Becoming addicted to heroin can affect every aspect of a person’s life. After quitting heroin, it’s normal for there to be an adjustment period, to learn how to navigate life without it.
One of the more intrusive challenges of early recovery from heroin addiction is heroin cravings, which can be physical, psychological, and even show up in a person’s dreams.
Having dreams about using heroin again isn’t uncommon. Some research estimates as many as one-third of people who seek treatment for drug or alcohol abuse experience relapse dreams.
What Causes Heroin Dreams?
The cause of heroin dreams, or dreams about relapse, is unclear. But it’s largely believed to be psychological. It can also be a symptom of withdrawal.
Dreaming about heroin may, for instance, be a sign of heroin cravings—which are common in the early abstinence period.
A person may also dream about heroin if they’ve been more stressed than usual, or if they’re feeling ambivalent or concerned about their recovery.
Who Is More Likely To Have Heroin Dreams?
Studies on relapse dreams in addiction recovery show that this phenomenon is most common in people with a chronic, severe history of addiction.
Dreaming about relapsing back into drug use is also more common within the first few months, or years, of recovery.
As time goes on, these dreams generally become less frequent. Over time, people will generally be able to adapt to their life without heroin as it no longer occupies a leading role in their lives.
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Does Dreaming About Heroin Predict Relapse?
Some research shows that sleep disturbances, including insomnia, can affect a person’s risk for relapse in addiction recovery.
However, having dreams about returning to heroin does not by itself predict a relapse. Dreaming about using heroin again can be upsetting, but it doesn’t mean it will become a reality.
Tips For Managing Heroin Dreams
Dreaming about returning to heroin is not a sign of failure. And it doesn’t mean relapse is inevitable.
These dreams generally go away with time. But in the meantime, there are several things you can do to manage the conflicting emotions that these dreams can provoke.
Talk To A Doctor
Having difficulty sleeping and nightmares is common in early recovery. A medical doctor may be able to offer guidance for improving sleep or be able to prescribe medication to help.
Keep A Dream Journal
Consider writing down your dreams. If you continue having identical dreams, this may indicate a pattern.
Keeping track of when these dreams occur, and what happens in them, may help you identify if there are certain triggers that appear to precede these dreams, such as having a stressful day.
Discuss Heroin Dreams With A Counselor
Being open and honest about these dreams can be helpful. You don’t need to be embarrassed or remorseful about having these dreams. It’s not your fault.
Processing relapse dreams with a counselor allows you the opportunity to consider what might be causing these dreams and coping techniques for managing any distress they cause afterward.
Practice Mindfulness Techniques
Nightmares, including relapse dreams, may be a manifestation of stress or anxiety. Using relaxation techniques before bed, such as mindfulness practices or meditation, might help.
Practicing mindfulness techniques after having a relapse dream might also be beneficial if you find yourself frequently feeling very upset or troubled after waking.
Join A Support Group
Recovery support groups offer a safe space to talk about both the successes people have in recovery as well as the struggles.
By bringing this issue to a group, you might even get nods of understanding from others and have the opportunity to hear stories from those who have similarly had this experience.
Other group members may be able to offer tips for how they’ve managed these dreams and offer general support and validation.
What To Do If A Loved One Is Dreaming About Heroin
If someone in your life has opened up to you after having relapse dreams, don’t panic. This does not mean that they have relapsed, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.
What to do if a loved one is having heroin use dreams:
- Stay calm: Panicking will stress you out and may make it less likely that your loved one will open up to you about similar challenges in the future.
- Talk to them: Ask them if they’d like to talk about their dreams. Try to listen carefully and attentively without passing judgment, even if what they describe is upsetting.
- Offer support: Assure them that they did the right thing by talking to you and that you’re here to support them, even if that means just providing a listening ear.
- Suggest they seek help: Seeking professional guidance from a counselor or medical doctor may be helpful if their dreams are recurrent or very upsetting.
Opening up about relapse dreams isn’t easy. If someone has chosen to tell you about this, this is a sign that they trust you enough to respond to their confession with sympathy and understanding.
Telling a loved one about relapse dreams can also be a positive sign. This means they’re not avoiding the issue, and that they feel genuine concern about how this could affect their recovery.
Above all else, try to offer compassion. While your immediate reaction might be fear, concern, or even suspicion, it’s important to reassure your loved one that you’re on their side.
Finding Help For Heroin Use Dreams
Generally, dreams about relapsing back into heroin use go away with time. If these dreams become disruptive to your life, however, it may help to get a professional’s opinion.
By calling our helpline, we can:
- find a medical doctor, counselor, or rehab center near you
- verify your insurance
- connect you with helpful addiction recovery resources
Call us today to learn more about heroin use dreams and how to find treatment for challenges in heroin addiction recovery.
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.
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- Science Daily—Drinking and drug-use dreams in recovery tied to more severe addiction history: Frequency of these relapse dreams decreases as the body and brain adapt to abstinence
- U.S. National Library of Medicine—Crosstalk between Sleep Disturbance and Opioid Use Disorder: A Narrative Review
- U.S. National Library of Medicine—The reality of drinking and drug using dreams: A study of the prevalence, predictors, and decay with time in recovery in a national sample of U.S. adults
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Opiate and opioid withdrawal