Finding treatment for a heroin addiction can very easily be a life or death situation. Recovery is possible if you’re ready to take the next steps.
Treatment for Heroin
How do I get off this drug?
There are many effective treatments for a heroin addiction. According to recent studies, treatments are most effective when integrating both behavioral and pharmacological medications.
What are my options for treatment?
Both behavioral and pharmacological treatments, are most effective when used together. A variety of medications can be used together along with behavioral therapies that manage contingency and cognitive behavior.
Although these treatments are extremely useful on their own, research shows that people who integrate both types of heroin addiction treatment are most successful in recovery.
Inpatient Drug Rehab
What is it like in rehab?
Residential rehabilitation clinics are for an individual to leave a negative home environment and come into a “safe zone” where the individual only needs to focus on recovery. Treatment centers offer treatments such as:
- Round the clock care from professionals
- Ability to form support networks with other recovering addicts
- Programs that enhance the overall wellbeing of an individual which can include exercise, nutritional counseling, and holistic care
How long will it take?
The typical heroin addiction rehabilitation program lasts between one and three months, however, those with more serious addiction problems can last longer than that, up to a year sometimes.
Can I afford rehab and treatment?
Heroin drug rehabilitation programs can cost thousands of dollars per month depending on the type of facility. Outpatient heroin treatment is much less expensive and is more likely covered by health insurance plans.
The Mental Health and Addiction Parity Act of 2008 requires insurers to treat mental health like physical health in group health plans. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) also expanded the law’s reach to cover individual insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act also is pushing health systems to gradually abandon fee-for-service payment plans and go to a value-based model that reimburse based on outcomes of treatment or offer a set fee for treating addiction.
What is withdrawal?
Withdrawal happens when someone who uses a drug on a regular basis stops using a drug because the body is not used to functioning without that drug. When the body stops experiencing a drug’s effects, this can lead to withdrawal.
What are symptoms of withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction can include:
- Muscle pain
- Bone pain
- Insomnia or restlessness
- Cold flashes
- Kicking movements
How long does withdrawal last?
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of the last dose and usually continue for about a week, sometimes longer. Some heroin addicts experience withdrawal symptoms that last for months.
A recovered heroin user can be triggered by people, places, or things, even though they have been clean for years. Because of this, it is important to incorporate different types of treatment by professionals in order to ensure a safe and lasting recovery.
Why does it happen?
Withdrawal happens because the body becomes used to having a drug in its system and craves for that drug in order to function. When the body does not receive the drug, it reacts with withdrawal symptoms.
Is it dangerous?
Withdrawal can be dangerous; however, drug use is dangerous too. For this reason, it is important to have professional care for the addict, preferably with medication and behavioral therapy, in order to have a safer rehabilitation experience.
Will it hurt?
Withdrawal symptoms will most likely be present during the detoxification process, however, medications can be helpful during the detoxification stage to help ease cravings and other physical symptoms.
These physical symptoms can often prompt a person to relapse back to drug use. Detox is not a treatment for addiction itself, but it can be a useful first step when followed by evidence-based treatment.
What medications are used during medical detox for this drug?
- Methadone (Dolophine®or Methadose®): This drug is a slow-acting opioid agonist. The drug is taken orally so it reaches the brain slowly which dampens the “high” that occurs with other routes of administration while also preventing withdrawal symptoms. This drug has been used since the 1960’s to treat heroin addiction and is still a popular treatment option, especially for patients that do not respond well to other medications. This drug is only approved through outpatient treatment programs, where it is dispensed to the patient on a daily basis.
- Buprenorphine(Subutex®): This drug is a partial opioid agonist that helps relieve drug cravings without producing the “high” or other dangerous side effects of other opioids. Suboxone® is a new formulation of buprenorphine that can be taken orally or sublingually and contains naloxone (opioid antagonist) to prevent attempts to get high by injecting the medication.
- Naltrexone (Depade®or Revia®): This drug is an opioid antagonist that blocks the action of opioids. It is not addictive or sedating and does not result in physical dependence. The drug does however, cause patients to often have trouble complying with the treatment causing a limited effectiveness. An injectable long-acting formulation of naltrexone, Vivitrol®, was recently approved by the FDA for treating opioid addiction. Vivitrol® is administered once a month and may improve compliance by eliminating the need for daily dosing.
Ongoing Treatment Options and Relapse Prevention
What is outpatient treatment?
Heroin addiction recovery is usually maintained by programs and therapy that include medically assisted heroin detox, cognitive-behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, educational lectures, individual and group counseling, and family therapy.
Once I stop using, will I relapse?
In most cases, both outpatient and residential heroin addiction rehabilitation is necessary to end abuse and can be a lifelong treatment. It is possible for heroin addicts to relapse if treatment was not complete or if different types of therapies (medication, behavioral, and cognitive) were not explored during the rehabilitation process.
How can I stay sober?
A few different things that former addicts can do to stay sober include:
- Find a solid support system. This includes surrounding oneself with other sober people as well as people who have a person’s best interests at heart.
- Modify the environment before returning from rehab. This usually involves a loved one removing any paraphernalia from a house and avoiding places that spark feelings of interest towards the drug.
- Set goals for the future. This entails remembering why someone wants to stay sober.
- Keep follow-up appointments. Many recovering addicts are tempted to skip appointments with rehabilitation centers, doctors, or counselors and think they can handle it on their own.
- Find thankful moments each day. Recovering addicts should remember and appreciate the life they have been given. Sometimes a gratitude journal or writing five things down that make a person happy every day can be helpful.
- Create new and healthy habits that replace the old ones. According to research, it takes about two months before a new habit becomes automatic so finding positive and happy things to do is important.
What are the options after rehab?
Many former addicts from rehab programs attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings every day for the first three months and once-a-week group counseling in an outpatient facility. Recovering addicts can also do healthy activities that include:
- Playing sports
- Doing arts and crafts
- Going back to school or starting an online course
- Learning a new language
- Planting a garden
There are many benefits to a sober life that are physical or have a positive impact on a person’s lifestyle. Reasons to stay sober can include:
- Making new, sober friends
- Saving money
- Having better mental clarity and excitement for life
- More energy
- Doing things that bring joy
- Looking and feeling better
- Becoming a source of hope for others struggling with addiction
Recovering from a heroin addiction can be extremely difficult and one of the hardest things a person has ever done, it can be a very long process. Recovery from Heroin is a lifelong commitment but can lead to a better life with more opportunity.
Addiction Center. (2016). Transitioning from Rehab to Normal Life. Retrieved from Addiction Center: https://www.addictioncenter.com/rehab-questions/stay-sober-after-rehab/
CRC Health. (2016). Heroin Addiction Treatment and Recovery Help. Retrieved from CRC Health: http://www.crchealth.com/addiction/heroin-addiction-treatment/
Heroin.net. (2016). Heroin Addiction Treatment. Retrieved from Heroin.net: http://heroin.net/heroin-treatment-options/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, November). What are the treatments for heroin addiction? Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-treatments-heroin-addiction
Rosenberg, T. (2016, February 9). Staying Sober After Treatment Ends. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/staying-sober-after-treatment-ends/?_r=0