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An addict who has been through detox may feel better, even "cured." However, the physical addiction persists for months, and many effective heroin rehab programs require a residential setting for three to six months.
Most people are familiar with the use of methadone to treat heroin addicts. This drug mimics the effects of heroin without the "high," and is important in allowing the addict to function physically and mentally while laying the foundation for behavioral treatment. Some patients have an adverse reaction to methadone, and it is possible to take a deadly overdose of it. Some physicians now also use newer drugs such as naltrexone that block the brain's receptors so that heroin has no effect.
Medication alone does not end an addiction. The process of recovery involves building a new life away from the people and situations associated with drug abuse, and getting treatment for the underlying issues that made drug abuse seem attractive in the first place. New research is indicating success with programs that let recovering addicts earn rewards for continued abstinence, in combination with therapy that teaches them skills for a drug-free life and community reinforcement, often through self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous.