Do Heroin Addicts Ever Recover?
The short answer to “do heroin addicts ever recover?” is ‘YES’ they do.
While the statistics vary from different statisticians, most say that between 20% – 40% will recover from an episode.
With that said, heroin users experience many episodes, like any other addiction, of recover to relapse.
You should understand that recover, recovery and recovered all have different meanings.
If you recover from an addiction episode, it doesn’t mean that you will stay recovered or that you are currently in recovery.
So, the real questions would be:
Out of the people who recover from an episode from heroin use, how many will relapse?
And out of the people who recover from an episode from heroin use, how many will stay recovered?
Statistics say that at least 60% of heroin users who get sober for a period of time will eventually relapse.
So, do heroin addicts ever recover?
Many statistics point to a small percentage of those who will recover and stay recovered.
It is, however, important to know that statistics are meant to be broken and here’s an example below:
One Statistic That Was Finally Broke
I remember Wilt Chamberlain from the Philadelphia Warriors (now the 76’ers) NBA, scoring 100 points in a single game.
That game was played back on March 2nd, 1962, which, by any stretch, was some time ago.
That record has not been broken as of today, January 23rd, 2022. This is the current statistic.
It is still a number one statistic that remains unbroken after almost 60 years.
Subsequently, Wilt Chamberlain also had the number two spot with 78 points scored on December 8th, 1961.
On January 22, 2006, that number two spot record was broken by a young man by the name of Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, ironically the same team Wilt played for in 1969.
After 45 years of holding the number two scoring record in history, Wilt Chamberlains statistic was broken by Kobe Bryant.
Kobe scored 81 points in the game on January 22, 2006, and currently holds the number two spot that Wilt held for 45 years.
Statistics Are Meant To Be Broken
I can remember when I was in treatment almost 14 years ago. Sometimes, it seems like yesterday.
There was a Relapse Prevention group going on and I remember the counselor telling everyone to look around the room.
There were about 48-52 people in the class as I remember just thinking back.
She said, “Look around at each other. Out of everyone in this room, no more than 5% of you will stay clean.”
I remember looking around and thinking, I don’t know who the other 4% are, but I will be that 5%.
When I said that, I meant it. I owned it like I never have owned responsibility for anything, in that moment.
What I realized in that moment of clarity is that I have a major journey to embark on.
I understood that this journey has no final destination or arrival point.
I understood that to continue this journey successfully, I would not only have to acquire the tools, but be able to utilize them.
You see, my journey with recovery is similar to Kobe’s journey with the NBA, realizing that statistics are meant to be broken.
The mission for Kobe was to better himself so he could break statistics in the NBA that most said could not be broken.
I too had to better myself so that not only would I not become a statistic, but that I would also be in that very small percentage (statistics) of those who actually recover and stay recovered.
I was determined to be in that 5%. Fourteen years later, I can say that I am! Because statistics are meant to be broken!
Recovery Is A Set Of Firm Decisions
The one thing that continues to baffle addiction treatment and counseling communities is the infamous relapse.
There is no apparent method to the madness of why and, better yet, when a relapse will take place.
One can relapse after having 10 days clean. Another could relapse after having 10 years of sobriety.
For a heroin addict to get too comfortable to believe that they are now for some reasons exempt from using is a mistake.
It’s like dropping your guard when someone is still swinging punches at you. If you do, you’re going to get hit.
Recovery is a set of firm decisions that need to be made.
The first decision to make is that you are in the fight to win! No compromise…no win, lose or draw decisions.
You must decide that losing is not an option and there is no lose or draw in this equation. That’s the 1st step.
You cannot fight with your guard down. You must decide not only to fight, but to guard yourself during the battle.
The Enemy Comes To Steal, Kill & Destroy
The conflict with heroin addiction will involve many distractions that cause you to drop your guard during the fight.
Like the enemy that it is, heroin addiction comes to steal, kill & destroy anything and everything about you.
It will steal your self-worth, your motivation and ultimately it will steal your freedom.
By stealing your freedom, you become a slave to anything, including heroin.
Heroin addiction will kill your spirit and destroy any dreams you had of becoming whatever it was you dreamed of.
Maybe you wanted to become a doctor, or a nurse, or a musician, or a firefighter, or join the military or become a journalist, a model, settle down and raise a family…the list goes on and on.
Because the truth is, we all have dreams.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. He had a huge inspirational dream that on some level we could all identify with.
Unfortunately, an enemy came to steal, kill and destroy not only the dream but the man who dreamed it.
We all have inspirations or have been inspired to do better.
As his life was so senselessly snuffed out by an enemy who at the time could not be seen, Martin Luther King was not able to see his dream.
He was killed before that happened.
Think about the countless faces that had plans, aspirations and dreams they truly wanted to fulfill only to become seduced and sidetracked or railroaded by an enemy they could not see coming.
A relationship that they will not even have an opportunity to regret, like myself, because they are no longer here.
This is what heroin addiction looks like. The enemy comes to steal, kill & destroy.
The difference today is…are we going to allow that?
Beware! Distractions Are Always Present
One thing we can count on while on this journey of heroin addiction recovery (or any other addiction) are distractions.
We can count on distractions coming our way like white on rice.
Although there are many situations to contend with, here are a few:
- going to the old places we use to just to show them we are doing good
- attraction to someone who is using or drinking, even occasionally (you eventually join in)
- having extra money now since you have been sober for a few weeks or months (I’ve been doing good…why not?)
- stressful situations, like hard day at work, that warrant “taking the edge off”
- old acquaintances who just happen to show up with “stuff” on them
- situations where anger is involved, and the “f*#ck it!” attitude prevails
- obsessing on how you can do it (get high) different this time; the getting high “successfully” lie
- attending other functions not conducive to your recovery when you should be at a meeting
Understand, these are just a few scenarios that present themselves throughout our day, every day in our recovery.
If I can say one thing that will hopefully drive home the answer to the question, “do heroin addicts ever recover?” it is this.
Choosing Insanity While You Are Sane
Before I decided to not only get clean again, after many attempts, but to stay clean once and for all, I had to make a choice.
After getting sober and being clean for 6 months, as an example, I am no longer living in the insanity of addiction.
Now I may have other areas that need to be worked on, no doubt, but I can no longer say that I am living in the insanity of my addiction because being sober is a sane decision that has to be made each and every day in order to maintain it.
Once again, as an example, let’s say I have been clean for 6 month’s (true story) and a ‘distraction’ comes along.
What happens is I make an INSANE decision to go back to my INSANITY, while I am in my SANITY. I chose relapse.
And I made that decision when I was as sober and as sane as I am ever going to be. I chose insanity over my sanity.
I cannot use the line that I was in my addiction, because I was sober at the time of making that insane decision…again!!
For whatever reason, I made an insane decision, while I was sane, to go back to my misery, which was my addiction.
Most importantly to take responsibility for my actions, it was my choice. It was what I decided to do.
What It Boils Down To
This is what it boils down to.
The hard, cold facts of addiction is not the addiction itself.
It’s who is involved in the relationship with the addiction.
Recovery from heroin addiction is a simple process. That’s not to say it is easy, but it is a simple process to follow.
Any addiction recovery process is simple. What makes it difficult is that we are involved in that process.
We make it difficult. We make the decisions. We are responsible for the outcome.
No one said it would be easy. Like making any other decision in life, sometimes it can be difficult.
But there is a big difference is knowing what the right decision is and choosing the wrong one anyway.
Concluding With The Right Decision
Don’t ever underestimate the power of free will. Nor use it as an excuse for your unfavorable decisions.
Each and every one of us has an unalienable right to deciding for ourselves.
When we decide wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves…not the family, not the treatment centers…no one.
And believe it or not, we are going to make a decision, one way or the other, rather we like it or not.
I decided 14 years ago that heroin would no longer be a part of my life…I DECIDED.
I decided 14 years ago that I could not do this alone; that I needed the recovery community…I DECIDED.
I decided 14 years that a life of service to others was conducive to my own recovery…I DECIDED
I decided 14 years ago that I was finally tired of being a slave instead of being free…I DECIDED
And I decided 14 years ago that I would never step foot in another prison cell again…I DECIDED
Do heroin addicts ever recover? YES they do…when they decide to. The ones that don’t, decided not to.
14 thoughts on “Do Heroin Addicts Ever Recover?”
So, this opinion may be unpopular, but everyone has a right to their own. Plus, I consider myself uniquely(or not so uniquely, as heroin use has grown to epic proportions) to comment on articles such as these.
First of all, I am so proud of you for your sobriety and your journey is inspiring. 1 sincerely hope it encourages others. I especially agree that YOU decide to recover, not your higher powers(although He may be a great Support), not your theraplst, YOU. My experience has been different, but there is no comparing which is better or more effective. The motto I uss on my blog is:
Recovery is as UNIQUE as we are individual.
Short history. I was in my last year of Iaw school, in an abusive situation, when a buddy of mine offered to ‘hit me.’ (aka Shoot a heroin shot in my arm) Suffice to say, I was not able to finish my last 3 credits of law school that year. In fact w/ in the next year, I would be full-blown dependent on using IV heroin to function, shoplifting to support my habit, and homeless on the streets.
Over the next few years, I was in and out of jail 7 times, completed multiple outpatient programs, graduated 2 or 3 inpatient rehab programs, and tried Multiple medication assisted treatment programs.
As you can imagine, I have been surrounded by others struggling with their own heroin use the whole time.
Statistics aside, my own observations show, very few ‘recover.’ It is important however to define the word ‘recover.”
If recover means clean off all drugs, the numbers are dismal, especially in the long term.
Most heroin users, including myself , are able to function again if they find a good Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program AND are ready to be a contributing member of society again.
This DOES NOT mean they never use again. It simply means they can maintain, and even live normally again.
If our laws were better situated towards not punishing those with addiction problems, many many more would be able to achieve this type of recovery.
In my opinion, it’s the most realistic option. An all or nothing approach DOES NOT BENEFIT anyone. ( You are one of the lucky ones who this type of approach worked for. Although that is all to your credit, I am sure you agree that you are lucky the drug did not kill you before you achieved recovery. )
The most common situation I see when people believe that being completey sober is the only way to recover is a sad one. I have lost more friends than I can count on my fingers AND toes because they went to rehab or prison, got out and thought they were able to do even half the amount they did before.
Sadly, this is the last decision they make.
For this reason alone, MAT programs should be encouraged, and the taboo of such programs eliminated. Too many people believe an ‘all or nothing’ approach is the only way. This AA- minded, all or nothing recovery approach is quite literally KILLING people. Not to mention the shame experienced once a user realizes they are in the throes of another relapse.
I am sick of losing people I love who could have make a big impact in this world.
In all honesty, some of the most creative, most brillant people, I have ever met are drug users.
Just think, what it the cure for cancer is in the minds of the incarcerated?
Or worse, what if it was in minds of the overdosed?
In case you are curious, ‘ finished that law degree last year and I am preparing to take the bar exam this year
I have officially rambled. on for too long so I will end here. If you are curious to read more about my personal joumey, check out Syringes to Sobriety . com
Thanks for the article!
(If you dont want to include my website just edit this before you approve it. However, I would like to connect w/ you if you are interested. maybe a guest blog opportunity for one or the both of us? Message me on WA ! )
Thanks for the insight Ashley and congratulations on getting back up on the horse and finishing that law degree. I wish you well with the bar exam. But as you said, some of the most brilliant people (that I know also) have been either addicts or convicts.
With that said, as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor now, MAT Programs are effective for some people. For some people, however, it can be a gateway back to whatever it was you were doing prior to getting on MAT.
Example, MAT programs that have someone on 60, 80, 100, 120 mg of methadone daily without a titration is not helping anyone. It may be keeping them alive, but it is also keeping them addicted. By time that is saturated over a year’s time of being on MAT, the individual is now dependent on methadone, which can be as miserable a kick as heroin.
Now I have also seen success stories with MAT, but very few, unless you consider still being on MAT indefinitely successful opposed to shooting dope. The intention of MAT is to use medically assisted treatment to assist in maintaining long term sobriety so that it becomes permanent, like a habit.
The individual titrates down, example from 40 to 32 to 26 to 19 to 12 to 8 mg of methadone during a 6-month episode of MAT. If the individual is on 80 mg for 6-months, that’s never going to work.
Some would say that is better than being back on heroin. I would not be one of those people. You, at this point, are just choosing a different poison.
On the other hand, MAT programs that consist of Vivitrol for alcohol or opiates, I have seen more sustained sobriety, but still not successful long term.
I myself Ashley never used methadone or suboxone or any other type of MAT. My rehabs consisted of getting busted and going back to prison, to kick cold turkey, no sleeping for about 30 days.
My one trip to rehab happens to be the only trip I took (other than multiple trips to the pen) and that was a blessing from the courts opposed to going back to prison. I was sent to Tarzana Treatment Centers in Tarzana, CA.
That was in June 2008. I now work for the same company as a Counselor that almost 14 years previous, I was a patient. After using heroin for more than 2 decades, I changed my mind. I decided to do something different.
At the end of my run, I was using every bit of 3 1/2 grams a day, so to say making a decision was not the easiest thing to commit to would be an understatement.
I don’t believe there is ANY monopoly on recovery. Like you said, recovery is as UNIQUE as the individual is.
Even though the processes of recovery are not unique, the way recovery applies to the particular individual is, because it is an individual journey with many ingredients involved to either assist or deter.
Thanks again for your powerful and thoughtful perspective and brief testimony. I would love to hear the whole story sometime. I will check out your website as well. Wishing you the best Ashley!
It is so alarming the effects drugs can have on a person’s mental well-being, this drug is so terrible has destroyed many lives. The good news however is that there are help and support groups that can help anyone to overcome these issues as they are willing. The road to recovery may take some time but with much prayers and counseling, this issue can be overcome.
So right you are Norman! It’s like I said statistics are meant to be broken. You just have to position yourself to what that means and, more so, how it can be successfully done. Thank you, my friend, for your insight!
WOW This was a very powerful testimony. Prayers up for your commitment, thank you for sharing your personal journey. I totally agree that statistics are meant to be broken. That is a rule the crosses numerous boundaries. I also never realized that recover, recovery and recovered were three different things. Now that I focus on the words, I realize your truth. Congratulations on your sobriety. How does one maintain their sobriety if their circumstances never change?
Thanks for your reply. I am happy you found meaning in my words. I too had to discover what recover, recovered and recovery meant to me as an individual. It has been a tool to utilize. Thanks again!
Do Heroin Addicts Ever Recover?
Just as the author of this article replied in the affirmative a “YES,” my answer as well is a yes. A yes which may depend on many factors like the nature of the person and personal commitment.
One cannot rely on statistics hundred percent. In other words, statistics is bound to be broken or fail. The reason is that it’s a study based on a simple probability, people can relapse or completely recover. The reason why Chamberlain’s statics must have been broken in the case of Kobe Bryant and many others.
It’s true that recovery is about firm decisions. Most especially in a situation where one recognizes that heroin addiction bears a lot of similarities with the characteristics of the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
Well said sir! Heroin is just another form of the enemy and the enemy manifests itself in many different ways and forms with only one intention in mind…to steal, kill and destroy…everything and anything! about you! Thanks again Pedro!
I have known people who do recover from this, but it is a long road to recovery. They must be willing to take up counseling and extra outer support to come out of this addiction. They need to have commitment mindset to say NO! and walk away from it, never doing this behavior again. Addiction to drugs has a profound effect mentally on anyone but with prayers and forgiveness, one can be completely healed of this and be led into living a new life that is more worthwhile in the long run!
Wishing you all the best with your online success Above and Beyond the Horizon,
Thank you for your kind wishes. Wishing you Blessings as well!
What a beautiful story. And I have to admit it, your subtitle “Statistics Are Meant to Be Broken” really got me right to the heart. I have always been part of those who think that sports are good analogies of life. Your article is a new proof of that. As a jazz musician, I know that we have lost many great minds and geniuses because of heroin. Too much…
I DECIDED. Powerful words. Great article.
I appreciate your words…and I appreciate you being a jazz musician, as I am also a musician…percussionist and bassist for many years.
It really does boil down to a decision. When someone is clean and they decide to relapse, that is what they decided to do. They could have decided in that moment, “I am in danger because I feel like getting high!”
They have to decide. I decided to call someone and let them know what I am going through at this very minute instead of deciding to be alone with my self-destructive thoughts.
It’s like ol boy said in the old “Saw” movies…you have a decision to make…choose wisely! Thanks again my brother!
I think the statistics are low because it is a difficult thing to do and you need a lot of strength and willpower to stay the course over the long haul.
I think everyone goes through stages when they feel strong, and then it could weaken the next day and this is the time that you need to be strong or turn to somebody for help.
I think it is important too to avoid situations and people who can tempt you to relapse.
What would be your most valuable piece of advice to somebody who has just gone off drugs to help keep them on the straight and narrow? Something that would help them decide for themselves that their old life is no longer?
Thanks for your comments! If there is one piece of lasting advice that will not fail, it is to convey that each of us has the power of decision. So powerful, that we are going to make a decision rather we like it or not…one way or the other.
We have to DECIDE that we no longer want that life. We don’t have to know how to achieve it, we just have to know that we decided we want something different.
When the student is ready, the teachers will show up…this is true in all aspects of life and addiction is no different.
It’s no different than deciding you want to lose weight. Don’t confuse contemplating with a decision, because they are two different things. Many have contemplated getting clean and staying clean.
It’s like wanting to get in shape, going to the gym and watching everybody else work out. Until you decide to pick up some weight, and start working out, nothing is going to change. Until you decide that you are going to reach your goals, not just contemplating reaching them or dreaming about it happening without doing anything.
For someone who is clean, I would remind them that now that you are clean, you have to make a DECISION every day to not give that up.
Along with addiction comes a whole VIVID community and a wealth of knowledge of staying clean. You have to trade those old acquaintances in for a new community to begin with. Rather it’s AA, NA, CA, the church or whatever other positive outlet that may assist in a person’s newfound recovery.