Only alcohol has been abused throughout history more than opiates, and the problem does not seem to be going away at all. Various approaches have been used to try and solve the problem of opiates, but the “war on drugs” has so far been unsuccessful. Indeed, in our country alone, over one million people are addicted to opiates, many of which choose heroin.
The Poppy Flower
Heroin and many other opioids, are synthesized from the seed pods of the Asian poppy flower. Many opioids are actually used to treat various other medical problems and are safe when prescribed and used in proper dosage. The role of these drugs is to enhance the work of enkephalins and endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in our brain. When these are enhanced, pain and anxiety is significantly reduced. If higher amounts are taken, it leads to feelings of euphoria.
Heroin in particular is usually taken intravenously, which gives an almost instant pleasurable effect. However, it can also be snorted or smoked. One of the main dangers with heroin is overdosing, as it is a form of self-medicating. During an overdose, people can go into respiratory arrest, which can be fatal. Furthermore, there is a serious danger of contracting infectious diseases due to dirty needles.
The Behavior of the Heroin Addict
A heroin addict is always focused on getting their next hit. They often do try to stop or at least cut down, but unless they receive professional help, they are very likely to relapse. At this point, the risk of overdosing is far higher, as they often take too much. Heroin is a favorite among street addicts, as it is incredibly potent and quickly reaches the brain. However, as an illegal substance, it is also leading to significant problems in terms of law enforcement and crime in communities.
If someone takes heroin for a long period of time, they will start to build up a tolerance. This means the dosage needs to be increased in order to achieve the same effect. Furthermore, the higher the tolerance to heroin is, the more severe the physical reactions to withdrawing from it become.
Treating Heroin Addiction
It is very difficult to treat someone who is addicted to heroin. One of the first issues is that most addicts spend an inordinate amount of time minimizing, rationalizing and hiding their behavior. Furthermore, their loved ones are often afraid to take responsibility or to intrude on the addict’s life. At Creative Care, we are there to help you overcome this difficult time and take the first steps towards recovery. We know how slow and precarious recovery can be, and we will provide you with the tools to avoid relapse in the future.
The first part of treatment is detox. This has to be done in a controlled environment with medical assistance. It is very important to understand that detox is only the first step on the recovery process, and that the subsequent rehabilitation is equally important. Detoxing of heroin is uncomfortable and includes symptoms such as:
- Muscle pain
- Hot and cold flushes
These symptoms are incredibly uncomfortable, although not life threatening. Due to the discomfort, however, the chance of relapse during this period is very high. It is important to remember, however, that a single dose of heroin can lead to withdrawal reactions of at least a week.
Maintenance with Methadone
It has been recognized since the 1970s that many opiate addicts are simply incapable of staying off heroin. This is due to the fact that the receptors in their brains have been significantly damaged. Methadone is generally offered in these cases, and some 100,000 people in this country currently use it. Although controversial, methadone treatment has received significant scientific support.
Maintenance with Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine is a new approach to working with heroin addicts. Buprenorphine is taken as an under the tongue tablet, where it releases chemicals that create an effect not unlike that created by opiates. However, the product does cause a withdrawal reaction, which is why it is not as popular and successful as other treatment methods. Buprenorphine, therefore, should only be used under medical supervision. The alternative is provided through Suboxone, which allows people to deal with their addiction without resorting to in-patient treatment.
If you or a love one is currently dealing with a heroin addiction, it is incredibly important to seek help. Heroin destroys lives and communities, often irreparably. Detoxing from heroin is an unpleasant process, and it requires long term support after the physical dependency has been overcome, as the psychological problems remain in place. Please contact our experts at Creative Care today to discuss the best course of action and help you regain control over your life.