heroin-addicts

Heroin Addicts Can Get Help

heroin-addictsA variety of effective treatments are available for heroin addicts, including both behavioral and pharmacological (medications). Both approaches help to restore a degree of normalcy to brain function and behavior, resulting in increased employment rates and lower risk of HIV and other diseases and criminal behavior. Although behavioral and pharmacologic treatments can be extremely useful when utilized alone, research shows that for some people, integrating both types of treatments is the most effective approach.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that around 4.2 million people over the age of twelve have experimented with heroin at some point during their lifetimes. Around one-fourth of people who try heroin develop a crippling addiction to the substance, and there are around 900,000 chronic heroin users in the United States. Heroin is a difficult drug to overcome, but heroin addiction treatment is the first step towards recovery. Several types of treatments can be undertaken to successfully overcome a heroin habit, although heroin addiction treatment success rates vary widely by treatment center or clinic.

How Heroin Affects your Brain

To understand heroin addiction treatment, it is important to understand how heroin affects the brain. When heroin enters the brain, it devolves from its current state back into morphine. Morphine binds to the receptors in the brain that are involved in the perception of pain and reward—opioid receptors. This action causes a sense of euphoria to engulf the user. When the drug wears off, the feeling goes away. It is this longing for the euphoric state induced by heroin that makes it so addictive. This state is described by addicts as a feeling of happiness and well-being. When the body adapts to the presence of the drug, the user will experience symptoms of withdrawal until more of the drug is used.

Most heroin addicts realize that they cannot kick the habit on their own, because addiction to opioids is a disease in much the same way diabetes is a disease. Several heroin addiction treatment options can help the heroin addict return to a healthy, normal life.

Options for medication assisted treatment (MAT):

The most common medications used in treatment of opioid addiction are methadone and buprenorphine. Sometimes another medication, called naltrexone, is used. Cost varies for the different medications. This may need to be taken into account when considering treatment options. Methadone and buprenorphine trick the brain into thinking it is still getting the problem opioid. The person taking the medication feels normal, not high, and withdrawal does not occur. Methadone and buprenorphine also reduce cravings. Naltrexone helps overcome addiction in a different way. It blocks the effect of opioid drugs. This takes away the feeling of getting high if the problem drug is used again. This feature makes naltrexone a good choice to prevent relapse (falling back into problem drug use). All of these medications have the same positive effect: they reduce problem addiction behavior.

These medications are not used on their own to overcome addiction but are offered in conjunction with counseling and a support network of friends or family when possible. Medications can be given as an inpatient or outpatient treatment, and the type of program that is used can have a big impact on completion and success. When it comes to heroin addiction treatment success rates, as part of an outpatient treatment, medication therapy has a 35 percent completion rate, while the completion rate for a residential program was as high as 65 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Talk to an Addiction Counselor

An addiction counselor or your doctor can be instrumental in helping you determine which heroin addiction treatment option is the best for you and your particular situation. Regardless of which option you choose, statistics show that overcoming heroin addiction is easier when the condition is approached as a chronic disease and treated with both medication and counseling. Having a good support system in place during heroin addiction treatment is also important, including support from family and friends who understand what you’re going through.

According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, opiates are “outranked only by alcohol as humanity’s oldest, most widespread, and most persistent drug problem.”  This problem, particularly in America, is growing exponentially as more doctors turn to opiate-based medications for pain.  Columbia University researchers found that, “opioid addiction had tripled over a 10-year period, with the proportion of Americans reporting abuse or dependence increasing from 0.1% of the population in 1991–92 to 0.3% in 2001–02. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that nearly two million Americans were dependent on or abusing prescription pain relievers — nearly twice as great as the number of people addicted to cocaine.”

Get the Help You Need

Treating addicts with 30-day programs is a horrendous idea,” Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health and a lecturer at UCLA “Almost nobody changes a habit in 30 days. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has long recommended a minimum of 90 days’ residential treatment. Most people don’t get that, and rehab for a month is just not enough.

“The longer the addiction and the more entrenched, the longer you need to be away from it. You need to give yourself time for all the physical aspects of the addiction, the cravings and triggers to wane. After your mind has quieted down, you can start adapting new routines. Otherwise, you will jump right back into your old routines — that’s all you know how to do.”

The success rate for many rehabilitation programs is less than 25 percent, according to Jaffe. But heroin addicts, and their loved ones, should not be discouraged if their first effort to quit does not succeed, he says.

“A misconception is that addictions are almost impossible to overcome. If you fail one rehab with one version of treatment, it doesn’t mean you can’t get better,” he says. “It means you have to try again. Instead of blowing $80,000 on a month of rehab in Malibu, focus on the treatment you’re going to get and not the catered food or the ocean views.”