In the late 70s and early 80s, heroin became one of America’s favorite illicit drugs. Here we are 40 years later, and heroin is still wreaking havoc on the US drug abuse community. Things may be worse now than ever before, as evidenced by the US’ current opiate addiction epidemic. It would be accurate to say that the menace heroin is again leading the way through this epidemic along with other opiate substances like fentanyl and prescription painkillers.
There isn’t a solution to the heroin abuse epidemic. The drug keeps flowing into the country, and the victims of heroin addiction keep piling up. To at least educating the masses about heroin abuse and addiction, the following should serve as a guide about one of the most notorious drugs in US history.
THE SIGNS OF HEROIN ADDICTION
Movies have been made about heroin addiction. Anyone remember the 1995 movie “The Basketball Diaries?” It was a disturbing tale of how heroin can wreck a drug user’s life. That’s a pretty accurate description of what usually happens to any individual who falls victim to a significant heroin addiction problem.
Given the devastation heroin leaves in its wake, it’s surprising more people aren’t aware of what the symptoms of heroin addiction look like. If awareness is the key to combating the heroin addiction epidemic, then it makes sense to list out the possible signs of heroin addiction. By the way, these are the same signs one would expect to see from anyone with a significant addiction to an opiate substance. The symptoms include (physical and behavioral):
- Breathing difficulties
- Dropping in and out of wakefulness
- Unkempt personal appearance
- Loss of motor control and the ability to concentrate
- Flushing of the skin
- Closing of the pupils
- Increasing challenges with personal relationships
- Inability to manage responsibilities at home and work
- Involvement in criminal behavior while buying and selling drugs
- Preoccupation with getting money to buy drugs
The presence of any combination of these signs is cause for concern. If you know of anyone experiencing these signs or are experiencing them yourself, help is needed.
GETTING ADDICTION TREATMENT
The internet is filled with home remedies to help people detox and kick their heroin habit. The problem is these remedies hardly ever work. They don’t work because they don’t offer any solutions other than don’t use drugs.
If someone is serious about arresting their heroin addiction, there’s only one realistic way to go about doing so. First, the addiction sufferer has to be willing to admit they have an addiction disease. By doing so, it opens the door to them, reaching out for help. Where should they reach? The only viable way to treat an addiction to heroin is by enlisting the services of reputable drug rehabs.
At this point, a word of caution seems to be in order. Any attempt to suddenly stop using heroin after prolonged abuse will likely result in some rather severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In the next section, the discussion will point out the dangers of heroin withdrawal.
Inpatient or outpatient rehab clinics are a common treatment option for individuals suffering from alcoholism. Inpatient clinic programs will last anywhere from 30 days to a full year, depending on the level of addiction. They assist someone in handling their withdrawal symptoms and the emotional challenges they face.
An outpatient treatment facility will provide daily support and allow the patient to continue to live in their home.
With most opiate addictions, withdrawal has to be considered a significant concern. More than a few people have suffered permanent repercussions from the withdrawal process. Some people have died.
It’s important to note that the extent of one’s withdrawal symptoms is going to depend on several factors, including:
- The way their body metabolizes heroin
- The length of time they have been using the drug
- The amount they take with each dose
- The frequency of drug abuse
Assuming someone has been using heroin for a long time in large doses, they would likely encounter the worst withdrawal symptoms possible. Take a look at this partial list of withdrawal symptoms related to most any opiate-based substance:
- Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Severe muscle cramping in the stomach region
- Loss of motor control and the ability to concentrate
- Hallucinations and nightmares
- Body convulsions and tremors in the extremities
- Great difficulty sleeping
- Psychological issues like depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideology
After looking at this list, it should be clear why no one should ever stop using heroin cold turkey without professional help.
Before getting addiction treatment, the addiction sufferer needs to go through withdrawal so they will have a clear mind for therapy. The only safe way to go through withdrawal is by enlisting the services of a rehab or detox center.
Once a heroin addict enters treatment, it’s a good bet they will be required to go through a detox program. These programs are specifically designed to keep clients safe and comfortable as they go through withdrawal. In the worst cases, medical intervention is almost always necessary. Medical intervention comes in the form of prescribed relief medications that address sleeping and pain issues. For the most part, detox programs are supposed to last 7 to 10 days.
However, some heroin addiction clients need more time to go through withdrawal more gradually. These clients will usually go on a suboxone program where they can be slowly weaned off opiates. This could take as long as several weeks in the worst cases. After detox, it’s off to therapy.
THE THERAPY PORTION OF ADDICTION TREATMENT
After detox, clients will head into the rehab facility for therapy. The goals of treatment are straightforward: teach the client the truth about their addiction and help them develop the life skills they will need to stay clean.
While the goals are simple, the process is not. It has to start with open and honest communication between the client and their therapist. It’s the therapist’s job to develop a custom treatment plan that will help the client find the truth about their addiction. If the client fails to identify the driving force, how can they expect to combat the addiction properly? They must learn the truth, be it physical, mental, or emotional issues that are creating their need to self-medicate.
After their journey of self-discovery, clients can use what they learn about their addiction to develop particular life skills that will help them avoid/suppress the triggers and temptations that might otherwise cause them to relapse. It’s best to do all the hard work the first time and hope that the heroin addiction disease doesn’t reappear for an encore.
It’s both fantastic and alarming to see what a needle and a substance (heroin) can do to the human body and spirit. The heroin epidemic would seem to a problem that’s going to continue to exist in the foreseeable future. As such, the last line of defense against heroin addiction is a reputable drug addiction treatment center and a growing list of modern-day addiction treatment methodologies. For now, the help is available to anyone who needs it.
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