Heroin Addiction Treatment and Recovery Guide

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Heroin is one of the most highly addictive illicit substances in the world. Processed from morphine, this opioid can be injected intravenously, smoked, snorted, or inhaled. Because of its highly addictive qualities, heroin is one of the hardest drugs to stop abusing, and for that reason, treatment should be carefully considered and administered in a structured environment.

This guide serves as an overview of the available treatment options that heroin addicts have at their disposal, as well as the different stages of recovery. There will also be tips and advice on what do and what not to do when kicking your addiction.

Finding the Will to Quit

The first step in any drug addiction recovery is acceptance that you have lost control over your addiction, and acknowledgement of the underlying root triggers that have caused you to seek out substances as a means of coping. Write down the ways that heroin has negatively affected your life, all the ways your life could improve without it, and all the reasons that you want to kick your addiction. Many addicts wish to quit heroin long before they act to stop. But sometimes it takes a set of tangible goals to move forward with conviction.

Detox/Treatment

The next phase is one of the most difficult phases in heroin addiction treatment: the detox stage. This portion of treatment is so difficult because of the associated withdrawal symptoms, which include but are not limited to:

  • Fever Chills
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Aching muscles
  • Anxiety

Fortunately, there are many drug and alcohol treatment centers around the country that specialize in assisting patients through opiate withdrawal. In order to ease the transition from heroin to sobriety, these treatment centers will usually prescribe medication that mimics some of the effects of opioids while minimizing potential for abuse.

There are currently two highly effective medications used to treat heroin addiction. One, methadone, is a well-known opiate used in many treatment programs. It acts as an alternative to heroin and provides a much lower euphoric high in order to gradually help wean the addict off the highs of heroin.

The second, Suboxone, is a clinically prescribed medication that works in a similar fashion to methadone, albeit with a much lower risk of abuse and higher success rate. Suboxone is combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (an opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). This combination of opposing forces provides a way for addicts to gradually wean themselves off of their pre-existing addiction while minimizing the effects that full on withdrawal would otherwise trigger.

It is advised that if you are planning to detox from heroin, you should seek clinical assistance and enroll in a rehab or treatment center capable of facilitating it.

Aftercare

Although many consider the detoxification and treatment portion of recovery as one of the hardest phases, it is the aftercare and continued treatment that is most important. That is because having the infrastructure in place after treatment to maintain sobriety is the one thing that will keep you from falling back into a poisonous addiction.

Aftercare can include anything from individual therapy sessions, to group meetings, to sponsorship check-ins. As long as they involve repeated visits, socializing, and follow-ups. Many recovering addicts also swear by methods such as service work, i.e. volunteer work and giving back to the community that helped them achieve sobriety, along with meditation, which can be anything from 10 minutes of quiet reflection a day to weekly yoga classes.

What Options Are Available to Cure Heroin Addiction?

Cold-Turkey

Quitting heroin cold-turkey is the least advisable method for overcoming addiction. It has the lowest success rate and most opportunity for self-harm. Many addicts attempt to withdraw from heroin by either going cold-turkey, or turning to other illicit substances such as xanax and vicodin or over the counter drug cocktails including ibuprofen, cough syrup, and melatonin. An addict runs the risk of administering the wrong amount of drugs or developing a disease through intravenous injection, as well as possibly developing a tolerance to the substitute drug of choice.

Detox Through Prescription Medication

Another option is to visit a Suboxone or Methadone clinic. This approach offers the addict the freedom of choice, but carries the same risk as cold-turkey in that it is up to the addict’s volition as to whether they will successfully withdraw from heroin. Another risk associated with this approach is that an addict may be at even higher risk for misusing the medication without the supervision of a clinical professional.

Vocational/State Funded Inpatient

Vocational inpatient facilities allow patients to work in order to pay for their treatment. This option is ideal for anyone seeking treatment for heroin addiction but whom may not have the money to afford a private treatment center. A downside of these types of facilities is that they may have less than stellar quality of care and facilities, and there are often patients who are less than committed to their treatment because they have been mandated by a court system to attend in the first place.

Private Treatment Centers

For those seeking to successfully overcome heroin addiction, enrolling in a private treatment center may be the best option available. These centers are fully licensed and staffed with medical professionals and also allow patients to stay in fully furnished rooms for the duration of their stay. Many treatment centers accept health insurance to help cover the costs of their programs.

Enrolling at a private treatment center for drug and alcohol recovery is usually the best option to overcome heroin addiction. Private centers have the staff and resources to not only address the physical withdrawals, but also to help heal the emotional damage underlying the addiction, and to support the patient in an aftercare program to help track and maintain sobriety.

What are Treatment Centers Like?

There are many different kinds of heroin treatment facilities and programs, and each one may follow their own methods of approach. They may also have different policies and procedures. This means you are not guaranteed the same effect at each center. When entering a center, you should be aware of what kind of programs the facility is offering. Some centers offer detox and medication therapies while others rely on a more holistic approach. Choosing the most appropriate plan is a sure sign that the patient will respond to the treatment.

Types of Medications Offered by Treatment Centers:

Suboxone

Suboxone is a prescription medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is a combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (an opioid partial agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist), and helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings while preventing misuse.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is also used as an effective treatment for alcohol withdrawal. It works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings while stopping the effects of heroin from taking place.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine, while used as a part of Suboxone, can also be administered by itself. Buprenorphine works with the same opioid receptors that heroin affects, but it is limited and not nearly as potent. Buprenorphine is effective for withdrawal and cravings

Methadone

Methadone is more widely known than buprenorphine, but it works in the same fashion. Methadone use is controversial because, when used excessively, it can cause a build up in the body, making overdose a more likely outcome. Methadone users run the risk of becoming addicted.

Types of Therapy

There are multiple types of therapy sessions offered by rehab treatment centers. This includes individual, group, family, and expressive therapy.

Individual

With individual treatment, the patient meets the professional in a face to face meeting to discuss his or her condition. It helps to understand the triggers for the addiction. Further, it will be so easy to determine which techniques are most appropriate to alleviate the problem.

Group

For group therapy, the patient meets with others to discuss their problems. All members are encouraged to open up about the issues they face. It is also a great moment to share ideas on their progress of their recovery. These sessions help addicts support each other. It helps to discover that you are not the only one facing the problem.

Family

Family therapy involves sitting down with those most close to the addict to discuss his or her recovery. While it is called family therapy, it is not necessarily limited to just blood relatives of the addict. However, it is more beneficial to the addict to directly address and discuss their particular dysfunction, because it often directly relates to their environment and the people they grew up with.

Expressive

Expressive therapy is sometimes also known as creative or creative expressionary therapy. By allowing the addict to channel inner feelings that may be difficult to explain in words, participants can achieve a cathartic release for their feelings. Forms of expressive therapy include: art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and writing therapy.

How Long Does Treatment Usually Last?

Rehab centers offer heroin treatment programs of various durations. Always consider the physical and psychological impact of the issues involved. A 30 days residential program is more efficient than one lasting for a week. Choosing an effective treatment program will help in treating heroin addiction. Always pick a heroin treatment center with treatment programs with appropriate durations to the level of drug addiction the person has.

For detox, the length of stay depends entirely on the level of addiction the patient is mired in. For most, detoxification and withdrawal symptoms will likely take about a week to run the course. During this time, the most difficult parts of recovery take place. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can start taking place within 6-12 hours after the addicts usage. If a treatment medication, such as the aforementioned prescriptions above, is not offered, the addict will enter into the most intense stage of withdrawal. The advantage of staying in a treatment center for this duration is that you can be monitored by medical professionals who can administer life saving medications and help you through the physical pain.

How to Find and Choose a Treatment Center

Once you have decided to rid yourself of a chemical dependency, the next step is searching for the correct treatment center for your needs. Choosing one located nearby is highly beneficial because you may be able to save costs on travel. However, there are also treatment centers that will pay for your airfare, and some insurance companies may also cover this cost.

Another factor to consider is whether relocating into a new environment could be helpful. On the one hand, starting in a new environment can assist your recovery because the change of scenery is refreshing and you will no longer be around some of the same triggers and environmental factors that contributed to your addiction. Plus, if you plan on returning to the same environment after your treatment, you will be risking falling into the same patterns that could have contributed to your addiction in the first place.

When searching for a treatment center, use online reviews and directories to find the most credible locations. There are many predatory companies that attempt to collect insurance checks from their patients while neglecting their treatment or health. This was exposed in a 2017 piece by the news outlet TheVerge. This is what ultimately lead to paid advertisements for rehab centers being pulled from Google Adwords. Google is now working with a thirrd party verification service in partnership with the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). Working together, they have created 15 certification standards and determine which organizations qualify as reputable service providers.

Safe to say, if there are no red flags that crop up when you read reviews, explore their website, or call their help line, you should be safe to enroll in the program, which could save your life.

Conclusion

Kicking a heroin addiction is no easy feat, but fortunately there are many options available out there. It’s highly recommended that if you are seeking treatment for heroin addiction, that you do not attempt to quit without the assistance of clinical professionals. Search for Suboxone near you and methadone clinics in your area, or for the best addiction treatment centers nearby.

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