Is Heroin Addiction Treatable
Most people have heard about or have first-hand experience with the current opioid epidemic in the United States. With no end in sight, the number of new users in 2016 rose in over 11 states. Millions of individuals and their loved ones are suffering from the opioid crisis sweeping the country. Spanning every state, the problem with opiate substance abuse is touching people from all income brackets and levels, reaching demographics that have historically been spared the draw of heroin. Out of the near 35 million people in the country abusing opiates every year, over 2 million Americans are challenged with a condition that can only be described as a veritable addiction. Approximately 1.5 million of these individuals are struggling with heroin.
This knowledge often leads those to the question ‘is heroin addiction treatable?’ The answer here is yes. Absolutely. However, just like with all drug addictions, the road to recovery can be difficult.
Why Does Heroin Need To Be Treated?
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to recognize addiction to any drug or substance for what it is; a serious disease. Heroin specifically as it brainwashes users, destroying white matter and disrupting the natural processing of pleasure and pain.
It’s a soul-sucking addiction that takes its seat among the deadliest, being that it reaps lives mercilessly. This, of course, has much to do with how heroin affects the body and brain.
The first step to recovering from heroin is understanding that the addiction stems from a literal brainwashing. Once this is fully understood, you and your loved ones can make informed decisions and take action to remedy the situation. This new understanding can also help you and your family to cultivate a sense of compassion. There has never been a time in more need of this, with the current opioid epidemic robbing families of young lives they never would have expected to lose to heroin.
How Heroin Acts On Your Brain
Heroin hijacks the dual powers of reward and punishment, what the philosopher Spinoza imagined as the carrot and the stick, leaving addicts with no will to live outside of hunting for the next “high.” A heroin user loses footing in the world he or she once took to be normal, trading reality for the next flood of dopamine that the drug promises.
A Double Attack
By manipulating the two most important motivating forces a human experiences when alive, heroin short-circuits a user’s mind, chemically binding the individual to the drug. As heroin perverts the design of the brain, a heroin abuser’s world shrinks to only consider, seek, and pursue the next “high.” Relationships, families, and careers are abandoned for this one wish.
Symptoms Of An Addiction To Heroin
If you are lucky, your only experience of heroin’s effect on a person was read about in a book or watched on a screen. But with the numbers of heroin addictions on the rise, many people have unfortunate intimate knowledge of the horrific consequences of heroin usage. You may have witnessed how a person’s personality, even their voice, is no longer their own. Other alarming signs could be:
- Hypersensitivity to pain
- Insulting comments and general meanness
- Uncharacteristic actions, like stealing
- Needle marks
- Depression and mood swings
- Track marks on arms and legs
- Warm, flushed skin
- Weight loss
Brainwashing, not Choosing
A user is not choosing to be different, it is the chemistry of heroin that warps their central nervous system. The body becomes weaker and overly sensitive to pain from the drug wreaking havoc on parts of the brain that determine behavior. A user’s actions change in pursuit of another “high,” falling into deceit, insult, and injury to themselves and others. Like Golem and his precious ring of power, heroin turns good people into sickly, mean-spirited ghosts dependent on the very thing responsible for their demise.
The Silver Lining Of Treatment
But despair not. There is hope yet. As terrible and difficult as recovery may seem to and may very well be, heroin addiction is indeed treatable. But the success of recovery depends on addiction getting the attention it deserves, namely, the medical attention that is reserved for any other condition considered as a disease. With the appropriate medical supervision, care, and inpatient treatment, a person struggling with heroin addiction can begin a new chapter of healthy, happy, sober living.
The amount of time it takes to flush heroin out of a user’s system is surprisingly quick. That being said, the damage that the drug has caused on the user’s central nervous system usually takes longer to heal. In the same way that a fire can be put out relatively quickly but nonetheless incur serious devastation, heroin can have significant and long-lasting effects on a user’s brain and conduct.
Heroin Detox Timeline
At the core of the issue is the initial interest in heroin. Peaks Recovery Center specializes in identifying the root cause that pushes an individual to seek out a drug or substance in the first place. These reasons are referred to as co-occurring disorders. The most common diagnoses are:
- Anxiety disorder
- Depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
By uncovering the fundamental problem, the medical personnel at Peaks Recovery Center can adapt the treatment plan to best serve the patient. A critical ingredient to the process of rehabilitation is exposing the psychological and chemical imbalances that exist below the surface. This discovery typically happens over the course of evidence-based, one-on-one therapy sessions, combined with monitored group sessions and trauma-specific counselling.
The detoxification protocol is first introduced to a patient during the first of three steps on the path to recovery.
Step 1: Medical Diagnosis
As we mentioned previously, the first step to healing is to see clearly. A patient will begin the process of detoxification by meeting with a medical professional. In order to cater to the patients’ specific needs, the medical staff will determine a diagnosis and plan of action. One of the most important requirements is to identify the severity of the heroin addiction. If a user has been entered into a heroin addiction treatment program, he or she is addicted by definition. However, not all addicted individuals are dependent. Long-time addictions are usually more challenging to conquer, but every patient is different. It could be that a person finally gets what they needed most—love, belonging, care—and can leave behind his or her old ways relatively quickly.
Truth be told, this dream scenario is rather rare. Detoxing from heroin is a physiological process during which the brain must readjust to a healthy state. Ironically, a user will feel most imbalanced during this time, when symptoms of withdrawal kick in with more or less vigor, depending on the person’s severity of the addiction.
Step 2: Withdrawal
It is vital to keep strict supervision over a person struggling with heroin addiction, especially during the first few days of drug abstinence. The period of heroin withdrawal can be dangerous, since some people’s experience of withdrawal symptoms is so violent that they may turn to suicide to escape them.
The intensity of the symptoms is contingent on the severity of the heroin addiction, hence the aforementioned importance of determining whether a person is addicted or dependent on the drug. There are three degrees to the fervency, frequency, and general intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Mild Symptoms of Withdrawal
- Dizziness and general exhaustion
- Widespread achiness in muscles and joints
- Yawning, tearing, sneezing, and sniffing
- Excessive sweating
Moderate Symptoms of Withdrawal
- Vomiting and nausea
- Stomach aches and pains
- Diarrhea Pain
- Agitation, irritability, and aggression
- Inability to concentrate
Severe Symptoms of Withdrawal
- Increased anxiety
- Cravings for heroin
- Accelerated heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Rapid respiration
Users who have become dependent will also report suffering from hypersensitivity to light, noise, and pain. This is because, with continued use of heroin, the nervous system of a dependent user must adjust more significantly than that of an occasional user.
Whatever the case, withdrawal symptoms remain challenging to overcome. Although they may seem unbearable to deal with in the moment, they carry a clear message of hope and healing. Medical professionals can help ease the symptoms, but it is up to the patient to push through this terrible period. In the words of Robert Frost: “The only way out is through.”
Preparing For The Outside World
Depending on the severity of the addiction case, the next phase of treatment begins after 7 to 90 days of abstaining from heroin. What follows is a course in coping so that a patient can put his or her best foot forward when reentering regular society. Building healthy habits is key to this final stage of detoxification.
Through counseling and support groups, a patient learns healthy self-talk and self-care. The communal environment helps to foster a sense of accountability for long-term recovery. Not only do patients inspire each other within the inpatient treatment program, but they also become role models for each other on the outpatient treatment side as well. Individuals reenter the world armed with new, healthy friendships rooted in understanding, nonjudgement, and trust.
Relapse Prevention Protocols
Relapse is possible and should be prepared for, even for a patient whose detoxification experience has proven to be relatively mild in intensity. Relapse is a common setback that should be anticipated. Better yet, relapse ought to be prevented with a step-by-step plan. Addiction specialists encourage people recovering from heroin abuse to share this prevention plan with their loved ones and support systems. It is also advisable to print out the plan and keep it somewhere accessible, if not visible. Shame has no place in an individual recovering from a heroin addiction. Beating heroin is a feat anyone should be proud of.
Join A Support Group
In rehab, a person will learn to identify the root cause of addiction we spoke about before. Addressing this issue often takes more than the time you had at the detoxification facility. Joining a support group will help to keep you accountable. You will likely not live close to the allies you made in rehab, so make some near home—the more, the merrier! This doesn’t mean that you won’t stay in contact with your combat brothers or sisters. It has never been easier to connect with people.
Get Involved In Your Community
Joining a group locally will also normalize the process of rehabilitation. With so many people dealing with the same problem, you’ll be sure to find “your people” who will understand and support you as you will them. Set goals together and follow through, adopting healthy habits that will keep you motivated and inspired. Plan outings, start a book club, play sports, or get involved in your community as a unit. Jumping into new activities as a team will boost your confidence and again, hold you accountable for the changes rocking your world.
Make New Friends
Don’t forget that you can also make friendships outside of your support groups. By this we do not mean returning to unhealthy relationships that may have cultivated your initial interest in heroin. That ship has sailed.
Surround Yourself With Inspiring People
That being said, it is important and only fair to recognize that heroin is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Statistics expect one in two recovering heroin addicts to relapse. Individuals on the road to recovery should note that relapse is not something to be ashamed of. What must be addressed, however, is how to react to it if and when it occurs. Prepare a heroin abuse treatment plan that will keep you safe. Nominate a guardian angel you can call who will not admonish you.
Another way to help you through is to identify and limit the emotional upsets that trigger drug cravings. As we said, surround yourself with people who lift you up. Do your utmost to show up to every therapy session, both group and individual. Recreate whatever worked for you when you were in an effective treatment program. Healing is a lifelong journey, so take the pressure off.
In the same way that individual sessions happened in tandem with group therapy as a detox patient, one-on-one counselling perfectly complements support groups in the outside world. Going rogue after completing a detox program is a dangerous path to go down.
Heroin is chemically designed to enslave a user from the inside-out. Treating an addiction to heroin calls for the needs of most diseases, namely medical supervision, emotional support, and ongoing preventative care. Indeed, it is high time that addiction be recognized for what it is; a deadly disease that can and must be treated for a user to live his or her best life.
Thus, when answering the question of whether or not heroin addiction is treatable, now you know that answer is yes. All it takes is dedication, patience, and love. If you are addicted to heroin and need to find heroin abuse treatment in Colorado, please call our rehab center today.
Drug & Alcohol Detox
Peaks Recovery is medically staffed by a primary care physician, a psychiatrist, and round-the-clock nursing. The medical team’s acumen provides the safest medical detox in Colorado.
Inpatient & Residential Treatment
Peaks Recovery is licensed to provide the highest level of inpatient and residential programming in Colorado. In addition to satisfying state criteria, we have further received the highest recognition from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) for our 3.7 and 3.5 levels of care.
Peaks Recovery provides accommodating support for individuals who may be experiencing some obstacles in their recovery journey or are looking for a step down from an inpatient program.