Heroin use once was only prevalent on urban city streets. However, availability and use has now spread to rural and suburban communities. According to survey statistics compiled in 2011, more than four million people in the United States admitted to trying the highly addictive and dangerous substance. Though heroin users come from all age groups, gender, and educational and financial backgrounds, the majority are between the ages of 18 and 25. Of all the people who use the drug, approximately one-fourth become addicted.
Individuals No Longer Have to Live With Heroin Addiction
Physical dependence can develop after only two weeks of continued use. If attempting to reduce intake or stop taking heroin altogether, individuals experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety and restlessness, painful bone and muscle cramping, tremors, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The desire to prevent the array of uncomfortable symptoms and intense psychological cravings influence many to continue using heroin or relapse when attempting to get sober.
In addition to tolerance and dependence, researchers found that continuous use leads to the deterioration of the white matter in the brain. This area is responsible for providing decision-making ability, regulating behavior and the body’s responses to stress. Long-term use has been associated with a number of medical conditions that include collapsed veins or permanent tissue scarring, cardiovascular infections, and kidney and liver damage. Blood clots may develop from intravenous injections, which may cause a heart attack, stroke or other organ damage. Chronic smoking may lead to various respiratory ailments that include pneumonia and lung damage. Accidental overdose is always a possibility, especially when combined with other drugs the user may have in his system. In 2012, approximately 8,200 deaths nationwide were attributed to accidental heroin overdoses.
As experiencing the euphoric high becomes first priority, relationships with loved ones dissolve. Addicts often end up on the street or in shelters because they’re not mentally or physically able to hold down jobs. Without money and housing, chronic users become malnourished and frail in appearance. The immune system falters, which when combined with dehydration and malnutrition leaves the addict more susceptible to infection. Studies indicate that approximately nine percent of HIV infected patients are heroin addicts who got the disease by sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sexual activities.
When tired of the ravaging effects of heroin addiction, addicts will find that help is readily available in the form of state and privately operated residential treatment facilities or intensive outpatient programs. Treatment begins with a thorough physical and mental evaluation along with an assessment of the addiction. The detoxification process then follows, which enables the body time to remove all traces of the compound from the system.
The Effectiveness of Heroin Detox
Heroin detox takes place in specialized residential treatment facilities, medical clinics or hospital settings. During the process, individuals receive continual monitoring by medical staff members. Detoxification lasts a minimum of three to five days and largely depends on the type of heroin used in combination with the duration of the habit.
Heroin detox services vary from one facility to the next. In some instances, physicians may recommend the administration of prescription medications that ease anxiety, nausea and the physical discomfort associated with withdrawal. Other facilities may additionally offer narcotic medications that minimize withdrawal symptoms along with psychological cravings. These substances are carefully regulated and then gradually tapered until the addict no longer experiences physical symptoms.
Rapid detoxification services involve sedating clients who sleep peacefully while the body eliminates the drug through natural processes. In this way, the addict is spared from experiencing the painful effects. The process entails submitting to general anesthesia. While asleep, physicians administer opiate blockers that interfere with heroin’s ability to bind with receptor sites. Anti-nausea, muscle relaxers and other medications may also be provided as needed. The process requires admittance to a hospital intensive care unit or other well-equipped medical facility for up to two days. The rapid detox process lasts about eight hours.
Stepped rapid detoxification is another option that provides hourly doses of opiate-blocking agents while the client remains awake. Medications that manage withdrawal symptoms are also provided. This procedure lessens the risks associated with general anesthesia while reducing the discomfort of detoxification. If a patient is tempted to relapse, the continued use of opiate blockers prevents the individual from experiencing the euphoric effects of heroin.
In addition to being expensive, rapid detoxification processes are frowned upon by many. Without having endured the discomfort of traditional heroin detox, they argue that addicts are more inclined to return to an addiction lifestyle.
Rehabilitation and Aftercare Services for Heroin Addiction
While detoxification rids the body of heroin, the emotional and psychological factors that contributed to the addiction or that commonly trigger cravings remain. Individual therapy and group counseling help addicts uncover the factors that may have led to the problem. Rehabilitation also involves learning how to overcome future temptations using coping strategies and techniques. Addicts also set personal goals, work on rebuilding relationships and plan for ongoing support.
Inpatient rehabilitation ensures that individuals are housed within a closely supervised and regulated environment free from the former lifestyle. Choosing a center at a distance from home additionally frees the addict from familiar people and places that bring the addiction to mind. Individuals having moderate addictions, young children, school or work responsibilities, or those who’ve completed inpatient rehabilitation also have the option of entering intensive outpatient programs.
Intensive outpatient programs provide behavioral and psychological therapy along with social support while individuals continue living at home and enjoying a natural lifestyle. The programs require that clients attend regularly scheduled sessions three to five times every week during the day or evening. Another benefit of treatment includes the chance to attend workshops designed to enhance coping skills and get in touch with emotions while engaging in a number of artistic or physical activities.
The sooner heroin addicts make a conscious decision to get professional help, the greater the chances are for avoiding health consequences or the possibility of accidental overdose. If desiring more information concerning overcoming a heroin addiction, speak with a counselor by calling the 800-447-9081 hotline.