Despite the fact that heroin is the deadliest drug worldwide, Canada just approved prescription heroin on Friday, September 16. With deaths from heroin-related overdoses skyrocketing, this news is baffling at first glance. But, it’s in fact a radical, strategic move in an attempt to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. A Harm Reduction Strategy In the face of just-say-no approaches to drug abuse and failing attempts at complete sobriety—particularly for opioid addicts—many organizations and … [Read more...]
Heroin Addiction Treatment - Getting Help For You or a Loved One
If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin, you need to know that this is a chronic illness that must be treated. Without receiving appropriate care for addiction, there are only 2 possible outcomes: incarceration or death. Heroin is like a demon that slowly possesses the addict's soul, destroying everything that was once held dear and causing the user to sacrifice their dreams, goals and dignity. Every day spent in the throes of addiction sends an addict into a free-falling descent deeper into this hell of drug-use, fueling their need to scrounge up their next hit to stave off withdrawals by whatever means necessary.
Heroin addiction doesn't have to end in the morgue or in prison. Inpatient heroin addiction treatment can guide a user through detox and rehab, while continued care will help to prevent relapse. There is life after heroin, and brighter days are possible.
You or your loved one can reclaim life, reconnect with friends and family and begin working towards pre-addiction dreams and goals. You don't have to live your life one hit of heroin at a time. Detox and rehab can help you to reclaim your personal power in order to conquer the demon of heroin addiction.
Heroin Addiction & Withdrawal
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs, with nearly 25 percent of all people who try it ultimately ending up as an addict.
Heroin can be either smoked, snorted or injected. Due to its chemistry, heroin very quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier. This causes an intense and nearly immediate high, putting experimental users at risk of quickly forming an addiction. Someone who is suffering from a heroin addiction may typically display the following behaviors and changes:
- Constricted pupils
- Sleepiness and nodding off during conversation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Skin infections
- Slow breathing
- Slurred speech
- Loss of appetite
- Flushed skin
- Carrying paraphernalia, such as needles, baggies, small glass pipes or bent spoons
Regular heroin use actually produces changes in the structure of the brain, which is one of the reasons heroin addicts have such a difficult time kicking the habit. These changes start to transform the brain after even one dose, which is why so many people accidentally slip into addiction. Heroin causes the following changes to a user's neuro-physiology:
- Stopping the brain's innate ability to produce dopamine
- Increasing the brain's sensitivity to pain signals
- Decrease in the brain's white matter, which may ultimately cause nerve damage
Recovered heroin addicts are usually quick to say that detoxing from heroin feels like taking a road trip on the long, hard road back from hell. A person detoxing from heroin will experience the following symptoms:
- Extreme mood changes
- Severe anxiety and depression
- Severe muscle aches and pains
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Runny nose
- Hallucinations or delirium
- General restlessness and feelings of hyperactivity
Using heroin dramatically alters a person's trajectory in life. Consider the following alarming statistics of what, on average, happens to a heroin addict:
- A heroin addict typically loses 18 years off of their expected lifespan
- At least 15 percent of all prisoners in America's jails are heroin addicts
- Between 27-67 percent of heroin users will experience physical or sexual assault due to their drug usage
- Drug addicted parents contribute to almost 80 percent of all child abuse cases
The Process of Heroin Addiction Treatment
It's a universally recognized truth among heroin addiction treatment professionals that an individual must obtain help in beating their addiction. Like any other chronic illness, addiction does not improve or go away without appropriate intervention and treatment.
Inpatient treatment is the most effective way to help an addict overcome their struggle with heroin. Of all admissions for inpatient rehab, addiction to heroin and other opiates accounts for the largest number of cases. Over 20 percent of all people who seek help for addiction are hooked on heroin, so it is clear that detox and rehab on one's own is next to impossible. A person's age, gender, cultural background, spiritual or religious beliefs, economic status and family situation must all be taken into account in order to effectively address each individual case of addition.
Detox - The First Step to Recovery
The first part of the battle against heroin addiction is detoxing from the drug itself. As mentioned earlier, withdrawals are excruciatingly painful and difficult to weather without the professional help of an inpatient care facility. The advantages of detoxing in a heroin addiction treatment center include:
- A safe, drug-free environment
- Medical supervision to ensure physical safety and stability of vitals, such as blood pressure, heart rate and respiration
- Pharmaceutical assisted withdrawal, when appropriate
Due to the painful process of withdrawing from heroin, people who try to do this monumental task on their own are often driven to use again within just a few short hours of beginning a detox. A supervised facility ensures that an addict won't fall prey to their addiction, and that they will be able to successfully detox from heroin.
Inpatient Treatment - Access, Payment and Health Insurance
There are numerous styles of treatment and counseling available in order to address varying individual needs. As with any form of medical care, it is important to work with insurance companies in order to determine individual coverage for inpatient drug treatment.
Estimates for attending a treatment program can range anywhere from $4,500 to $10,000, so obtaining a pre-certification from your insurance company for treatment benefits can help you to plan for out of pocket expenses.
For uninsured individuals, many facilities offer a sliding-scale fee schedule, which adjusts the costs of treatment to individual needs and ability to pay. Many states have begun to offer increasing amounts of publicly funded treatment programs as heroin abuse rates continue to skyrocket, so there are numerous options for people who are under-insured or completely uninsured.
Inpatient Treatment - The Basics
After providing assistance to an addict throughout the initial physical detox process, an inpatient heroin addiction treatment center will next provide a course of evidence-based treatments that are geared toward behavioral changes and developing new coping mechanisms. During treatment, an addict can expect to receive the following care:
- Therapy and counseling - Individual and group therapy are crucial components of addiction recovery. During individual therapy, an addict learns about the components of addiction as it applies to their personal situation. Group therapy helps to create social support and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Behavioral interventions - Different approaches to recognize and modify maladaptive behaviors help to prepare an addict to deal with stress without resorting to drugs for relief. Common therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy, reward-management therapy and art therapy.
- Dual diagnosis services - Addiction is very commonly seen along with other emotional or mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. It is estimated that up to a third of all addicts also suffer from mental illness, so treating these co-occurring issues can help to stabilize a recovering addict. Additionally, heroin users are at a higher risk for contracting blood borne illnesses, such as HIV, AIDS or hepatitis. Diagnostic services can help to treat these illnesses and increase a recovering individual's quality of life.
- Psychiatric medication - Many psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, can help an addict to live a happier, healthier life after treatment.
Continued Care After Inpatient Treatment
After receiving intensive, around the clock care at an inpatient rehab facility, a heroin addict has a real chance at living a sober life. However, it is important to remember that addiction is never really cured, but it can be successfully treated. Addiction treatment is indeed a long term process, and multiple periods of treatment may be required in order for a recovering individual to live a fully sober life.
Much like a person who suffers from any other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, interventions can stabilize an addict's health adequately enough for them to live a normal life. However, without attention and care to maintaining their state of sober health, relapse into sickness is inevitable.
Up to 60 percent of all recovering heroin addicts will relapse and begin using drugs again at some point after rehab. Thus, the need for structured and accessible outpatient care is obvious. The following methods often help to reinforce sobriety and continue to help recovering addicts to build the skills necessary to avoid spiraling back into the vicious cycle of addiction:
- Group therapy, such as 12-Step programs
- Job training and placement programs
- Continuous care, such as sober living facilities and halfway houses
- Intensive outpatient therapy, which consists of frequent outpatient visits until a patient is ready to switch to a more traditional outpatient care schedule
Long-Term Heroin Detox
The most painful and acute symptoms of heroin withdrawal can begin mere hours after an addict has last used, and they can last for several days. However, a complete detox from this drug can last anywhere from 3 months up to a year. Due to the changes in brain chemistry and physiology that occur over the course of addiction, a longer period of time is needed for the body to fully recoup its former state of health and functionality.
Some of the longer term detox symptoms that a recovering addict will experience include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Feeling of emotional numbness, or being overly emotional
- Memory problems
- Lack of physical coordination
- Chronic digestive issues
- Chronic blood pressure issues
This set of long-term detox symptoms is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). The importance of continuity in healthcare during this period of recovery cannot be emphasized enough. Although most people consider the horrific acute withdrawals to be the worst part of heroin addiction, PAWS can pose a dangerous threat to a person's sobriety if they are not receiving appropriate care.
A recent study has shown that in the first year of recovery, only a third of people will maintain their sobriety. After a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse. Choosing a treatment program that highlights the importance of continued rehab services is of paramount importance a to a successful recovery.
Medications for Heroin Recovery
Many treatment facilities offer pharmaceutical interventions to help a heroin addict through both acute and long-term withdrawals. Some of the most commonly used drugs to help during the initial phase of detox are:
- Buprenorphine (Subutex®) - This drug relieves heroin cravings and some withdrawal symptoms without producing highly intoxicating effects. However, it is an opioid drug, so there is a potential for abuse and dependency.
- Naltrexone (Depade® or Revia®) - This drug blocks the action of opiates, and does not pose a threat of forming a dependence.
One of the most commonly used drugs to assist people during withdrawals is called Suboxone®. This is a formulation of buprenorphine that also contains the drug nalaxone. Naloxone was added in order to avert any misuse of buprenorphine or other opiates, because nalaxone immediately induces an intense opiate withdrawal. These drugs have been proven to help people endure withdrawals and to reduce the intensity of drug cravings.
The Methadone Controversy
One of the oldest and most controversial drugs used to help treat heroin addiction is called methadone. Approved for use in treating heroin addiction since the mid 1960's, methadone is itself a narcotic opiate, so it holds the potential to be addictive.
Methadone is dispensed by a licensed clinic or pharmacy, and one dose per day is given to a recovering heroin addict. Methadone is a slow releasing opiate, so people who are on this type of therapy don't experience the euphoric rush that is associated with heroin abuse. By maintaining a steady level of opiates in the body, a recovering addict is able to somewhat avoid the physical, mental and emotional roller coaster of heroin withdrawal.
The controversy surrounding methadone is based on the fact that heroin addicts often replace their original dependency with that of relying on methadone. As with any opiate, a tolerance is developed which leads a recovering addict to crave increasing amounts of methadone in order to avoid going into withdrawals.
Is this form of maintenance therapy a valid treatment for heroin addiction? Consider the following facts concerning methadone treatment:
- The risk of death for methadone users versus that of heroin users is decreased by 75 percent
- Criminal activity during methadone treatment is greatly reduced
- The spread of blood borne illnesses is lower among methadone users than among heroin users
- Social reintegration is more feasible in methadone users than in heroin users
Methadone is a valid and respected treatment for heroin addiction, but it is important to note that it is not intended to be used as a long-term solution. Most methadone patients experience the best results when it is used in a reduction program, meaning that doses are slowly decreased over time in order to wean a heroin addict off of the drug completely.
However, used and monitored inappropriately, methadone can be deadly. Methadone is involved in over 30 percent of all opioid related deaths. Its potential for misuse and abuse has been a major drive behind the development of the other opiate addiction treatment drugs, such as suboxone.
Heroin Addiction - There is Hope for the Future
If you or someone you love is suffering from heroin addiction, you may feel alone, scared and hopeless. At Sober Nation, we're here to tell you that there is a way out of this labyrinth of despair and addiction. Recovery is possible.
Millions of people have successfully quit heroin and have gone on to live their lives sober, completely free from the destructive influences of drugs and alcohol. You can reclaim yourself and build the life of which you have always dreamed. Love and acceptance can be yours, and you don't have to turn to drugs in order to feel fulfilled.
At Sober Nation, we realize how vulnerable and fragile a person entering recovery can feel. We are here to support you every step of the way with:
- Addiction and recovery education
- Treatment center referrals
- Guidance through common health insurance situations
- An online support community
Contact us today to learn how we can help you or your loved one receive professional heroin addiction treatment. Don't wait to make this call - the next hit of heroin you or your loved on uses could be the last. With heroin and other opiate deaths having taken first place for causing the highest number of accidental deaths in America, this is one phone call that is truly a matter of life or death.
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