Heroin Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is struggling with addition, we’ll outline some of the causes and symptoms of heroin use below, along with heroin addiction treatment options.
Heroin addiction in America has risen steadily over the past decade. In 2017 alone, there were 15,482 deaths related to heroin overdose, up from approximately 2,500 ten years prior.
Much of this addiction has a direct relation to the opioid crisis that’s ravaged the country over the last decade. This happens when people start using heroin after forming an addiction to prescription painkillers.
This can occur when a person sustains an injury or undergoes surgery that requires pain management as part of the recovery. Drugs like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Vicodin are great for relieving pain but are extremely addictive.
Common Causes of Heroin Abuse
It’s important to understand the causes of drug addiction are different for each person. However, there are a number of circumstances that increase an individual’s risk of becoming addicted to heroin.
Opioid use as a gateway to heroin is one of the biggest issues today. Individuals who become addicted to painkillers often turn to heroin to achieve a faster, more intense high.
Heroin use also occurs when opioid addicts either can’t afford or can’t obtain prescription drugs any longer. Heroin obtained off the street is cheap, easy to find, and helps feed their current dependence.
There’s also a hereditary factor involved in addiction. A person with a family history of drug or alcohol misuse may have a genetic predisposition to addiction. This can go hand-in-hand with a history of mental illness, which can drive a person to use drugs as a coping mechanism for depression, anxiety, or even PTSD.
Environmental factors can lead to addiction as well. A person who’s exposed to drugs at an early age may form an association with drug use and overcoming everyday hardships. There’s an increased risk if a person suffers trauma or lacks a healthy support system.
How Heroin Affects the User
Heroin has a very specific effect on users. It causes a numbing sensation, both physically and mentally. It also creates a strong euphoric feeling that many users describe as the most important thing in their life.
This sense of euphoria is caused by a rush of dopamine to the brain that accompanies heroin use and it’s impact on opioid receptors in the brain. Dopamine can also create a sense of well-being and calmness for the user. This is why people who suffer from physical or emotional distress are susceptible to addiction.
The sense of euphoria and calmness heroin creates is fleeting. Once the drug wears off, the user must take more in order to regain that feeling.
Unfortunately, each time a person uses the drug, they build up a tolerance, which grows stronger after prolonged use. They’re also putting themselves at risk for a number of other health issues.
If first-time users only try heroin once and then stop, the side effects are minor. However, if a person continues using the drug, they’ll start experiencing a number of negative side effects in a relatively short amount of time.
Some of the immediate, short-term effects include nausea, vomiting, lack of motivation, and decreased sex drive. As a user forms an addiction, these side effects will increase to the point that they can’t stop using it or they will face very intense flu-like symptoms from withdrawal. The only way to avoid the withdrawal symptoms is to continue using, which forms a vicious cycle.
How to Spot Heroin Addiction
If you suspect a loved one is abusing heroin, there are a number of physical and behavioral symptoms to watch out for. However, keep in mind they may take measures to hide their addiction from friends and family.
Physical symptoms are sometimes the most apparent. These can include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Flu-like symptoms
- Small pupils
- Needle marks on forearms
In addition to the physical signs, an addict may show mental psychological side effects. Often, these changes affect their personality, which can make them easy to spot if you’re close to the person.
A person may show signs of disorientation, or making decisions and sticking with them may start to become more difficult.
Heroin addiction can also cause depression or increased anxiety. This is due to withdrawal and a sense they aren’t in control of their drug use anymore.
People close to them may start to see changes to a loved one’s lifestyle. They will often lose their job and start to become more and more withdrawn and isolated. When this happens, many people with start stealing money or other things they can easily sell to make money to continue fueling their habit and buy drugs off the street.
Understanding Heroin Withdrawal
One of the primary reasons addicts continue to use heroin is to avoid withdrawal. This happens after a person builds up a tolerance to the drug. Their body starts to depend on heroin just to feel normal and avoid getting sick.
A person going through withdrawal needs to seek help right away. Severe cases of withdrawal can cause health issues or even death.
Heroin withdrawal causes muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and flu-like symptoms. A person may also experience anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia.
If a person has used heroin regularly for years, the withdrawal symptoms will be even more pronounced and intense. They may experience breathing issues, seizures, and stroke.
Once an addict stops using heroin, the withdrawal symptoms can start in a matter of hours. The physical symptoms wear off after approximately one week after they have stopped using heroin.
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Heroin Addiction Treatment
When an individual decides to stop using heroin, it’s important they go through a detox program before beginning formal treatment. This first stage of rehab is meant to help them through the withdrawal stage and rid their body of the drug.
Because cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be severe, treatment options often include providing medications that help a person through the initial detox. One of the most common drugs is Suboxone, which binds to opioid receptors in the brain, much like heroin. Once it does this, it replaces the need for heroin because it helps eliminate many of the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
There are also other medications like antagonists that work by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain. These drugs are great for preventing relapse and a person who tries to use heroin while on an antagonist won’t be able to achieve a high.
In addition to drugs, heroin addicts need to consider inpatient or outpatient therapy to help them cope with cravings. This type of treatment includes cognitive therapy, relapse prevention, and motivational therapy. It’s usually best to begin treatment at an inpatient, residential facility and move on to an outpatient setting after initial treatment has been completed.
While an addict may conquer their physical dependency on heroin, they may still need help with the psychological impact of their addiction. This could require years of drug counseling and support groups.
Start the Road to Recovery Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, time is of the essence. The longer you wait to seek help, the more challenging the recovery process will be.
Seek heroin addiction treatment today and reclaim your life