Heroin Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Programs

Heroin addiction is a life-threatening disease that is complex, but treatable. Heroin abuse may be treated through behavioral counseling, the use of certain medications, and continued care with a substance abuse counselor or outpatient treatment provider.

Heroin Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Heroin is an illegal and addictive opioid drug that comes from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from certain poppy plants. Heroin is sold in the form of a white or brown powder, or tar-like substance.

Heroin can be taken by:

  • injection
  • snorting
  • smoking (black tar)

Heroin use in the United States has risen sharply in the past two decades, due in part to the widespread abuse of prescription opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80 percent of people who use heroin in the United States first misused prescription opioids.

Heroin is cheaper than prescription opioids, however, and more easily accessible in the wake of greater restrictions on prescribing. In 2018, about 117,000 people over the age of 12 in the United States reported used heroin for the first time.

Addiction to heroin can have devastating effects on all areas of a person’s life. Heroin can cause significant damage to health, and impair a person’s ability to work, maintain healthy relationships, and function in their normal routine.

Overcoming heroin addiction may require treatment at multiple levels of care, beginning with drug detox. At Spring Hill Recovery Center in Massachusetts, our heroin drug rehab programs focus on healing the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.

Here you’ll find information on:

  • the effects of heroin
  • the dangers of heroin addiction
  • types of treatment for heroin addiction
  • signs and symptoms of heroin addiction
  • an overview of heroin addiction treatment at our Massachusetts treatment center

Effects Of Heroin

Heroin is an addictive, mind-altering drug that can have both physical and psychological effects. The drug works in the body by binding to the body’s opioid receptors and stimulating the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

Short-term effects of heroin include:

  • feelings of intense pleasure and relaxation (euphoria)
  • dry mouth
  • heaviness of the arms and legs
  • nausea and vomiting
  • foggy thinking
  • warm flushing of the skin
  • drifting in and out of consciousness

Over time, the repeated misuse of heroin can cause a vicious cycle in which a person may use heroin more frequently and in greater amounts. This can cause a whole host of effects on physical and mental health, as well as impact other areas of a person’s life.

For instance, people who become addicted to heroin may have a difficult time maintaining relationships or may neglect relationships with those they care about the most. This can cause depression, a sense of loneliness, and hopelessness. The effects of heroin in the brain may worsen these feelings or conditions and may cause a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Addiction can also make people act in ways they normally wouldn’t. People who develop an addiction may lie, steal, hide their drug use, and act out.

Dangers Of Heroin Addiction

Developing an addiction to heroin can pose a number of dangers, with the most serious being fatal heroin overdose.

Overdose occurs when someone has taken too much of one or more drugs, causing an adverse reaction in the body. Taking an excessive amount of heroin, or mixing it with other drugs like alcohol or fentanyl, can have deadly consequences.

Across the United States, drug overdose deaths involving heroin rose from less than 2,000 in 1999 to 15,469 in 2016. As overdose deaths from prescription opioids have declined in recent years, the number of overdoses involving opiates like heroin and fentanyl have climbed.

Heroin addiction can also cause a whole host of additional health problems, including damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, and mental health. People who are addicted to heroin may engage in risky behaviors, such as needle-sharing. This can increase the risk of contracting diseases like HPV and hepatitis.

Even more, heroin addiction can have a serious economic toll. Drug addiction can often lead to difficulties at school and work, which may result in job loss and unemployment. For some, this can lead to serious financial troubles, which may only feed into the cycle of drug use—to escape these troubles and self-medicate.

Treatment For Heroin Addiction

Living with addiction can be a painful experience for both individuals and their loved ones. Addiction can make many feel as though they are trapped, with no way out. Recovering from addiction can be the greatest challenge a person ever faces—but a path forward is possible.

Overcoming heroin abuse may require treatment at multiple levels of care, but begins with getting sober. The safest way to stop using heroin and avoid relapse is to enter a medically supervised detox program.

After detox, a doctor may strongly encourage entering a heroin rehab program, such as inpatient or residential treatment. Inpatient treatment is the most effective treatment for overcoming drug addiction and maintaining sobriety.

Inpatient rehab programs offer a supportive environment for people to heal from the effects of addiction and learn supportive coping strategies for managing the challenges that may lie ahead on the road to recovery.

Heroin Withdrawal And Detox

If you’ve developed an addiction to heroin, getting sober is not as simple as quitting cold turkey. Over time, the body can develop a tolerance to heroin, requiring a person to take higher doses of it to feel the same effects. This can also cause the body to develop a chemical dependency on heroin, which makes it more difficult to stop taking it.

Addiction can cause strong drug cravings and reinforce continued use—resulting in a dangerous cycle. It can also cause the body to experience uncomfortable symptoms beginning within hours of your last dose. This is known as withdrawal.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of heroin withdrawal:

  • restlessness
  • sleep difficulties
  • bone and muscle pain
  • strong cravings for heroin
  • cold flashes and goosebumps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • uncontrollable leg movements

Heroin withdrawal is generally not life-threatening, but it can be highly uncomfortable. It can also cause dehydration, due to excessive vomiting and diarrhea. This can become dangerous without medical support.

Heroin detox programs are the safest and most effective way to stop using heroin. Detox programs offer 24-hour medical and behavioral support within a quiet, clean, and supervised environment.

Entering a detox program removes the option of returning to your drug use, and provides access to the support of medical professionals. As needed, certain medications may also be administered during detox to help ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce severe drug cravings.

Medications used during detoxification from heroin will vary by the addiction treatment center, but could include methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone).

Heroin withdrawal may last up to a week, although symptoms are expected to reach their peak on the second or third day. After successfully removing heroin from your system, additional treatment in an inpatient or residential rehab program is generally recommended.

Inpatient Treatment

The most effective treatment option for heroin addiction is an inpatient treatment program. This type of treatment involves residing within a treatment center or facility for a predetermined amount of time—usually 30 to 90 days.

Inpatient treatment can be beneficial in early sobriety to help prevent relapse after detox by offering a structured routine within a supportive environment.

Residential rehab programs may incorporate a variety of treatment services and therapies shown to be useful in addressing the effects of addiction and supporting a healthier lifestyle in recovery.

Primary forms of treatment for heroin addiction include:

  • Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral counseling is an essential component within a drug addiction treatment program. One of the most common behavioral therapies to treat heroin addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can address underlying triggers and teach supportive coping skills for managing stress in recovery.
  • Group Therapy: Group-based counseling can be a useful way to build connections in sobriety, learn from others, and develop a strong network of support.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: Certain medications, along with behavioral counseling, can be very helpful in early recovery to curb heroin cravings, ease withdrawal, and help the body and mind readjust without heroin in your system.
  • Relapse Prevention Planning: Relapse is a common struggle among people in early sobriety. Learning how to prevent relapse, or respond in situations where you have relapsed, can be important to helping you maintain your progress. Substance abuse counselors may be able to teach skills on how to overcome relapse, or offer guidance on how to reach out for help if you feel you’re at risk for returning to heroin.

Many drug rehab centers that treat heroin addiction may also offer mental health treatment and specialty programs for patients with additional health needs.

Outpatient Treatment For Heroin Addiction

After completing an inpatient program, residents are often encouraged to continue their care in an intensive outpatient or day treatment program. This offers ongoing structure and support for people as they continue working through their addiction.

Outpatient treatment for heroin addiction may include weekly counseling sessions, medication-assisted treatment, attending support groups, and other treatments as needed. The length of outpatient treatment can vary according to each person’s needs.

Begin Your Journey Towards Addiction Recovery At Spring Hill

Conquering addiction is not easy, but it is possible. If you know someone in or near Massachusetts who is struggling with heroin addiction, Spring Hill Recovery Center may be right for you.

Spring Hill is an accredited rehab center in Ashby, Massachusetts that offers residential treatment and intensive outpatient programs for heroin addiction.

Our family-like atmosphere offers a comfortable and peaceful environment for people to heal from the effects of substance use and learn the skills they need to work towards a healthier and more fulfilling future in recovery.

Our treatment programs offer a wide array of traditional treatments and holistic therapies. This includes evidence-based treatments proven to help people conquer heroin addiction and better manage triggers to prevent relapse in the recovery process.

In addition to Massachusetts, Spring Hill also serves the following surrounding states:

Thousands of people in the New England region seek treatment for heroin addiction each year. Don’t wait to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

Contact Spring Hill today to learn more about our heroin treatment programs and how we can help you or a loved one achieve greater health and happiness in recovery.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: September 16, 2020

©2022 Spring Hill Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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