A friend has a loved one who is struggling with heroin addiction, and asked for some advice. Uruk and I were once heroin addicts, and at over two years clean I feel a lot of gratitude that we were able to escape that hell. Here was my advice:
Uruk and I were able to get off heroin in just 8 days, on our own, with a prescription drug called buprenorphine (Suboxone). It is specifically designed to ELIMINATE opiate withdrawal symptoms as you come off heroin or prescription opiates.
It's a miracle drug, but the government is very stingy with who they license to prescribe it. Here's an advocacy group that has more info: https://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=2
We were only able to get some on the black market. I was able to totally detox from a half-gram+ a day using only two 8 mg buprenorphine strips, tapered down over 8 days. There are instructions online if you research it. If you go to a doctor, they will do it over a longer period.
Without it, Uruk and I would probably be dead right now, because heroin addiction leads down that path. It enrages me that this incredibly helpful drug is not more freely available, like it is in Europe.
The best advice I have is to be EXTRA supportive and loving, and look into getting Suboxone detox treatment, either through official or unofficial channels. The biggest issue I found was facing the horrible judgement and hatred society has in particular for heroin users. Being supportive and treating this like an illness to be healed in a loving fashion is one of the best things you can do─as long as doing so does not harm you.
Also making sure they have clean needles, having Narcan on hand, and Narcan training and vein care classes will help while they are still using. It might sound awful, but a clean safe place to inject, proper biohazard disposal and clean needles can prevent a lot of infections and problems,including deadly viruses like hepatitis C and HIV.
Heroin addicts really have no choice. The withdrawals are truly worse than facing death. They don’t even get high anymore, at least most long term addicts don’t. After five months, the heroin stopped working for my pain at all and I certainly didn’t get high, not even using over half a gram a day. That’s just how much it took NOT to go into withdrawal.
After the initial 8-day detox, I found that ingesting Rick Simpson (cannabis) oil several times a day helped mitigate the long-term detox effects, like anxiety and depression. I still take it every day and it is the only thing other than heroin that has ever been able to touch my intense chronic back and knee pain.
I send along my love and fortitude to anyone facing opiate addiction, either for themselves or a loved one. The stigma society places on it can be deadly, quite literally. But it CAN be stopped with the right treatment and support.