Heroin Addiction

Heroin Addiction

Heroin Addiction

Recovering from heroin addiction isn’t something you can tackle without help and support. Like any other drug addiction, heroin use makes it harder and harder to lead a normal life, putting your relationships with family, friends, and employers at risk.

At Renascent, we understand, and we can help. In 2020, we’ll celebrate 50 years as a trusted, national leader in drug, alcohol, and food addiction rehab programs and services in Toronto, Ontario.

In this article, we’ll explore heroin addiction, treatment, and recovery programs so you can realize your opportunity for life-long healing and freedom from addiction.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a dangerous, illegal, and highly addictive drug.

Heroin is a “semi-synthetic” opioid drug. It’s made from morphine, an opiate found naturally in the opium poppy, that is then chemically processed in illegal labs.

Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked and it enters your brain quickly, resulting in an immediate high that is very addictive.

The Centre for Mental Health and Addiction tells us it’s possible to become addicted to heroin after only 2–3 weeks of use.

As with other opioid drugs, overdose is a dangerous possibility with heroin use, and can lead to death. In some cases, fentanyl is used to cut heroin, and people overdose because they don’t know they are also taking this powerful and dangerous prescription opioid drug.

Effects of Using Heroin

Heroin is a depressant. It slows down the activity of the nervous system, so users often have a pleasant, tranquil, and sedated feeling lasting a few minutes or as long as an hour.

Heroin use can also lead to both short- and long-term mental and physical effects.*

In the short-term, users can experience:

  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Itching or burning sensation of the skin
  • Headaches
  • Slowed breathing

Over long-term and increased use, heroin can cause:

  • Learning and memory problems
  • Difficulty controlling impulsive behaviour
  • Lack of emotion (apathy)
  • Unstable moods and depression
  • Risk of infectious diseases (hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV) and blood poisoning from unclean needles and syringes
  • Insomnia
  • Liver and kidney disease

*Source: Government of Canada

Heroin Use in Canada

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports that heroin is used by a range of people from a variety of cultural, social, economic, and age groups. First-time users tend to be in their teens or 20s, but most people who use heroin regularly are over 30 years of age.

It’s important to understand that all sociodemographic and socioeconomic groups are affected by what is known as the ‘opioid crisis’ in Canada. Use and overdose deaths happen among people with long-term substance use and first-time users, whether they are rich or poor, young or old.

If you or someone you love has signs of heroin addiction, we understand, and we can help.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heroin Addiction

“Because denial is one of the main characteristics of addiction, many aren’t even aware how unmanageable their life has become; it just seems normal to juggle creditors, tell lies, hide the habit, engage in criminal behaviour, avoid family members … anyone can increase the list. Everyone likes to think that they have a handle on their own affairs, and everyone has become accustomed to their own coping strategies, even those that cause a great deal of suffering.

But in order to proceed with the rest of the 12 steps, an addict has to admit that their life has become unmanageable.”

Excerpt from Renascent blog post, January 2017

It’s hard to admit you have a heroin addiction and then ask for help. But like with any addiction, recognizing the signs of a problem and admitting the truth about the impact of your addiction is essential to accepting help and your successful recovery. This is why honesty is the first principle of every 12-step recovery plan.

And while we know that not all people who experiment with heroin become addicted, regular use usually leads to developing a tolerance for the drug – you need more of it, and more often, to feel the same effects. Within weeks, you can develop a physical dependence on heroin, and from there, it can be very hard to quit.

Diagnosing a Heroin Addiction

If you think you might have a problem with heroin use, it’s important to talk to someone. Heroin addiction can be diagnosed by your doctor, therapist, or other health care provider. Or you can call a free and confidential help line at an accredited addiction treatment centre like Renascent, where trained counsellors will see you through to the next step.

It’s important to not be discouraged from seeking help once you ask yourself questions like “Am I an addict?” You might be, but whether you’re addicted or not, you’re always a person first, and many people experience addiction. Those same people can experience recovery that lasts a lifetime, and so can you. Remember, in Ontario, addiction is recognized as a disability in the Human Rights Code, and so you are protected against discrimination based on your addiction from anyone you need to tell.

In fact, substance use is considered a chronic disorder by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5), a handbook used widely by healthcare professionals to guide diagnosis of mental disorders and addictions. This means that if you’re experiencing problems as a result of heroin use, it doesn’t make you a bad person, or any other label you or others have used – it means you have a psychiatric brain disorder or disease that can be treated like any other health condition.

At Renascent, all our counsellors have lived experiences of addiction and long-term recovery, so you’ll have the understanding and support you need to ask for help, and at every step of your treatment.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Thanks to our universal healthcare system in Canada, everyone has access to help for addiction and substance use. Talking to your doctor, going to a walk-in clinic, seeing a public health nurse — any of these healthcare professionals can help you and refer you to a good addiction treatment centre you can trust. Many of these treatment centres, including Renascent, have financial need pricing if affordability is an issue.

At Renascent, we offer person-centred treatment for heroin addiction. This means we treat the whole person, because heroin addiction affects you on every level. Your care will be based on a heroin rehab program tailored to meet your unique needs.

Our comprehensive, Toronto-region, addiction treatment programs take place in safe, serene, and caring environments inside beautifully restored heritage homes. Our abstinence-based model integrates 12-step facilitation with other best practices in clinical and medical approaches, which are proven to make a difference in long-term sobriety.

We offer intensive in-patient heroin abuse treatment program (28–42 days) with around-the-clock counselling and support from our team of addiction specialists, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and long-term recovery.

Included in every treatment stay at Renascent:

  • Education on your addiction and its physical, emotional, social, and spiritual effects
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy to understand and change your addiction behaviour patterns
  • 12-step facilitation
  • Personalized one-on-one and solution-focused therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Exercise, sleep, and healthy eating

The accredited, personalized and abstinence-based treatment we offer means even those with the most serious of drug addictions can find renewed health and healing, and a truly transformative experience.

Choosing your Treatment Program

It can be hard to decide what type of treatment program you need. There are a lot of options out there, and each person has different needs and resources for addiction treatment. For example, how long you stay in treatment, and whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment, depends on many factors and varies from person to person.

Addiction treatment is an unregulated market in Canada, so anyone can say anything they want about their treatment centres and programs. It’s important to look for centres like Renascent that have real accreditation from real oversight committees like the Canadian Centre for Accreditation. Testimonials are also important, but real accreditation is essential.

Also, cost doesn’t always indicate quality, but better programs need to charge for treatment that works, professional, experienced staff, and safe, welcoming addiction centres. Not-for-profit centres like Renascent can offer reduced fees and even financial need pricing programs if cost is an issue.

And, if you are dealing with trauma and abuse, in addition to your addiction, you need a safe place to make your recovery more successful. Reputable treatment centres offer gender-specific treatment, women’s only programs, and LGBQT+ friendly spaces, where everyone can feel safe to be themselves.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment

We find that most people benefit from removing themselves from the triggers for their addiction. A residential or “inpatient” program can offer you complete care and round-the-clock support from a community of like-minded people, something particularly important if you don’t have a strong and healthy support system at home.

A minimum stay of 28 days is usually suggested for lasting recovery from drug addiction, and Renascent offers inpatient programs with stays between 28 and 42 days. And you can always extend your stay if needed to meet your recovery goals.

If you feel a bit anxious about the idea of living at a treatment centre, keep in mind that our centres are actual homes, not institutions. You’ll quickly feel comfortable in your surroundings, with the staff, and with the other clients in residence. We believe that a safe, welcoming space is the ideal environment for healing and finding recovery.

On the other hand, some people are not ready for inpatient treatment. An initial assessment will help you determine what type of care best meets your current needs.

Renascent can help match you with the support you need. Call us anytime for a confidential assessment, and one of our trained experts will connect you with the best program for you.

If You Are:We Might Suggest:
Looking for one-on-one supportA one-on-one counselling session with one of our addiction experts
Seeking a community who understandsInpatient treatment with group counselling, or AA/NA/CA/OA meetings
Struggling with relapse42-days of Inpatient Treatment, followed by active participation in our Continuing Care program.
In recovery, but looking to connect with informal supportGetting involved with Renascent’s Alumni Care community. There are regular meetings, engaged committees, and events for everyone. We’re here for life!
Concerned how addiction in your family might be impacting your childrenSafe programs geared for kids and parents/caregivers, such as Children’s Healthy Coping Skills
Worried about your family member or loved one, including siblings, close friends, and partnersOur Essential Family Care Programs, particularly the Introduction to Family Care
A parent in active recoveryA weekend course like Parenting in Recovery, to help you boost your parenting skills
Concerned addiction is affecting your work or workplaceOur Corporate Complete Care Advantage, designed to support employees and employers as they navigate addiction and recovery in the workplace.
Worried about life after treatmentOur Continuing Care Program, to support you as you re-integrate into your daily home life.
Looking for housing after treatmentOne of our many Community Partners who offer post-treatment housing. Call us at 1-866-232-1212 and we can put you in touch.
Looking to get “clean” or detox.The ConnexOntario Helpline, 1-866-531-2600, can connect you with Withdrawal Management Services. If you are interested in treatment following detox, call 1-866-232-1212 and we’ll coordinate this.

Don’t see what you need? Contact us anytime for a confidential assessment where we can match you with the support you’re looking for.

Family Support for Addiction

Addiction is a family disease.

Family members often know there’s a problem long before the addicted person does, but getting an addict to admit they have a problem with heroin can be heartbreaking and frustrating. Loved ones are left feeling confused, anxious, desperate, and alone.

Drug and alcohol addiction affects the entire family and the family system itself. Without knowing it, spouses, parents, and children, as well as members of the extended family and community of loved ones, can become lost in the downward spiral of addiction, just as the addict is. Family members need to know that addiction is recognized as a mental health disorder and brain disease and that sustained recovery is possible.

Thankfully, there are programs specifically designed to help adult family members and children cope with the effects of addiction. At Renascent, our Family Care programs are specifically tailored to meet the distinct needs of people impacted by a loved one’s drinking or drug use.

We offer programs for children aged 7–13 and their caregivers to develop practical tools for self-care, and learn the skills to protect themselves from the effects of addiction.

And, our Parenting in Recovery program teaches effective and practical parenting tools to help you and your family recover together. You’ll learn how to improve your family’s communication, how to help your children understand addiction in an age-appropriate way, and how to boost protective factors in both your own and your children’s lives.

Addiction Recovery for a Lifetime

People can and do recover from heroin addiction. Lasting recovery and lifelong freedom from addiction is possible.

If you’ve taken your first step and admitted you need help, you are already on your path to recovery. In fact, Step 1 in Heroin Anonymous (HA) is: “We admitted that we were powerless over heroin, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

From there, you can be upfront about your struggles, begin to accept help, get the right treatment, and join a supportive community of other people who understand what you are going through.

Find an HA meeting near me

You will also need to have a sincere desire to stop using heroin. To fully recover and prevent relapse, you must be sincerely willing to put heroin aside and be clean and sober in order to give treatment a fair chance of working.

At Renascent, this is why we offer complete abstinence programs. Generally speaking, when we are entirely abstinent, we have a much better chance of recovering from drug addiction because alcohol or any other drug use can be a gateway back to heroin.

Lastly, though challenging, long-term recovery comes when you find the strength to resist quitting when the work gets hard. Your counsellors and peers will support you through the hard times. And you should feel empowered to extend your treatment time if you feel you need it at the end of your stay.

Continuing Care and Alumni Programs

Even once your inpatient treatment has ended and you’re back home, you won’t be alone. Any significant life change takes time and practice, and recovery from addiction is no different. We’re here to support you before, during, and after treatment.

With an aftercare program, like the Continuing Care and Alumni programs offered at Renascent, your counselling support, peer support, and education from your primary intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment period is extended. The goal of these aftercare programs is to support you to maintain your abstinence, and help you re-establish it if you struggle with relapse.

For example, our 20-week Continuing Care program provides ongoing support throughout those critical first few months after inpatient addiction treatment as you begin to apply the tools you learned to your daily life and help you protect your recovery. We offer:

  • Weekly counselling and support sessions
  • Intensive relapse prevention education
  • A structured curriculum with assignments
  • Both individual and group counselling

Typically, an aftercare program is available to clients as an in-class format or over the phone. And you don’t have to have a referral or have completed your primary treatment at the same centre to enrol.

Alumni programs go an additional step and provide a healthy, safe, and strong social community foundation for long-term recovery to thrive. From group meetings to social events and volunteer opportunities, an alumni program can be a vital part of your personal growth and long-term recovery.

Your Road to Recovery Starts Here

Your addiction recovery journey begins with “I need help.” We’ve helped almost 50,000 people recover from addiction. We can help you too.

For a free and confidential consultation with one of our counsellors, call 1-866-232-1212 anytime, day or night, or Contact Us Today.

Understanding the DSM-V Handbook

Understanding the DSM-V Handbook

If you’re working in the mental healthcare profession, including addiction rehabilitation – or if you’re in recovery and treatment for addiction – chances are good that you’ve heard of the DSM-V (often referred to as the DSM-5).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been around since the 1950s, helping guide healthcare decision-making by doctors and other mental health professionals in North America and worldwide.

It’s not the only tool doctors use to help diagnose mental disorders like addictions, but it is a commonly used resource. And despite the criticism against it, and some of the challenges of using it in everyday practice, the DSM is a valuable tool healthcare professionals need to know about.

What is the DSM-V?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook used by healthcare professionals to guide diagnosis of mental disorders. The DSM-5 (or DSM-V) is the latest edition of this handbook, published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association

The DSM is constantly under review and revision by the Association as research and understanding of mental health increases and improves; further editions are expected if and when updates need to be made.

What makes the DSM so useful is its comprehensive catalogue of descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for doctors to use when talking to each other, and to patients and their families, helping ensure consistent and reliable diagnoses as well as usable data for research. 

Addiction in the latest DSM

The DSM is commonly used in addiction and rehabilitation to help diagnose and treat people’s addictions and other mental health issues.

Importantly, the DSM-5 defines addictions to alcohol and drugs as psychiatric disorders. By including addiction in the DSM as an aspect of mental health, the psychiatric profession has reinforced what we know from research and rehabilitation: that addiction is a brain disease.

The major change regarding addiction in the DSM-5 edition is that it combines together the categories of substance dependence (addiction marked by a pattern of compulsive use or loss of control) and substance abuse disorders (using in a manner that causes problems but does not have a pattern of compulsive use) under one broad category called “substance-related disorders”.

Substance-Related Disorders and the DSM

Specifically, the DSM-5 recognizes substance-related disorders resulting from the use of 10 separate classes of drugs:

Plus, the DSM-5 lists two distinct groups of substance-related disorders: substance use disorders and substance-induced disorders. Both groups are important in the diagnosis, treatment, and research of drug and alcohol use and addiction.

Challenges to Using the DSM

The DSM is not the only reference out there to diagnose addiction or any other mental health condition. The World Health Organization publishes the International Classification of Disease, which is often used side-by-side with the DSM as a compatible tool for diagnosis and monitoring.

Some, like the National Institutes of Health, have criticized the DSM for focusing too much on superficial symptoms and a lack of measurable, scientific signs of mental health disorders. Others, like Alcoholics Anonymous, prefer to use models outside such clinical classification systems.

However, here at Renascent we recognize that the DSM does contain the most up-to-date criteria currently used for diagnosing mental disorders like addiction, and that despite its challenges, it is routinely and widely used. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Even with tools and handbooks like the DSM, it can be difficult on your own to recognize and admit that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol

There is unfortunately no single question that will definitively determine if you are an addict, but if you are here asking that very question, you can likely use help and someone to talk to.

Addiction is a serious disorder and real help is available. We’ve helped almost 50,000 people recover from addiction. We can help you too.

For a free and confidential consultation with one of our counsellors, or to get information on how to refer a patient to us, contact us today.



Alumni Perspective: Willingness

Alumni Perspective: Willingness

by Mandy
Munro Alumni, March 2017


So many of us seek recovery when we are desperate and have tried our own ways and failed. We have had our share of pain and suffering and are looking for the solution. Yet the biggest riddle is this: When given the solution, many of are unwilling to fully accept it or do what we are told will make us better. Many of us want recovery on our own terms. “I’ll do this, but not that.”

I was one of those people. Initially, I never even wanted to be a sober person. Sobriety to me was the end of the road and signified the end of my life. Unknowingly, I sabotaged my every attempt to be sober. It took me six years of constant relapsing to become completely 100% willing to go to any lengths.

When I first entered AA, the initial problem I had was with God. I didn’t believe nor did I plan to. My mind was a steel trap. Completely closed. This was the first sign of my unwillingness. Straight out of the gate, I wanted it my way. I relapsed.

My next attempt at recovery was doomed because of my dislike of the 12 steps. I was aghast at the notion of being told that I might have some character defects or was less than perfect. How dare AA suggest that, without knowing me! No AA for me and I continued to relapse. I chose a different path of recovery, known as harm reduction. No 12 steps, no need for God. This I would do. I entered a harm reduction treatment centre and relapsed five days after leaving.

My options were running out and my relapses were getting worse. I didn’t yet understand that my alcoholism was progressing. My work was being affected, my family was at their wits’ end, and I was isolating and binge drinking. I decided I would give AA another try and imagined I would be finally healed. I went to some meetings and sat in the back row (relapse row). I never went early and I shot out of there as soon as the Lord’s Prayer was recited. I continued to relapse.

I decided to get a sponsor but was unwilling to calI her because I was full of fear, I had social anxiety, and a phone phobia. In my mind, I was going to AA, I was accepting God, and I had a sponsor and believed this was enough. Now when I relapsed though, my short spurts of binge drinking had progressed to not being able to stop once I took that first drink. The nightmare of a binge would not end until I went to the hospital.

I decided I was not connecting to my sponsor so I got a new one and she made me begin the steps. I started to get better and got a little bit of sobriety time. I didn’t really enjoy AA though. I didn’t connect to the fellowship. I still had some of my old friends and still wanted my old life. I was one foot in and unwilling to jump in with both feet. And although my relapses were farther apart, they had become dangerous, terrifying, and worst of all, life threatening. I was locked up in the psych ward on a Form 1 more than once, in and out of the hospital, suicide attempts, injuries, and loss of my driver’s licence. My body and my mind were no longer working properly. I was a shell of my former self.

I was beaten. I knew this disease was going to kill me so I put myself into Renascent. There began a journey of real recovery and the beginning of a new life. I became willing. I decided I would do anything and everything I was told to do. I did the work. After leaving Renascent I did their Continuing Care program, I did 90 meetings in 90 days, I did the 12 steps, and I got active in the program and in service. I went to retreats, round ups, conferences. I went to closed discussion meetings and Big Book studies. When I was afraid or unwilling, I prayed for help for strength and willingness. I built a foundation of trust in my Higher Power and began to think of myself as a student of AA and recovery. The more I did, the more I began to like it, and even love it. I learned tools to live happily in this world without the need or desire for any substance.

This past February I celebrated two years of sobriety.

I am continuing to learn and grow and I feel grateful every day. I look back at my stumbling blocks and I remember thinking that because I couldn’t understand how or why things worked, that they couldn’t possibly. I remember thinking “How will praying help me find a job and pay my bills?” “How will going to a meeting affect my day today?” I had been unwilling to listen and trust. In the end, I just had to do the things I was told to do.

At a 12-step retreat I attended a little over a year ago, I read something that has stuck with me, because it described the old me. It read, “Most people say to God, ‘Prove to me that you exist and I will believe in you.’ God says in return, ‘Believe in me, and I will prove to you I exist.’” For me, that says it all. Believe first. Do the work. Live a life beyond your greatest dreams.

Last year I went to India for two months to study yoga and meditation. This year I am travelling to Thailand for a month to volunteer for an organization that rescues street dogs. This is a life I never could have imagined. I have had a spiritual awakening and the desire to drink has been lifted from me. I have a love for recovery, for AA, and for 12-step living. I am no longer running the show; thank God for that!

Be More Than All Talk — 7 Easy Ways To Be An Action Hero!

Be More Than All Talk — 7 Easy Ways To Be An Action Hero!

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, but all we can think about is action! Opening up the conversation about mental health is important, of course, but in the work Team Renascent does we know that recovery is more than just talk: it’s about action.

Taking action in support of mental health and addictions can make sure that someone else is able to reach the recovery you have found, and it’s also a fulfilling way to keep your own recovery on track.

Here are just a few ideas for how you can be action hero this coming week:

1. Sign up as an alumni contact.

Our alumni contacts bridge that daunting gap between leaving treatment and achieving stable recovery at home. As an alumni contact, you will be put in touch with someone leaving treatment who lives in your community. You’ll meet them, take them to a local meeting, introduce them to program contacts, and generally help them find their footing in your area’s recovery community. It’s an important job and an amazing way to give back.

2. Become one of Renascent’s monthly donors.

Our monthly donors can choose exactly how much they give every month, so if $9 a month works for you, great! When you give the gift of recovery, you help us keep our promise of never turning anyone away from drug and alcohol addiction treatment because of money. Over the course of a year, your monthly donations will accumulate into an impressive annual gift, and you’ll get a tax receipt for the full amount.

3. Go to an alumni meeting.

When you go back to the house where you found recovery, you’re not only giving yourself an amazing reminder of how far you’ve come, you’re also showing everyone currently in treatment what’s up ahead. If you aren’t feeling like a shining example of recovery this week, go anyway. When you share your struggles, hope, and experience, you’re doing everyone a favour.

4. Review us on Facebook and/or Google.

When you let others know how and where you found recovery, you’re helping them find it for themselves. This is probably the easiest way to spread the word! On Facebook, go to facebook.com/RenascentCanada and submit a review. (While you’re there, “Like” us to connect with the Renascent community and get resources, support, etc.) On Google, search for your house (Munro, Punanai, Sullivan, or Wright) and on the results page, you’ll see an option on the right hand side to write a review.  

5. Go to a meeting and introduce yourself to a newcomer.

Remember your first meeting? How nervous you were? How weird everything felt? A friendly face saying “hey” can be the difference between running out the door and never looking back, or coming back next week and finding a supportive community for life.

6. Volunteer.

Being of service is a key factor of long-term recovery — you’ve got to give it to get it! Whatever you’re good at, from gardening to computers, there’s a charity or non-profit organization who could use your help. (We might even have some opportunities for volunteers at our suite during the upcoming ORC.) Apply to be a volunteer today!

7. Email your MP and/or MPP.

Members of Parliament and Provincial Parliament are responsible to you. If you think more government money should go toward funding addiction treatment programs, let them know! They work for you, and need to hear from you to know what their constituents care about.

Now celebrate your action hero status with a little dance party!