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Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin Addiction Treatment

What is Heroin?

Heroin is considered an opioid. Opioids are compounds derived from the poppy plant. These differ from opiates in that opiates are naturally occurring compound. Heroin is created by chemically altering the opiate before it is developed into morphine.  Opioids eliminate or relieve pain and interfere with dopamine release and reuptake and bind to the sites that utilize dopamine. Heroin works quickly and users feel the effects almost immediately. Heroin can be smoked, inhaled, and injected. If injected the user has the choice of injecting into veins, muscle or transdermally. There are many variations of heroin including white and brown powders. There is also tar heroin, which is a sticky black heroin as well as black rock heroin. Heroin is often mixed with other substances and it can be hard to decipher its purity level, for this exact reason. Keep reading to learn more about heroin and heroin addiction treatment.


Side Effects of Heroin Use

Users report feeling a rush of:

  • Pleasant feelings
  • Feeling warm and peaceful
  • Weighted and reduced feeling in arms and legs
  • Amplified wellbeing
  • Security
  • Self-confidence


However, users also reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, itching, and dry mouth. Secondary symptoms relate to the diminished feeling. The users circulatory and respiratory systems will also slow down and tiredness will set in. The individual may have short periods of being awake and sleeping and a decreased mental capacity.


Long term use presents even more issues. These include injection site marks and bruises which take a long time to fade and heal. Skin and veins can suffer infections and collapse where heroin is being injected, the nose tissues can be damaged with snorting, and bodily organs can suffer damage as well. The heart, liver, and kidneys can sustain an extensive amount of damage or failure. Usage ups the risk of contracting other diseases, especially if the individual is injecting, and of developing a substance induced mental illness.


Like many other opioids there is a very, very high chance of addiction. An addiction simply means that a person looks for ways to keep using the drug regardless of other circumstances in their life that are negatively affected by the drug. Addiction can lead to tolerance (or vice versa) in which the user will need increasing amounts of the drug to feel the same feelings that they previously did at a lower dose. Both addiction and tolerance lead to dependence. Dependence is when the body, brain, and internal systems are dependent on the drug to function and will experience unpleasant sensations when there is no drug present.


At any time a user can suffer an overdose. Symptoms of heroin overdose are:

  • Reduced heart and breathing rates
  • Passing out
  • Cellular death in the brain
  • Coma
  • Death


Since the purity level and the composition of heroin is often unknown, this can also have a detrimental effect when an individual overdoses.


Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal from heroin includes:

  • Feelings of aggravation and anxiety
  • Pain in bones and muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Involuntary muscle response in the legs
  • Feeling of being cold
  • Runny bowels
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Heroin Addiction Treatment

Due to the addictive nature and destructive properties of heroin, an individual should seek treatment as soon as possible. Heroin addiction treatment will most often include a medical detox. This will effectively help flush the drugs out of the system. Withdrawal symptoms will be experienced but the detox team is there to help lessen any discomfort an individual feels and help manage these side effects.


After detox, treatment may be followed with an inpatient program or partial hospitalization (day treatment program). Partial hospitalization is great because it allows for the individual to focus completely on their recovery without having to worry about everyday things while completely focusing on their recovery such as job, job stress, other people, overwhelming responsibilities and other things. For partial hospitalization this is during the day. At night, a person would return home or go back to a sober living facility. This allows the individual a degree of autonomy and the ability to be able to practice their skills and supports to a small degree, while still receiving intensive support.


Another option depending on the severity of symptoms is intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment. These options are normally in the evening and range from every day to a few times a week. With a focus still on support of the individual, the programs will still include group therapy, individual therapy, social skills classes (if necessary), drug education classes, and a host of other classes that are necessary for success.


The outpatient and intensive outpatient programs truly allow the counselors and individual to see how effective the supports are that are put in place, and how well they are able to utilize these skills to stay sober.


Relapse can sometimes happen, and may be considered part of a normal course of treatment. If this does occur the treatment program can be adjusted to help the individual regain control over their addiction.


Following these steps comes the last step of heroin addiction treatment: aftercare.  Aftercare is a step that is continuous. It helps to maintain abstinence from the drug. Aftercare includes seeing a therapist, participating in groups for support,  staying away from triggers, codependents, and enablers, family therapy and anything else that is healthy and will help keep the drug abuse from recurring. Heroin addiction can be successfully addressed and conquered. No one has to face addiction alone!