How to Deal With Heroin Cravings

Once sober, heroin cravings can last anywhere from weeks to years. However, there are several effective techniques to help keep cravings at bay.

Last updated: June 10, 2019
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Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs on the market.

Derived from morphine, this opioid is not only commonly used, but incredibly dangerous. Heroin overdoses are far from rare and the drug can have disastrous effects on your body.

Heroin can hold you captive both physically and mentally.

In order to make your recovery go as smoothly as possible, it’s important to learn all you can about heroin cravings, withdrawal, and how to fight cravings.

What are heroin cravings like?

Heroin withdrawal is notoriously rough. The first 1-3 days are the peak and therefore the most severe. This can include depression, hypertension, a rapid heart rate, depressed or impaired breathing, muscle spasms as well as increased anxiety and other symptoms.

Why do I have such bad cravings?

Everyone who is addicted to a substance and goes through withdrawal experiences cravings. Whether you are detoxing from alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, or heroin- cravings are completely natural.

Cravings occur because addiction to drugs and alcohol changes brain chemistry. Those who are addicted to heroin form a mental and physical dependence on the drug. When the drug is no longer being consumed, the body fights back.

When will my heroin cravings begin?

Heroin cravings can start just hours after your last dose. While this may sound alarmingly, it’s completely normal when it comes to heroin withdrawal. If you are quitting the substance, be prepared to experience some intense heroin cravings for a while.

When will my heroin cravings stop?

There is no set time limit to how long cravings will last. For most people, they experience acute withdrawal for several weeks after quitting heroin.

During acute withdrawal is when the most intense heroin cravings will be experienced. Some people stay in this period for longer than others, but the general time frame ranges from around six weeks to six months.

After this, cravings become less frequent and less intense. However, someone who was once addicted to heroin may experience cravings for the rest of their life. Or they may stop experiencing cravings after a few months of sobriety. Everyone is different. This is why active recovery is so important.

Users in our app reported on when their cravings began to subside:

Responses for less cravings

 MilestoneTotalYesPercent
 3 days99
38
38%
 4 days121
55
45%
 5 days133
67
50%
 6 days107
55
51%
 7 days144
87
60%
 10 days158
97
61%
 2 weeks180
116
64%
 3 weeks182
132
72%
 25 days221
151
68%

How to stop heroin cravings with medication

When you use a drug like heroin, your brain is literally rewired to focus only on the drug. This obsession can be overwhelming and is a leading cause of relapse.

Implementing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) jnto your recovery plan can be a true game-changer.

Many people misunderstand MAT and believe that using a medication to get sober is essentially replacing one addiction with another.

This is not the case.

Yes, heroin is a highly addictive substance. However, the medications that can help curb heroin cravings are only prescribed- and only needed- for a short period of time.

While some have the potential to be abused, this is rarely the case. Additionally, one of the most common medications, Naltrexone, has no abuse potential at all.

The three most popular medications used to curb heroin cravings are Naltrexone (Vivitrol), Buprenorphine (Suboxone), and Methadone.

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol): Naltrexone, most commonly known by its brand name Vivitrol, is an effective opioid agonist. It works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors and blocking the action of opioids. It is administered by a doctor via injection once monthly.

  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone): Buprenorphine, known by its brand name Suboxone, is a partial agonist taken in either oral tablet or dissolvable film form. It should be taken daily. As a partial agonist, Buprenorphine activates opioid receptors in the brain, but not to the same level as opioid agonists.

  • Methadone: Methadone is also an opioid agonist, but is slow-acting. It is in liquid form and should be taken daily under supervision. However, it is only available through a certified opioid treatment program (OTP). It was one of the original medications used to treat heroin use disorder and is still an effective option today.

Can I use CBD to stop my cravings?

CBD is still controversial in many places, but a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry provides some research indicating that CBD may help.

“Our findings indicate that CBD holds significant promise for treating individuals with heroin use disorder,” – Yasmin Hurd, lead author of the study and director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai

The publication concludes saying:

CBD’s potential to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety provides a strong basis for further investigation of this phytocannabinoid as a treatment option for opioid use disorder.

This indicates that CBD could become an option that medical providers start to offer in addition to Naltrexone or Methadone.

How to deal with heroin cravings

When detoxing from heroin, cravings are unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help yourself.

It’s crucial that you do everything you can to address your cravings in a healthy and proactive manner. Experiencing bad heroin cravings during withdrawal is one of the main causes of relapse.

There are several different ways to help combat cravings. Here are some of the most effective craving-fighting techniques:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is an interactive form of therapy that provides several useful solutions to coping with cravings. Some of these solutions are redirection, distraction, and visualization.

  • Distraction: Cravings don’t last forever. If you are able to distract yourself when you feel cravings coming on, the feelings will be gone before you know it!

  • Self-care: Treat your body well. Eat healthy foods, get regular exercise, stay hydrated…all of these things will help you feel better about yourself and remind you why you quit heroin in the first place. Then, when the cravings come, you’ll love your new life way too much to go back to your old one.

  • Avoiding triggers: Everyone has their own triggers. The first step is to identify what triggers a craving and then actively avoid those triggers.

  • Become involved in a 12-step fellowship: 12-step fellowships have been keeping people clean and sober for almost 100 years. Their method of getting and staying sober has proven to be effective time and time again. When you are involved in a 12-step fellowship, you have a method of recovery and a support system comprised of people who know exactly what you’re going through.

  • Ride out the feelings: As we mentioned before, cravings don’t last forever. When you learn to accept your cravings- as scary as that may be- it can actually help you heal. When you accept the cravings and ride out the feelings, you will see that they are just that- feelings. And feelings aren’t permanent. By going with the craving, you will feel it peak and then pass.

  • Play the tape all the way through: When you feel a craving coming on, it can be all too easy to romanticize your drug use. Don’t do that! Instead, image what would happen if you used heroin again- and play the tape all the way through. Remember what your rock bottom felt like and how terrible the initial detox was. By doing this, you will remember the bad parts about heroin and will be less inclined to act on any cravings.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid heroin cravings. They are simply a part of recovery. However, understanding why you get cravings, as well as how to fight them, can help keep you sober and happy. Try several of the techniques listed above to help fight heroin cravings. You are sure to find a method that works for you.

Remember that you are not alone in your sobriety journey. Many people have quit heroin and stayed sober. Love yourself enough to get the help you deserve so you can be the next person to beat addiction.

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