Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Treatment

How Do You Treat Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction affects nearly 1 million Americans a year and is on the rise, with more and more people experiencing the negative health effects that come from frequent use.1 To treat this complex disease, a range of methods—including rehabilitation programs, behavioral therapies and pharmacological (medicines) treatments—are recommended to help individuals overcome the physical and psychological effects of heroin.2

Research has shown that to treat opioid use disorders, pharmacological treatments help to decrease drug use, increase retention in treatment programs, reduce infectious disease transmission, and lower the risk of criminal activity.2 Paired with behavioral therapies which have been shown to effectively treat heroin use disorder, individuals can also manage the behaviors related to drug use and learn coping mechanisms to deal with life stressors.2

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Can I Detox On My Own?

Choosing to quit heroin alone can not only be difficult, but because of its uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, can make it easier to begin using again. Heroin withdrawal symptoms start to appear within 6-12 hours of the last use and may last from 5 to 10 days in total.3

While detoxing within a substance abuse treatment center is not necessary, doing so can lessen the uncomfortable effects of heroin withdrawal. Medical detox often includes therapy and medications to help the body and brain recover from heroin dependence. During this time, a person’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature levels are monitored to allow for a safer, more successful withdrawal process.

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How to Choose a Rehab

What Should I Look for When Choosing A Rehab Center?

When considering a rehab center, one of the first things to look for is if it treats the type of addiction that you have. If struggling with a heroin and alcohol addiction, choosing a facility that can effectively address both is essential to having a positive outcome. The next consideration should be for insurance coverage. If using insurance (private or government), check to make sure it is accepted, whether at a local facility or out-of-state.

Other questions to ask:

  • Does this facility treat co-occurring disorders?
  • Is medication-assisted treatment offered?
  • What family programs are available?
  • Do they have accreditations from independent organizations?
  • Do they provide aftercare services (e.g., sober living homes, alumni programs)?
What’s the Difference Between Residential and Outpatient Treatment?

There are two primary types of rehab centers available to those seeking recovery from heroin addiction: residential and outpatient. Depending on the level of care needed, individuals can choose an inpatient program that provides personal care 24-hours-a-day within a facility; or opt for an outpatient program that allows them to fulfill personal and professional obligations while in treatment.

Inpatient treatment allows patients to fully focus on their recovery while removing the pressures of their daily lives. Because of this, they are often better able to work through their addiction issues. Outpatient treatment is typically an option for those with less severe or shorter-term addictions, and recovery programming varies.6 Some cover a full day’s worth of meetings, sessions, and classes in a single day, while others treat individuals an hour or two a day a few days a week.

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How Effective is Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Though a chronic disease, heroin addiction is treatable and can be managed successfully. Through treatment, those struggling with heroin abuse can learn how to counteract its effects on the brain and their behaviors.7 However, defining “success” can be difficult since addiction maintenance is an ongoing process that is not complete once a person completes the program. Along with aftercare services, continual, lifelong management is needed to prevent relapse and live a life of sobriety.7

Which Approaches Have Real Evidence Behind Them?

Evidence-based practices follow specific actions based on previously-observed effects and successful outcomes. There are two primary evidence-based approaches to drug addiction treatment: pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies.12,13 The first involves prescribed pharmaceutical drugs in conjunction with therapy and are used in the detoxification stage to ease cravings and other physical symptoms.2

The latter helps individuals change attitudes and behaviors associated with drug abuse. Some evidence-based behavioral therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM), community reinforcement, approach plus vouchers, 12-step facilitation therapy and family behavior therapy.8,12,13

Should I Travel for Treatment?

Although traveling to another city or state is not necessary to effectively work toward sobriety, it can be beneficial for a number of reasons. For many, the problems and triggers that ultimately led to addiction are associated with their home environment. Seeking treatment away from those familiar surroundings can be a helpful way to fully focus on recovery, free of distractions and temptations.

Why Should I Choose an American Addiction Centers (AAC) Facility?

American Addiction Centers offers a nationwide network of facilities and alumni who can support individuals during the ups and downs of the recovery journey. Based on AAC’s three-year study on patient outcomes, AAC showed an average abstinence rate of 63% compared to the national average of 30% abstinence at 12 months among alumni. The study also showed that the number of days individuals experienced mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, decreased by 56%. The number of days with family conflict also decreased by 94% for those treated at an AAC facility.

Across the country, AAC alumni host fun gatherings and events while alumni coordinators check-in regularly to ensure those recovering from substance abuse benefit from continued support. Their 90-day promise also guarantees that if a person successfully completes 90 days of consecutive treatment at an AAC facility, they will remain clean and sober. If relapse occurs, they can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.

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Do All Rehab Centers Treat Co-Occurring Mental Health and Addiction Issues?

When a person is struggling with a substance abuse and also has a mental illness (PTSD, depression, anxiety), the diagnosis is called a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis.16 Programs that treat these conditions together often reduce the risk of relapse. Yet often times, treatment facilities treat mental health and substance abuse disorders separately.17 Nationally, less than 10% of adults with co-occurring disorders receive treatment for both and more than 50% receive no treatment at all.18 It’s important to speak with admissions navigators prior to entering rehab to inquire about specific treatment for those with dual diagnosis.

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What If I Prefer Alternative Medicine or Holistic Treatments?

Nowadays, many private facilities offer some level of holistic or alternative medicine treatment options such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, reiki, and massage therapy. Yet, there is currently no body of research that has verified the effectiveness of these treatments as standalone approaches to treat drug addictions. According to a study in the journal Psychiatric Services, though, access to these services do enhance an individual’s overall experience and is a motivator in keeping them within treatment.15 In most cases, these treatments should be used alongside more conventional, evidence-based therapies that can result in lasting abstinence.

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Financial Costs

What are The Differences Between Private and State Care?

In general, state-funded rehab centers are more cost-effective than privately-funded treatment facilities when paying out of pocket. Yet, because state-funded rehab centers get their funding from the government, they tend to offer less customizable treatment options. Often times, state-funded rehabs over-crowded and individuals are put on a waiting list to be admitted. Private facilities on the other hand may provide a broader array of therapies and a more thorough regimen of classes. From the grounds to the meals, activities, amenities and services, private programs tend to offer a more tailored guest experience.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of treatment for heroin addiction varies based on level of care needed, location, type of facility, length of treatment, and other factors. The cost can range from a couple thousand to tens of thousands of dollars a month. Options to pay for treatment include insurance, loans, savings, payment plans, or crowdfunding.

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What to Expect

How Long Does Rehab Last?

Because each person’s recovery journey is unique, individuals working through drug addiction treatment progress at various rates. There is not a predetermined length of time, yet many rehab facilities start with 30-day programs and offer 60- to 90-day options. Research has shown that less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness and longer programs have better long-term sobriety rates.4

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What Kinds of Behavioral Therapies Are Used?

Behavioral therapies used within treatment vary by facility and can be unique to the individual in order to meet their particular needs. They are designed to help modify a person’s drug-related behaviors and expectations while also teaching them coping mechanisms to handle life’s stressors.8 Some common ones include private and group counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM), the Matrix Model and 12-Step Facilitation.8

CBT aims to assist individuals in making positive cognitive changes that can lead to better maintenance of emotional distress and healthier behaviors.9 CM involves identifying a target behavior (abstinence), creating a way to measure behavior change (e.g., negative urine test), and providing reinforcement (such as money) when the target behavior occurs.10,11

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What Medications Are Used?

To treat drug addiction, methadone and buprenorphine may be prescribed to reduce the effects of withdrawal and reduce heroin cravings. Methadone, taken orally, is a long-acting synthetic opioid agonist with a long history of use in treatment of opioid dependence.14 Buprenorphine acts as a partial agonist at opioid receptors—although not producing the euphoria and sedation caused by heroin—but is able to reduce or eliminate heroin withdrawal symptoms.14

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What Is A Typical Day Like in Rehab?

Day-to-day life within residential inpatient treatment centers can vary by location. However, most are very structured and organized, offering a mix of activities and therapies in between meals as well as one-on-one and group counseling sessions. This type of regimented approach minimizes anxiety and uncertainty among residents, while also creating a safe and supportive environment.

An example of a typical day may look like:

Morning: Optional classes (yoga, meditation), breakfast, group therapy.

Afternoon: Lunch, behavioral therapy, specialized therapies (group, family) or alternative therapies (dance, equine, art).

Evening: Dinner, free time, lights out.

How Often Can I See My Family?

Within many rehab centers, family visitation policies are determined based on the individual’s level of treatment and length of stay. For some treatment centers, limited visitation (during certain hours and within designated areas) is limited in the first 30-45 days. In the early days of therapy, regulating distractions, triggers, and conflicts is critical to the recovery process. With continued progress, patients may be allowed to participate in family outings or extended visiting hours.

What Can I Bring to Rehab?

Check with the facility prior to arriving to determine its specific list of approved and restricted items. While each center can vary what is allowed on property, some common packing list items include:

  • Seasonal clothing. Check the facilities dress code to avoid banned attire.
  • Two pairs of nicer clothing for special occasions.
  • Athleticwear and swimwear.
  • Shoes: daily wear, fitness, rubber sandals (shower).
  • Toiletries to last 30 days (toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, sunscreen, etc.). Check that ingredients do not contain alcohol in first three ingredients.
  • Stationary (envelopes, stamps, journal).
  • Photos of friends and/or family.
  • Small bills.
  • Proper identification (ID, driver’s license, passport).
  • Cell phone (varies by property).
What Am I Not Allowed to Bring to Rehab?

Similar to the above “permitted” list, it’s best to check with the facility before arriving to see which items are restricted. Common items not to pack include:

  • Drugs or alcohol. It may seem obvious but your belongings will be searched before entering rehab.
  • Toiletries that contain alcohol as an active ingredient or is listed in the top three spots on the ingredients section (e.g., nail polish remover, cologne).
  • Drug or alcohol paraphernalia.
  • Expensive jewelry or large sums of cash.
  • Weapons or objects that could be viewed as dangerous.
  • Outside food or drink.
  • Cell phone (varies by property).
Can I Leave Treatment at Any Time?

Yes, you can leave rehab at any time. However, early discharge against medical advice is not recommended, as it can set back your recovery and increase the likelihood of using heroin again. Recovery is a process. It is normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed in a new setting, but once a person has sought out treatment, successfully gone through withdrawal and is working toward regaining control of their life, leaving early can interrupt that progress and disrupt recovery efforts.

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Aftercare

Does AAC Offer Aftercare Services?

As treatment within an AAC facility comes to an end, individuals will meet with therapists, counselors, or case managers to create an aftercare plan. An aftercare plan can help prevent relapse once a person has completed treatment and returns to everyday life. AAC’s alumni programs provide tools and support to help individuals cope with addiction and may include a support hotline, weekly/monthly sober events, in-person or telephone check-ins, and online support via social media, message boards and email.

What Happens If I Relapse?

It’s common for a person to relapse following drug addiction treatment. In fact, relapse rates resemble those of other chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. It may happen, but it should not be viewed as a failure.7 Relapse is an opportunity to reassess you path and find the support needed to get clean once again and maintain sobriety.

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Needle Exchange Programs

Are There Needle Exchange Programs Near Me?

Needle exchange programs provide new and sterile syringes to drug users in order to help decrease certain risks to the user and their partners.19 Some also offer additional services such as disease testing and referrals for medical treatment, counseling services, overdose awareness and prevention, education on safer injection practices, referrals for substance use disorder treatment and medication-assisted treatment, and basic health services (e.g., vaccinations, condoms). To find local needle exchange programs, the North American Syringe Exchange Network features a directory to find programs in your area.

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State Specific FAQ

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Sources:

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSDUH Series H-53.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What are the treatments for heroin use disorder?
  3. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2004). Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets. 74-76.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2019). Methadone.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How effective is drug addiction treatment? Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Behavioral Therapies. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). 
  9. National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. (2016). What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
  10. Petry, N., Stitzer, M. (2011). Contingency management: what it is and why psychiatrists should want to use it. The Psychiatrist, 35(5), 161-163.
  11. Petr,  N., Stitzer, M. (n.d.) Contingency management: Using motivational incentives to improve drug abuse treatment. Yale University Psychotherapy Development Center. 
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). 
  13. McGovern, M. P., & Carroll, K. M. (2003). Evidence-based practices for substance use disordersThe Psychiatric clinics of North America26(4), 991–1010. 
  14. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Opioid Addiction. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). 
  15. Yih-Ing Hser, Ph.D., Elizabeth Evans, M.A., et. al. (2004). Relationship Between Drug Treatment Services, Retention, and Outcomes. Psychiatric Services, 55(7), 767-774.
  16. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Dual Diagnosis.
  17. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Opioid Treatment Programs. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 43. Chapter 12. 
  18. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Study Highlights Unmet Treatment Needs Among Adults with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.
  19. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost? Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  20. Center for Disease and Control Prevention. (2017). Reducing Harms from Injection Drug Use & Opioid Use Disorder with Syringe Services Programs.
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