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  • Heroin Relapse | Heroin Relapse Rates, Signs, & Statistics

    young woman signs of a heroin relapse rates

    Heroin is an opioid drug that can cause euphoria (intense joy), and many people who use it develop heroin addiction. Also called substance use disorder (SUD), addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. 

    Addicted individuals can find recovery in various heroin addiction treatment programs. However, after completing treatment, some people relapse (start using the drug again). If you or a loved one struggles with heroin use, it’s important to learn about relapse and relapse prevention. 

    Heroin Relapse Rates

    For many people, relapse is a normal part of recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of people with drug addictions, including heroin addiction, relapse

    You may face a higher risk of heroin relapse if you:

    • lack proper support
    • experience a stressful event, such as the loss of a loved one
    • suffer from mental health problems
    • encounter people, places, or situations that remind you of your past heroin use, also known as “triggers”

    Signs Of Heroin Relapse

    A person who has started using heroin again may:

    • experience mood swings, anxiety, and/or irritability 
    • withdraw from friends and family members
    • fall behind at work or school
    • stop using recovery services, such as therapy or support groups
    • display side effects of heroin use, such as vomiting, smaller pupils, chills, itchiness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping
    • have skin marks or bruises from injecting heroin

    You may also find heroin paraphernalia in the person’s home, vehicle, or other personal space. Common paraphernalia includes: 

    • needles
    • lighters
    • cotton balls
    • shoelaces or strings
    • rolling papers
    • pipes
    • cigarettes
    • aluminum foil 
    • rolled up dollar bills or paper
    • spoons 
    • bottlecaps 
    • straws

    If you or someone you love has relapsed, call on a sponsor, lean on those you trust for support, or seek help at an addiction treatment center. 

    How To Prevent Heroin Relapse

    When searching for an addiction treatment center, choose one that offers medical detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, and aftercare planning. All of these services reduce the risk of relapse. 

    Medical Detoxification

    During medical detox, doctors will help you slowly stop using heroin. This gradual approach can reduce withdrawal symptoms, making relapse less likely. 

    Medication-Assisted Treatment

    In medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, doctors can prevent relapse by prescribing medications such as:

    • methadone, an opioid agonist that can treat withdrawal symptoms and reduce heroin cravings
    • buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that works similarly to methadone 
    • naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that prevents heroin and other opioids from causing pleasant effects

    Aftercare Planning

    Before you leave your treatment program, you and your doctors can work together to create a personalized aftercare plan. Your plan may include strategies like therapy, psychiatry, support systems, and wellness activities.


    Various types of therapy can help you maintain your recovery. These include:

    • behavioral therapy, where you’ll work with a mental health professional to identify triggers for heroin use and learn how to cope with them
    • family therapy, where a mental health professional can help you and your family members learn more about your addiction and how to best support your addiction recovery 
    • art therapy, where you can reduce stress through creative expression 


    If you live with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or another mental health problem, you may face a higher risk of relapse. That’s why it’s important to receive ongoing treatment for your issues. 

    While some people find relief through therapy alone, others also need a psychiatrist to prescribe medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, or anti-anxiety drugs. 

    Support Systems

    Many people find that 12-step programs and other peer support groups play an important role in recovery and relapse prevention. In these groups, you can share your experiences and coping strategies with other people recovering from heroin addiction. 

    Similarly, it’s important to surround yourself with friends and family members who understand addiction and want to support you. 

    Wellness Activities

    Activities like exercise, meditation, yoga, and journaling can help prevent relapse by improving your mental health. They can also keep your days full and structured, giving you fewer opportunities to relapse. 

    If you have already completed treatment, you can prevent relapse by following your aftercare plan. If you don’t have an aftercare or follow-up plan, talk to an addiction treatment specialist about creating one. 

    To learn more about heroin relapse prevention and effective treatment options, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Heroin
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Treatment and Recovery
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Signs of Heroin Use | Easy Read

    Medically Reviewed by
    Lauren Weinand, M.D.
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