look like talking with them, offering to give them rides to doctor’s appointments or rehab centers, or guiding them in the direction of recovery.

Get Started On The Road To Recovery.

Get Confidential Help 24/7. Call Today!

(844) 616-3400

6 Ways To Help A Heroin Addict

Talking with someone you love about heroin addiction can be intimidating, but there are ways you can empower yourself and your loved one to walk toward recovery together.

1. Seek Information On Heroin Addiction

First, it’s important to spend time learning about heroin addiction. If you want to have a thoughtful conversation about this topic, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of it.

Learn why heroin addiction forms, what happens in the body and brain when a person uses heroin, the social factors of addiction, and more.

When a person uses heroin, the opioid attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain. Long-term use can cause physical and mental dependence, leading to addiction.

This is not an easy cycle to break by any means, because without being supplied with the level of opioids the body has been accustomed to, severe symptoms of withdrawal can set in.

As you research, the key is to gain empathy around the topic of heroin addiction and improve your knowledge about drug addiction so you can better support your loved one.

2. Assist Them In Finding Heroin Addiction Treatment

Once you’ve had an important first conversation about heroin addiction and empathizing with what your loved one is going through, you can seek treatment options.

Heroin addiction can best be addressed under the medical and psychological guidance of an evidence-based addiction treatment program.

Here’s a quick overview of a few of the programs that treat heroin addiction:

Outpatient rehab

Outpatient rehab involves part-time treatment in which a person travels to a facility for programming and then returns home each day.

This can vary in levels of care, including standard outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, aftercare, and more.

Inpatient rehab

This is a 24-hour option for addiction treatment. With inpatient rehab, a person will live in the rehab facility for a period of weeks or months.

Most inpatient programs run for 30 to 90 days and involve counseling, medication, group sessions, and more.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

With MAT, a person will receive regular doses of medications to ease the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and reduce cravings. This medication is combined with behavioral therapies to achieve a whole-patient approach.

Along with finding a few program options, you can also ease their transition into treatment by assisting with the insurance side of addiction treatment.

Find out what insurance provider your loved one has, and find programs that accept their health insurance plan. Work with the rehab center to find a plan that can be covered by insurance.

3. Get Them Into Counseling

If your loved one does not have the ability or desire to do a full addiction treatment program, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab, counseling is a good alternative.

Addressing the root issue of heroin addiction is crucial, and therapy is the best way to do that.

A counseling program will help your loved one to work through the emotional and mental aspects of their addiction so they can be physically and mentally healthy moving forward.

Select a few addiction counselors in your area and take into account the preferences your loved one may have, such as the gender and age of their counselor.

4. Connect Them To A Community

Recovering from addiction takes community support. Heroin addiction can be very isolating, especially if the heroin addict doesn’t have other people who understand what addiction is like.

Having support from loved ones and friends like you is extremely important in a person’s recovery process.

This support can help them to avoid relapse, gain emotional support and outlets, find a purpose or meaning in life, and more.

Here are some sources of community support you might suggest:

  • heroin addiction support groups or narcotics anonymous (NA) meetings
  • a club to pursue a hobby or recreational sports team
  • reconnecting with a group of friends
  • attending a faith-based group or place of worship

5. Set Boundaries

Get comfortable with setting healthy boundaries for yourself within your home and your relationship with a person recovering from heroin abuse.

It’s unlikely that a person recovering from heroin addiction will be the one to set boundaries, you need to be the one to initiate.

You are there to offer support and guidance as your loved one recovers from addiction, but it’s also important to set your own boundaries and let them know what you’re comfortable with.

If the recovering individual lives in your home, set clear boundaries on substance use in the house in the case of relapse, and follow through when those lines are crossed.

In the case of someone who’s not living in your home, you might set the boundary of no heroin use in your presence, or not spending time with that person while they’re under the influence.

6. Be Aware Of The Signs Of Heroin Relapse

If your loved one relapses, don’t lose hope. Make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of heroin relapse so you can be prepared to step in and talk with them about their recovery.

Signs of heroin relapse include:

  • changes in behavior, such as lying or hiding paraphernalia
  • a sudden or gradual pattern of unhealthy thinking
  • flushed skin
  • pinpoint pupils
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mood swings
  • problems with memory

Heroin addiction can still be successfully treated even after a relapse. This might feel like a failure, but it’s not. Recovering from heroin often takes multiple tries and long-term treatment.

If you notice any of the above signs of relapse, talk to your loved one and discuss options such as a new counseling schedule, trying a new treatment program, or switching routines.

Help A Heroin Addict To Find Treatment

If you’re ready to take the next step toward helping a heroin addict, reach out to us and talk to one of our representatives.

We’re equipped with a network of addiction treatment programs that can address the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of heroin abuse and recovery.

Call our helpline today to get started.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

  • Was this Helpful?
  • YesNo
Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help:
100% Free & Confidential. Call (844) 616-3400