Heroin Addiction Treatment

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What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive and destructive drug in the opioid family. It is typically injected, but can also be inhaled or smoked. Heroin addiction can have devastating health and societal impact on the user and the user’s surrounding friends, family and co-workers. Heroin abuse can affect anyone – young, old, wealthy or disadvantaged.

The impact of heroin addiction is felt all across the United States and has been identified as one of the most significant drug abuse issues affecting Dallas/Fort Worth and the North Texas region.

  • Heroin was the primary drug of abuse for 13% of clients admitted to treatment in Dallas in 2011.
  • At Enterhealth, a large percent of our clients are treated for heroin addiction.
  • There were 259 calls to the Texas Poison Center Network involving confirmed exposures to heroin in 2011.
  • The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) found that 3.3% of Texas high school students reported having ever used heroin.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually diminish and can be controlled after about a week of discontinuing use; however, the psychological dependence can remain long afterward. This is why it’s important to seek help through a certified drug addiction treatment program – to assist with both the physiological and psychological aspects of heroin addiction.

Heroin is extremely addicting and can be more difficult than many other drug types to overcome, but successful recovery is completely possible when you treat it with the latest science-based approach and treat it as the chronic medical brain disease that it truly is. Like many other chronic medical diseases, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy has proven to be effective, offering a better outcome (up to 85% long-term success rates) for the addict, as well as those around them.

What are the dangers of heroin addiction?

Heroin addiction changes the physiology of the brain, creating imbalances in several different neuronal and hormonal systems. Studies have shown chronic heroin use can lead to deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which may affect decision-making abilities and how the brain functions in general. Looking at the data from the latest neuroimaging studies shows us that addiction is a chronic brain disease and, at Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, we treat it as such.

Heroin is in a class of drugs called opiates. Most heroin users start don’t start with using heroin, but rather with opiates in pill form, often with a legitimate prescription such as OxyContin or Vicodin from their doctor or dentist. Persons who become addicted to these pills find that the pill form of opiates becomes too expensive and harder to get, and sometimes they turn to intravenous heroin because of its easier access and much lower cost. But in these forms, heroin purity is almost impossible to discern and dosage can be difficult to judge, thus leading to increased addiction, overdose or, even, death.

Long-term heroin addiction has serious health consequences, including:

  • Infectious disease (HIV, hepatitis)
  • Collapsed veins
  • Bacterial infections
  • Abscesses and other soft-tissue infections
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Arthritis and other rheumatic problems
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications (pneumonia and tuberculosis)
  • Brain infections

Heroin users also experience a variety of other medical complications, including hormonal imbalances, insomnia and constipation. Many suffer from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and manic depression. In addition, many tragic pre- and post-natal conditions are associated with heroin use during pregnancy, including malnutrition, third-trimester bleeding, hepatitis, mental retardation and behavioral abnormalities.

Why is heroin so difficult to quit?

Heroin is a very serious drug, and getting treatment early is incredibly important. Heroin is one of the most difficult drugs to quit using. The body adapts to its presence and creates a strong physical dependence to it, as well as an equally strong psychological grip. Most people begin using to escape other stressful issues in their life. Then, when they try to stop using, those issues remain and often lead to relapse.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are some of the most severe and uncomfortable of all types of withdrawal, and many users will return to using heroin just to relieve them. Because of the severity of heroin withdrawal symptoms, relapse is very common. Often, when a user relapses, they return to their old dosage, for which their body no longer has a tolerance. This can lead to overdose – or, even, death.

Early heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Yawning
  • Goose bumps

Later heroin withdrawal symptoms are even more intense and uncomfortable:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures

Symptoms typically begin within 12 hours of the last dose, and peak between 48 and 72 hours. Physical heroin withdrawal symptoms usually subside after about a week.

Treatment options for heroin addiction

Most heroin users need help getting clean and require residential drug treatment. Few people can stop using without a supervised drug and alcohol detox and science-based addiction treatment program.

Withdrawal and recovery from heroin addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals who are able to assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous heroin withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, heroin users go through a drug and alcohol detox program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the heroin withdrawal symptoms.

The heroin detox process alone is not a cure for heroin addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with heroin addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain –  and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for heroin addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Holistic treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for the treatment of heroin addiction work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin affects. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Naltrexone (Vivitrol), block the effects of heroin, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opioid addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Heroin addiction recovery with Enterhealth

People suffering from heroin addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential heroin addiction treatment program just north of Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas, and our outpatient rehab program located in the Preston Center area of Dallas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.