We Can Help

If you or someone you love is having a heroin problem and wants help:

What can you do?

Be aware that the majority of addicts will not be lining up with hands raised, volunteering for your help. How to administer appropriate consequences and how to stay out of the enabling trap is fuel for a different conversation…this one’s for those who are asking.

First: some considerations:

Most heroin addicts want help when they are unable to get any opiates and are sick…often desperate. They may be insistent, angry and afraid. They may be panicky and act in response to these feelings. Detox isn’t pretty but it is nowhere near as dangerous as the other end of the spectrum… accidental overdose.

  • Does the person taking heroin have other medical problems?
  • Are they currently high or are they without opiates? If they are high, are they responsive and breathing without effort? Is their airway clear?

Most heroin addicts die of respiratory depression/arrest, or choking. Opiates causes nausea and many addicts suffocate on their own vomit during the loss of consciousness as they initially administer the drug.

  • Many heroin addicts will substitute other opiates, (percocet, darvocet, oxycontin, codeine in any form, and others) when they are without heroin to avoid "getting sick" (heroin withdrawal) They are often not as good at monitoring how much of these substitutes to take and can easily overdose on "other" opiates, especially if they have been drinking.

Once you have made an initial determination…high or sick…then you can go to the next level of decision making:

if high, on what and how much? They may tell you or they may be evasive…be insistent that you can’t help unless they are straight with you even if its embarrassing.

If they are unresponsive or breathing is impaired call 911 immediately. Check airways and if blocked, clear.


If they are sick:

  • You need to know when they used last and what they have been using. Make sure you check to see if they have been in methadone maintenance treatment. Find out if they are using any non-opiate drugs or drinking.
  • With this information you can decide what intervention would be best. Often, the addict just want s to feel better not get well…that’s fine since in the process of feeling better they may be exposed to elements that will encourage recovery.

Heroin addicts are rarely able to go "cold turkey" and avoid reinstituting their heroin habit.

  • It seems that the most successful approach is gradual withdrawal if possible. Ideally, wherever the addict goes to start detox will also have a treatment program.
  • Like other addicts, they often feel that successfully handling the "sick" is wellness and have little concept that what’s needed is a pretty substantial mental, emotional, spiritual, not to mention life-style change. This takes work and time and as the saying goes, to be "willing as only the dying can be."

Here’s some places to start in our area:

  • McHenry County Crisis line 800-892-8900
  • Family Services and Community Mental Health Center 815-385-6400
  • Families anonymous meets every Tues. 7:30 Family Services 5320 W. Elm (Rt.120) McHenry
  • Narcotics Anonymous 708-848-4884
  • Christian 12-Step support group 224-512-1743
  • Centegra Behavioral Health (inpatient, medical detox) 815-759-4660
  • Rosecrans Health Network (adolescent) 815-399-5351 (adult) 815-391-1000
  • Share 847-882-4181
  • Lutheran Social Services ADD Program 847-741-2600
  • Northwest Community Counseling Services 815-459-0499 (emergency) 800-365-2273

The Advantage Group (TAG) for adolescents 815-444-6400


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Copyright © 2002 by [Heroin Awareness Foundation]. All rights reserved.
Revised:03-04-04 10:18 AM