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On November 10, 2018, the Woolsey Fire destroyed The Canyon at Peace Park’s treatment facility. At this time, The Canyon at Peace Park is not accepting patients for any services. Click here to learn more about our closure or request medical records.

Heroin Addiction is a Disease

Heroin addiction is not a disease in the metaphorical sense. Even though it infiltrates communities, destroys families and costs governments and healthcare systems millions of dollars every year and is certainly a disease in that sense, it is also a medical disease. The chemical changes that occur in the brain when heroin is used continue and become semi-permanent – at least – when heroin abuse becomes chronic and turns into heroin addiction.

Physical dependence and psychological cravings are entwined in the brain and even the user undergoes heroin detox, those changes remain. Medical treatment is required in order for recovery, and continued psychological treatment and support groups are needed for the long-term in order to sustain recovery.

Here are a few more notes on heroin addiction as a disease:

Heroin addiction is not caused by lack of willpower.

It is not something that individuals do but something they have. Remember to separate the person from the behavior and recognize relapse for what it is: a manifestation of the disease that the individual needs help fighting.

Relapse or heroin abuse is an automatic response and a sign of addiction.

A heroin addict cannot control themselves when they are actively addicted to heroin. They cannot simply stop using without suffering serious consequences. The urge and drive to use is an automatic response and a characteristic of a chronic disorder like addiction.


Heroin addiction is a dangerous disease.

It is not normal to live with heroin addiction. It is not an acceptable way to live. Life will be shorter than it would be otherwise and the quality of life for the individual will be considerably lower if heroin addiction goes untreated.

Heroin addiction is a lifelong disease.

Even with treatment, heroin addiction will always be a risk for a heroin addict. Treatment can put the disease in remission and extended care options like addiction counseling and 12-step meetings can help the addict to keep it there. But relapse is a concern as long as the addict feels triggered to use and is a higher risk when he or she stops attending support groups and personal therapy sessions.

There is no cure for heroin addiction.

Treatment can help the heroin addict safely and healthfully stop using heroin and then provide him or her with the tools to remain sober after treatment, but it is not a cure. Heroin addiction recovery requires a great deal of effort and work on the part of the addict. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

4.8 million people have used heroin at some point in their lives. 4.5 million people have used nonmedical painkillers in the past month. It's important to know the difference between painkillers and heroin, as well as when to get help.

A slip does not have to mean a return to heroin addiction.

Even if you make a mistake and get loaded in early recovery after heroin addiction, it doesn’t have to mean a wasted trip to rehab or that you’ve completely lost all that you’ve gained in recovery thus far. If the relapse is serious and reawakens the physical addiction, it may be necessary to re-enter heroin detox.

Some may even feel that a long-term heroin relapse requires a trip back to inpatient rehab, while others prefer to take advantage of outpatient options or sober living.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you fight heroin addiction, contact us today at The Canyon. Call 424-387-3118 now.

By Wendy Lee Nentwig, Contributing Writer

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