Heroin Addiction Treatment and Recovery Help
- An illegal depressant drug derived from morphine that binds to opioid receptors in the brain and creates a number of different side effects.
- The most abused, fast-acting and popular of all opiate drugs.
- A powder of either white or brown color or a black, tar-like substance that can be injected, snorted or smoked.
- Also known by street names such as Dope, Junk, Horse, Smac, Big H, Blacktar, Brown Sugar, Muc or Skag.
- Often combined with additional substances such as powdered milk, sugar, starch, quinine or certain poisons to enhance effects.
Many issues can result from heroin abuse that can jeopardize a user’s health, including:
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Bacterial infections
- Collapsed veins
- Organ damage (typically caused by additives in street heroin)
- Infectious (Hepatitis, HIV, etc.)
Overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, are of particular concern for users of street heroin because it is impossible to determine the contents of the heroin, as it may have been cut with other dangerous substances.
However, in recent years, it has made a comeback — particularly because of notoriety received in films such as Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting, as well as being connected to the deaths of celebrities. In addition, it grew in popularity in the fashion industry, under the promotion “heroin chic.”
Many people mistakenly believe that it is safe to use heroin as long as they do not inject it and/or share needles. However, a purer form of heroin is now available, making it possible for people to get high by snorting or smoking the drug as opposed to injecting it.
For the most part, heroin is smuggled into the United States from places such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.
In many studies involving lab animals, scientists have found that animals will choose heroin over food or beverages. Even as they die from starvation and exhaustion, the animals will continue to gun it for the heroin to get their next fix.
Very rarely, people can use heroin without developing addictions, however most people get hooked after their first time using. There may be a genetic component to the development of addiction (known as the so-called “addictive personality”), but so far, scientists do not fully understand how it works. Some risk factors for addiction development can include psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety and panic disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Also, a family history of substance abuse can also increase an individual’s risk of becoming addicted.
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Muscle and bone pain
- Insomnia or restlessness
- Cold flashes
- Kicking movements
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of the last dose and typically continue for about one week, if not longer. In some cases, heroin addicts report withdrawal symptoms that last for months. Also, recovered heroin users also site being triggered by people, places or things, even if they have been clean for years.
Medically supervised heroin detox programs are designed to help heroin addicts gradually wean off heroin and prepare to participate in a therapeutic recovery program. Attempting to be successful in detox without any follow-up care will only set recovering users up for relapse. Therefore, heroin detox should be looked at as the first step of many that with help introduce new coping skills and address the issues of addiction.
What you experience during heroin addiction treatment is going to solely depend on specific factors including how long you have been using and how much you have been using. Your recovery will depend on your ability to understand and cope with other challenges, such as underlying psychological problems that may have caused or been caused by your heroin use.
There are two kinds of treatment centers: residential or outpatient.
- Residential treatment centers can come in variety, such as wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools for preteens and teenagers, Christian rehabilitation, or gender-specific programs. Many residential programs offer services for a wide range of addictions and psychological problems, while others specialize in one particular addiction and/or disorder.
- With outpatient treatment, you get the opportunity to live at home and meet with your counselors and doctors on a regular basis.
Step One: Withdrawal
The first step in the treatment process involves chemical withdrawal from heroin — otherwise known as detoxification. Heroin detox has developed a bad reputation that has spanned over a century, however modern methods made heroin detox less intense and more comfortable than in used to be in the past.
- During detox, you will likely remain at a medical treatment center for at least a couple of days. Within hours of ending your heroin use, all traces of heroin leave your body and withdrawal symptoms start. Withdrawal can feel like a terrible case of the flu, and depending on your level of drug usage, you might experience chills and goose bumps (hence the term “cold turkey”), runny nose, sweats, fevers, insomnia, muscle and joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and twitching legs (“kicking the habit”).
- Your doctor may prescribe methadone or another drug to ease your symptoms, and then gradually taper it off. However, not all heroin users experience these severe symptoms, so this treatment varies case by case.
- The flu-like withdrawal symptoms can last up to a week, but the worst of it typically ends after the first two days. One former addict said the main problem with withdrawal is knowing that if you took some heroin, the symptoms would be gone immediately. This is a common reason why most heroin users require additional support to get through withdrawals.
Step Two: Therapy
Once you have completed detox, you will attend classes and therapy sessions with counselors, as well as support meetings with others in treatment. You learn how to deal with triggers (such as situations and people) that make you want to use heroin again.
Residential centers often provide outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking, swimming, etc. to help you learn to use physical exercise as a safe and effective way to relieve stress. In addition, you may also learn other coping techniques, including deep breathing, yoga and meditation that aid in your recovery. The majority of residential centers offer sports, journaling, art, music, and drama as forms of therapy.
Step Three: Maintenance
As soon as you return home and/or complete the most intensive period of outpatient treatment, you will still require follow-up care. Follow-up care typically involves attending 12-Step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous or other support groups, as well as keeping up with individual therapy.
The families of former heroin addicts often enter into counseling themselves to help deal with the changes in family dynamics that develop in response to a loved one’s heroin use.
The length of treatment depends on your individual case. Government studies show that people who remain in treatment and stay connected to support groups for at least one year, even on an outpatient basis, are more likely to stay sober after rehab.
In most cases, outpatient or residential heroin addiction rehab is necessary to end abuse. Some of the most common types of treatments for heroin addiction can include the following:
- Medically Assisted Heroin Detox
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- 12-Step Programs
- Medication-assisted Treatment (Vivitrol or Suboxone)
- Educational Lectures
- Individual and Group Counseling
- Family Therapy