Heroin Treatment


Quitting heroin is one of the most difficult things to do. However, heroin treatment is available. Although most successful if it is undertaken by someone who has a willingness to change, it can also be effective for people who undergo treatment involuntary. However, this will make the road to recovery all the more difficult. It is important to understand the process of treatment and what to expect at every stage in order to have more chance of success.

Heroin Statistics

Before looking into the methods of treatment, it is important to have a greater understanding of the statistics relating to heroin. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported the following:

  • 23.5 million people in this country over the age of 12 are dealing with a substance addiction and only 2.6 million received specialized treatment.
  • 14.1% of those admitted to rehab facilities like Creative Care do so because of a heroin addiction.
  • 3.7 million people have used heroin at some point in their lives. 57.4% of these have a physical dependency.

Heroin Treatment – Detox

The first step of any heroin treatment program is detoxification. You will usually be given a type of medication to help you cope with the withdrawal symptoms associated with this. The withdrawal symptoms vary from one individual to the next and are incredibly uncomfortable. They will start around six hours after taking your last hit, peak around day three and last for around seven days in total. You can expect strong flu-like symptoms as well as pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. It is very important to understand that detoxing is not the cure for an addiction. All this does is remove the physical dependency on a drug, but the psychological dependency will remain. This is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends that pharmacological treatment and behavioral therapy is offered following detox.

Pharmacological Treatment

A number of medications have been known to help those who are going through heroin addiction. These medicines activate the same brain receptors as heroin, but are much safer. There are three types of medication, being agonists, partial agonists and antagonists. These medications include:

  • Methadone, which is an agonist. Agonists activate the receptors in the brain that respond to opioids. This dampers the heroin “high” and prevents withdrawal symptoms from occurring. Methadone is administered on an outpatient basis by a medical professional.
  • Subutex, which is a partial opioid agonist. This means that they activate the same receptors, but less so. It stops the withdrawal symptoms from occurring as strongly. Furthermore, it prevents people from wanting to inject the drug, as it then exasperates the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone, which is an antagonist. This means that they block the brain’s opioid receptors. This is not addictive but it does require a patient to be fully compliant with their treatment program.

Behavioral Therapy

Addiction to heroin is as much a physical dependency as it is a psychological one. Many people who have an addiction to the drug also have a mental health issue. In some cases, this issue was present before they started to abuse the substance. In other people, it was caused by the drug itself, or by the life experiences they had as an addict. Regardless, no recovery process will ever be complete without addressing the complex psychological issues that relate to it as well. At Creative Care, we have a particular focus on people who have a dual diagnosis, which means we deal with the physical and psychological symptoms of their addiction, as well as with any other mental health condition they may be dealing with.

Behavioral therapies are incredibly important and they have been demonstrated to be effective by numerous scientific tests from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These have demonstrated that:

  • Contingency management programs are highly effective. Here, patients earn rewards and points by testing negative for drugs, which they can then put towards health living items.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is an absolute necessity. This helps patients to better understand why they became addicted, and it teaches them different ways of dealing with the triggers that would otherwise have sent them towards drugs.

Please contact Creative Care today if you or a loved one is dealing with a heroin addiction. Help is out there and you can regain control over your own life.

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