- Article SummaryPrint
- Heroin Use in America
- The Negatives of Heroin Use
- Heroin Withdrawal
- Addiction Treatment Options
- Heroin Detox
- Heroin Rehab
Making the choice to receive treatment is the first step on the road to recovery. While the road can get bumpy at times and reaching the end may take a while, that first step towards heroin addiction treatment remains one of the most important. It indicates a willingness to seek help. It's also the beginning of a commitment towards a life lived drug-free. There are a variety of treatment options available, and once you've made the choice to get help, entry into a treatment program that can provide the help you need is the next big step in the recovery process.
Heroin Use in America
In the United States 3.8 million people have tried heroin during their lifetime according to a 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Of those 3.8 million, 366,000 took heroin within the past year of taking the survey. Over 100,000 of those 366,000 users were first-time users. Heroin, despite the risks, remains a popular drug for both casual and regular users, despite the availability of heroin addiction treatment programs.
As an opiate, heroin attaches itself to the opiate receptors of the brain. Once the substance binds with these receptors, the opiates begin to activate those portions of the brain that regulate pleasure. Upon activation, the heroin user is flooded with feelings of euphoria, making the drug use an extremely pleasurable experience. Unfortunately, further use of the drug reduces the number of opiate receptors available. This forces the need for greater amounts of the drug to feel the same level of pleasure. Along with this need for an increasing amount of heroin per use comes an increasing dependence on the drug. If the drug is no longer taken, heroin withdrawal occurs. Depending on the level of addiction, withdrawal can be an uncomfortable experience unless the user decides on some form of heroin addiction treatment.
Withdrawal symptoms are the reaction of the user's body to the lack of heroin in the system. These symptoms can begin within six to 12 hours from the last use of the drug and last for up to a week, with the symptoms peaking after two or three days.
The Negatives of Heroin Use
The use of heroin provides more than just pleasurable effects. There are multiple negative consequences to the health of the user, even with casual use of the drug. With an uncontrolled overdose, the consequences can be even more severe. To avoid these consequences, the user has two choices. A user can either continue the drug use, which only prolongs the addiction, or seek out heroin addiction treatment.
"...side effects of heroin intake can include slurred speech accompanied by mental confusion..."
For general short-term use, side effects of heroin intake can include slurred speech accompanied by mental confusion, a decrease in heart rate and respiration, analgesia, itchiness, increased sweating and constricted pupils. When taken in overdose amounts the effects can include an inability to breath or shallow breathing, cold and clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, convulsions and even coma.
Long-term users experience the same side effects as short-term users, but must also deal with the long-term effect of the build-up of toxins in their system. This can include malnutrition, damage to organs due to restricted blood flow, an increase in bacterial infections, collapsed veins due to multiple injections and the scars related to those injections commonly known as tract marks.
Heroin can be injected, sniffed or smoked, with injection being the most common method of administration. All forms of heroin use are addictive, According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the typical long-term user may inject his or herself up to four times a day. This use typically results in only seven to eight seconds of experiencing the euphoria heroin is known to provide.
Facing the many negative consequences of heroin intake to achieve this short euphoric high, many users eventually decide on heroin addiction treatment rather than continued drug use. Whenever heroin use is stopped after an extended period, withdrawal symptoms soon follow. The severity of the symptoms is largely dependent on the length of time the heroin has been used as well as the amount of the doses taken towards the end of the usage period. For many, avoiding heroin withdrawal, also known as dope sickness, is the primary reason to choose heroin addiction treatment.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, increased sweating, restless legs, anxiety and depression.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be highly uncomfortable, but are not seen to pose any permanent danger to the user. What danger they do pose is that the discomfort can drive the user back for another dose in an effort to avoid feeling the effects of the withdrawal further. This is where heroin addiction treatment is of importance.
Addiction Treatment Options
"Treating heroin addiction is most successful when done on an inpatient basis..."
Treating heroin addiction is most successful when done on an inpatient basis and started before the withdrawal symptoms begin. If begun early enough, the withdrawal symptoms may be avoided entirely, or at the very least, reduced to a manageable level of only mild discomfort.
Treatment consists of two main stages. The first stage is heroin detox. During the detox period, the drug is flushed from the user's body, removing the body's physical dependence on it in the process. The detox program can last from two to three days up to six weeks or more, depending on the type of program entered into and the level of dependence experienced by the user.
The second portion of the heroin addiction treatment consists of heroin rehab. In rehab, the user is helped primarily with the psychological aspects of the heroin addiction. Efforts are made through therapy to reduce the user's desire not only for heroin, but also for any drug used without a doctor's instruction or supervision. The rehab portion of the treatment process can last far longer than detox, as the issues of psychological addiction are complex, both for the user as well as the medical professionals providing help.
The first step in the heroin addiction treatment process is a period of time spent going through heroin detox. During detox, the drugs are removed from the patient's body using one of two processes. The first process is rapid detox, a quick flushing of the body while under anesthesia. The second process is a program of tapering off, where the patient is given an alternate opiate, which is less addictive and dangerous than the heroin and is then slowly tapered off its use. The choice of program is largely up to the patient, depending on the time available for treatment and the costs of the different programs.
Finding the Right Detox Center
Finding the right detox center can be a tricky task if you are looking to help someone, whether it is yourself or a loved one, to get clean from drugs or alcohol. Different centers have different strengths and weaknesses, so you may need a little help to find the right one for you. Read More
Rapid detox is always done under direct medical supervision. During the procedure, the patient is placed under light anesthesia for an hour or two while given medication that removes the heroin from the patient's system. After waking from heroin addiction treatment, the physical addiction to heroin is ended, though the psychological addiction remains. Any withdrawal symptoms are largely bypassed without the drug in the system, either not appearing at all or at a greatly reduced level.
Tapering is a longer treatment process than rapid detox. During the tapering process, an alternative opiate is introduced into the patient's system. This alternative opiate binds to the opiate receptors in the brain in the place of the heroin, but fails to provide the same euphoric response. With the receptors occupied by the alternate opiate, the withdrawal symptoms fail to start.
As the heroin addiction treatment tapering program proceeds, the dosage of the alternate opiate is lessened. The patient's body adjusts to this new lower level of opiate in the system, gradually becoming less physically dependent on the drug. Successful tapering relies on this adjustment occurring with each reduced dose, eventually reaching a dosage so low that the patient's body no longer needs the drug. When this point is reached, the drug is no longer given and the patient experiences only mild withdrawal symptoms or none at all.
At some point during the tapering process the patient's body may fail to adjust to the lowered drug level and withdrawal symptoms may begin to occur. To combat this, the medical personnel monitoring the treatment will raise the dosage slightly, stopping the withdrawal symptoms from continuing. Once the patient's body readjusts, the tapering off process continues.
Tapering off as a form of heroin addiction treatment can take weeks to complete. The level of the initial dosage of the alternate drug is determined by the severity of the patient's dependency. For a light user, the process can be as short as 10 days to two weeks. For a long-term user that detox period can be as long as four to six weeks, with additional time sometimes necessary for the occasional readjustment due to the need for a higher dosage.
"...heroin rehab is a period of reevaluation and rediscovery."
For many patients going through heroin addiction treatment, heroin rehab is a period of reevaluation and rediscovery. The physical addiction of heroin is only part of what keeps a user coming back for more. The psychological addiction is often much harder to beat. This is because the psychological portion of the addiction is based on more than the cravings for the euphoria and contentment provided by taking the drug. Along with those cravings are the patient's many underlying reasons for the drug use. During the rehab process, the patient works with qualified medical personnel to determine what those reasons are and to find other ways of coping with them than the use of heroin or other drugs.
During rehab, the patient undergoes extensive therapy. The therapy is done on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting involving either a group of peers or the patient's family. During these heroin addiction treatment therapy sessions, the patient is helped in determining the reasons for his or her drug use. It can be a period of pure discovery as the patient finds out about the primary motivators that guide his or her actions. A reevaluation is done as the patient takes a close look at these motivators and decides on ways to react to them that don't involve taking drugs.
There is no definite time schedule for going through a rehab program. The initial stay is normally 30 days, as this is generally the low-end of the recommended program length. Some programs may last as long as 60 or even 90 days. The length of time spent in rehab is determined by the needs of each patient.
An inpatient heroin addiction treatment program is only the beginning of the recovery process. After the detox ends and the intensive therapy gone through during rehab teaches new coping skills and techniques, the former user must still go about his or her normal everyday life knowing that heroin is always within easy reach. Putting the skills learned during heroin rehab to use is as important as going through the detox and rehab process. To aid the former user in remaining drug-free, a number of support programs are available.
Most of the heroin addiction treatment support programs a former heroin user can utilize are based on peer groups. With a peer group support program, the former user interacts with others who have stopped their own heroin use or who have similar experiences with dependency on other addictive drugs. Each member of the group is there to aid their fellow members, providing motivation and tips on staying clean. The former user, having gone through his or her own rehab experience, is expected to participate as well. During group meetings, stories of drug abuse and recovery are shared, continuing struggles are spoken of and help is provided in whatever way possible to assist the group members in avoiding further drug use. This continuing group therapy is a large part of the heroin addiction treatment process and a primary means for the former user to get the support needed to continue to resist a relapse into drug use.