Heroin Addiction Treatment
Heroin Addiction in the United States
Heroin use has been increasing in the United States and throughout the rest of the world for a number of years now. Heroin is an opioid drug. Opioids, which are analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs, are legitimately prescribed by medical professionals to treat chronic and severe pain. Legal opioids are being prescribed liberally and even being used recreationally through illegal blackmarket channels. In fact, most people do not bat at an eye when they find out that someone is taking opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 58 opioid prescriptions filled out for every 100 American citizens. This statistic does not account for the vast numbers of people who take opioid medications recreationally without a prescription. While use of these medications is normalized, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone kill vast numbers of people every year. Addiction to synthetic opioids is also responsible for the surge in heroin users. After a while of abusing opioid medications, many conclude that it makes more sense to switch to heroin, which is cheaper and more widely available. Heroin use also poses significant danger to a person’s health and life.
For years automobile crashes were the number one leading cause of accidental death in the United States, but car crashes have now been superseded by drug overdoses. The primary culprit is opioids. In 2015 alone, 20,101 people in the United States died from overdosing on opioids. Estimates of the rate of death show that a person in the United States dies from an opioid overdose approximately every 12 minutes. This opioid epidemic owes its existence partly to a pharmaceutical industry that encourages doctors to overprescribe. Studies show that approximately 80% of people who try heroin started off using prescription opioids.
While it may be tempting for new users to justify their use of heroin by saying they’ll only do it once, opiate addiction, known in the medical community as opioid use disorder (OUD), is likely to develop quickly. People who are addicted to heroin use it compulsively. When they are not on it, they tend to suffer from painful side effects and withdrawal symptoms. The most obvious sign of an opioid use disorder is when an individual finds it challenging to control their use. It can be deeply demoralizing to try to stop using heroin and discover that one is unable to do so.
Heroin addiction doesn’t only destroy a person’s autonomy and self-esteem, it damages important relationships with friends and family and can make it difficult to fulfill personal ambitions. It is common for heroin addicts to lose their jobs, suffer from financial setbacks, and even rack up considerable debt. In their efforts to procure drugs without the requisite funds, many develop criminal records. Over the long term, heroin use also leads to severe problems with both physical and mental health. The health consequences over the short term can be disastrous too, since a fatal overdose is possible even the first time one uses the drug.
Since people with heroin addictions find it impossible to control their use on their own, it is crucial that they seek outside help. Drug addiction treatment programs for heroin addicts are widely available. Dealing with a heroin addiction usually is done in several steps. Different facilities are recommended for heroin addicts at different stages of recovery. These treatment centers make use of a variety of medical resources and evidence-based therapeutic modalities to help a person build a strong foundation for sobriety. The combination of prescription drugs that weaken cravings, support groups, and counseling that a rehab center provides not only treats the individuals’s compulsion to use heroin, but helps them develop a new approach to living as sober individuals.
Signs of Heroin Abuse
Heroin users who experience extreme distress or difficulty functioning as a result of their substance abuse can be said to suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD). Opioid use disorder, which occurs when someone with a physical dependence on heroin begins to suffer mental health and behavioral health problems, can be fatal if it continues to progress. Side effeects of regular heroin abuse can be even more severe if the user injects heroin. Heroin overdose and other health complications can occur if a person does not find treatment. The American Psychiatric Association’s official guidebook for diagnosing people with mental health conditions is called the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5. This manual lists 11 symptoms of heroin addiction, which consist of the following:
Risks of Heroin Addiction
While the most tangible effects of heroin addiction are the dangerous health complications, anguishing withdrawal symptoms, and the potential for a life-threatening overdose to occur, tthe dangers of drug addiction extend to all aspects of life. A person addicted to heroin tends to prioritize drug use and drug-seeking behavior over everything else. As such, they usually suffer disastrous consequences in their work and family life. These consequences include losing a job, divorce, losing custody of a child, debt, incarceration, and even homelessness.
Opioid use disorder also tends to exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. People who use heroin are also at a higher likelihood of using other substances, such as crack cocaine and methamphetamines. Using these substances alongside heroin causes drug interactions that can significantly increase risks. Over the long term, drug addiction alters a person’s life to such an extent that they may find it difficult to recognize themself in the mirror.
The Physical Dangers of Fentanyl Abuse
- Slowed breathing
The physical dangers of this high potency medication vary widely depending on an individual’s method of consuming it.
The Physical Dangers of Heroin Abuse
- Decreased sexual function
- Slowed breathing
The physical dangers of heroin also depend somewhat on how a user uses it. When people inject heroin, they can suffer from collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels. Unsafe practices can also increase the likelihood of exposure to HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood borne illnesses. These illnesses can be passed on to other people, such as spouses and children.
Long-Term Use and Severe Heroin Addiction
Over time, regular heroin use changes the physical structure of the brain. Heroin abuse damages the neuronal and hormonal systems, and it can take years before this damage is repaired. Heroin use deteriorates white matter in the brain, which can reduce an individual’s ability to handle stressful situations, make decisions, and control their own behavior. The loss of these abilities can make it even more difficult for a person to extricate him or herself from addiction, as well as affecting many other areas of an individual’s life, such as interpersonal relationships and work.
Best Options for Heroin Treatment
Heroin Detox and Medication-Assisted TreatmentMedical detox facilities exist to take care of the immediately pressing needs of people going through heroin withdrawal. Not only do they offer a safe space, but medical professionals are on call to prescribe medications. Psychiatrists can provide relief for dual diagnosis patients suffering from other mental health problems in addition to opioid use disorder. Doctors also often utilize medications to treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as methadone and suboxone.
Heroin Addiction Inpatient Treatment ProgramsInpatient treatment programs are a good treatment option for individuals whose addictions are severe enough that they would benefit from 24 hour support. At these residential treatment centers, people can begin to work on the underlying issues behind their addictions. With the help of support groups, counselors, and 12-step programs, people whose lives were wrecked by addiction will begin to pick up the pieces and develop new coping mechanisms and strategies to avoid relapse over the long term.
Heroin Addiction Outpatient Treatment ProgramsAfter an inpatient program, many people choose to make use of the treatment facilities available at outpatient programs. Outpatient programs are also good options for people who do not have the flexibility or privilege of being able to enroll in residential programs. At an outpatient program, individuals can attend therapy sessions and work with a case worker to develop a flexible treatment plan. Most outpatient programs only require enrollees to attend for a few hours a day, though intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), which offer more resources, require more hours.
Heroin Addiction Aftercare Treatment ProgramsFor people graduating formal addiction treatment programs, sober living homes can help individuals transition to the real world. Sober living homes allow users to begin to build their lives up again while living in a sober and supportive environment. Many also offer structured programs for recovery. At any stage of recovery, however, 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous can be valuable tools. These programs offer a sober social support system as well as a clearly delineated program for long term sobriety. While aftercare programs are the least intense of all levels of care, they are in a sense the most important, since they ensure that all of the progress already made won’t be sabotaged by a relapse.