Heroin Addiction

Heroin is one of the most addictive and devastating drugs in the world, and in the United States, it contributes to the ever-growing problem of opiate addiction.A 2003 survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that about 3.7 million Americans have used heroin at some point of their lives and, of those 3.7 million people, nearly 120,000 of them report abusing heroin within 30 days of the survey. It’s an epidemic that is caused by a number of factors, but it’s also an issue that has a solution—heroin rehab.

The Basics

Heroin has long been an issue for cultures around the world. Cultivated from poppy plants, the drug was first used much like morphine—both recreationally in some circles and medicinally in others.Unfortunately, it was quickly evidenced that heroin was as addictive and destructive as morphine, no matter what form is ingested.

Currently available in black tar form and in white or brown powder, heroin is often cut with other drugs or substances, according to DrugAbuse.gov. This means that the street heroin purchased in different areas, from different sources or at different times can be extremely variable in potency in effect. It’s one of the biggest problems for patients fighting dependence upon the substance; even long-term heroin addicts cannot ascertain the strength or toxicity of the heroin they ingest ahead of time. As a result, overdose is exceedingly common among new users and long-term users alike.

How Heroin Is Used

Heroin is abused through a number of different methods, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Injection, smoking and snorting the drug are the most common, and the style of ingestion is usually dictated by the type of heroin purchased. The powder form is more often snorted or injected while the black tar version is more often injected or smoked. Unfortunately, many who abuse the drug start by snorting it or smoking it and ultimately end up injecting the drug—by far the most dangerous choice. While issues of overdose, miscarriage, lung and breathing issues, and blood and heart valve infections are always concerns, heroin abuse by injection can mean the passing of contagious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C.

Who’s Using It

No longer a class issue, heroin abusers can be found in suburban homes, rural areas and urban cities, across all classes. Functional addicts can be found in higher education institutions, the workplace and affluent neighborhoods.

The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 57 percent of past-year heroin users were dependent upon the drug or chronic heroin abusers, yet only 281,000 received the treatment they needed to effectively address the issue. Additionally, the Monitoring the Future survey that follows the drug and alcohol use and beliefs among students in 8th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade shows that about 1.6 percent of 8th-graders and 1.5 percent of students in 10th grade and 12th grade report abusing heroin at least once in their lives.

The risks of the high rate of abuse are clear; according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), an organization that collects drug-related admissions data from emergency rooms at hospitals in 21 metro areas, more than 93,500 patients were admitted for treatment in ERs across the country due to incidents related to heroin abuse in 2002.

The Effects of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a very powerful drug, and many who ultimately seek rehabilitation for addiction report that they felt physically and/or psychologically dependent upon the drug after the first use. The high experienced can be seductive and many patients say that they use the drug regularly in the hopes of reaching the same depth of feeling, to no avail. The body begins to build up a tolerance to the substance, requiring the patient to use more and more of the drug just to avoid the withdrawal symptoms that ultimately develop whenever the body is without the drug. According to Medline Plus, these withdrawal symptoms can include constipation, restlessness, stomach cramping and other pain, muscle and bone pain, hallucinations (visual and/or aural), sleep disorders, vomiting and nausea, sweating, cold flashes, loss of appetite, diarrhea and more.

The Dangers of Addiction

The dangers of continuing to abuse drugs or live with an active addiction while avoiding the treatment necessary to create positive changes in life can develop relatively quickly among patients whose drug of choice is heroin. According to AbovetheInfluence.com, some of the dangers associated with untreated heroin abuse and addiction include:

  • Health problems – Collapsed veins, abscesses, heart lining infections, blood infections, heart valve infections, liver disease, kidney disease, pneumonia and a depressed respiratory system are all health effects that plague heroin abusers as reported by NIDA.
  • Financial problems – Though there are heroin addicts who are functional in the workplace and actively earning for their families, even these patients have money difficulties. Heroin is expensive, and even those with a legitimate income end up spending beyond their means in order to maintain their habit.
  • Interpersonal problems – Issues with a spouse or significant other, children, close friends, extended family, coworkers, neighbors—it’s difficult to maintained balanced interactions with others when the focus of the brain and body is on heroin.
  • Legal problems– When patients get fired due to an inability to perform the job and/or can’t find work due to their ongoing addiction, many turn to illegal acts in order to get more heroin. Additionally, when on the drug, many behave erratically, harming others or causing a disturbance; these are also issues that can mean legal problems when the patient is caught.

Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Treatment and recovery is best tackled with the assistance of therapeutic providers who specialize in treating the specifics of heroin addiction.Because withdrawal symptoms can be so physically and psychologically devastating and due to the high rate of fatal overdose when relapse occurs during attempted detox, it is important that patients avoid attempting to treat themselves at home.

There are a number of different heroin addiction treatment options for patients to choose from. Each patient will be able to find a treatment program that is effective for his or her needs. The National Institutes of Health report that the following options are approved for opiate detox and addiction treatment:

  • Maintenance programs – Based on different medications, there are a number of maintenance programs available to those attempting to stop abusing heroin. Methadone and buprenorphine are the two most common medications prescribed to patients fighting heroin addiction, and the rules and expectations for each program will differ depending upon the medication chosen. Both are heavily regulated by the federal government, which means that patients will need to be accountable for their use of either medication. They work by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain much like heroin, mitigating withdrawal symptoms while providing little or no high. This allows patients to focus on the psychological aspects of addiction and/or to move forward in their lives rather than be slaves to addiction.
  • Outpatient treatment – Outpatient treatment provides many critical benefits that can allow a person to achieve and maintain recovery. While patients begin the process of getting their lives back on track (e.g., school, work, time spent with family, etc.), they can attend sessions on a flexible schedule while having structure and accountability. Intermittent drug tests may be utilized to ensure that patients are working the program honestly, and other therapy options like holistic methods and family therapy may also be provided.
  • Residential treatment – Residential treatment programs provide a comprehensive program designed to meet the needs of each individual patient. Clinically supervised detox services including medication may be made available depending upon the needs of the patient, but psychotherapeutic treatment makes up the bulk of each day’s schedule. Patients can explore underlying psychological issues as well as trauma experienced before and after the onset of heroin addiction while learning effective coping tools to help them avoid returning to abuse of heroin in order to deal with the pain and emotions that often accompany living with those issues.
  • Dual Diagnosis rehab – For heroin addicts who are also diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder like depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other issues, it is imperative to find a drug rehab that can treat both the mental health disorder as well as the heroin addiction. Because each issue makes the other one worse, receiving psychotherapeutic care for both problems at the same time increases the chances of success in recovery on both fronts.
  • Aftercare services – In order to solidify the principles of care that patients learn during clinically supervised detox and treatment, aftercare services provide patients with ongoing support and added assistance in building a solid foundation for a balanced life without heroin. These can come in the form of 12-Step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous, or they can be more personalized and individual in nature, like yoga classes, personal therapy or hiring a life coach or a personal trainer. Many drug rehabs offer ongoing aftercare services through their program in order to maintain a connection to patients after they graduate from drug treatment.

Treatment

At The Canyon, our treatment program will help you develop positive relationships with yourself and those you love, reclaim your personal goals and dreams and reawaken your authentic self. Through a wide range of treatment options chosen based upon your unique needs, we can provide you with the specific tools to create the healthy life you deserve.

It all starts with a single phone call. Contact us at our 24 hour, toll-free helpline listed above to speak with an admissions coordinator about your personal needs in terms of treatment for heroin addiction.


Ian Wolds

By Ian Wolds
Clinical Director Google+

Top