Heroin addiction is a chronic, severe, and potentially devastating brain disease. Heroin is highly addictive and often leads to long-term use, and the possibility of a fatal overdose is closely associated with its abuse.
Heroin addiction symptoms may include any or all of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Abrupt changes in behavior
- Cycles of hyperalertness that alternate with periods of unconsciousness or “nodding out”
- Droopiness as if extremities are heavy
Common behavioral signs that may indicate heroin abuse or addiction may include the following:
- Deceptive and secretive behavior
- Excessive drowsiness and sleepiness
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Reduced performance at school or work, including absenteeism or loss of employment
- Neglect of hygiene and disheveled appearance
- Lack of motivation and apathy regarding future goals
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Spending time with new friends that appear sketchy
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities once considered important or enjoyable
- Repeatedly stealing money or items from loved ones
- Hostile behaviors enacted toward loved ones, such as blaming them for broken commitments
- Regularly making comments that indicate worsening self-esteem or body image
- Wearing long sleeves or pants to conceal track marks, even in warm weather
Repeated users usually develop a tolerance to heroin, which increases the frequency and amount of the drug’s consumption. With increasing tolerance, more physical symptoms of heroin abuse, dependence, and addiction can emerge, including the following:
- Noticeable weight loss
- Chronic runny nose
- Injection track marks on arms and other areas
- Infections or abscesses near injection sites
- For females, loss of menstrual cycle
- Cuts or scabs from skin picking
Heroin Addiction Treatment Options
Modern, evidence-based treatment programs are typically focused on psychotherapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. This approach addresses the underlying factors contributing to a person’s need to abuse substances and treat co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer the following treatment programs:
Residential (Inpatient) Program
Inpatient treatment requires individuals to reside in the center on a full-time basis for several weeks while interacting with counselors, therapists, and support staff on various aspects of their recovery. They are assigned a room, eat meals with other residents, and are expected to attend group meetings and actively engage in therapy sessions and other productive activities.
Among the primary objectives of residential treatment is to remove the addicted person from environments that serve to trigger and perpetuate substance abuse and allow him or her to focus on recovery without these distractions.
Benefits of Inpatient Treatment
When an individual has become addicted to drugs or alcohol, they are likely to face significant consequences associated with their behaviors. These may be physical, emotional, social, legal, or financial. A person can experience problems with family or at work and place themselves in life-threatening situations. A person at this stage requires a stable and drug-free environment, such as that which is offered by residential treatment.
Inpatient rehab also provides 24/7 medical supervision and emotional support. Co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), if present, must be addressed in the treatment plan to ensure the individual receives the care they need to sustain sobriety long-term. Following a 30-90 day residential stay, patients often move on to less intense forms of treatment, such as that which is offered on an outpatient basis.
Partial Hospitalization Program
During a partial hospitalization program (PHP), persons are provided with a structured daily routine that includes therapy, counseling, support groups, and other activities. PHP and inpatient treatment’s primary difference is that those in PHP are allowed to go home are not required to remain in the center overnight. This schedule permits them to visit with their families for support while still requiring personal accountability.
A PHP program typically works well for those who’ve already completed residential treatment or have not particularly severe addictions.
Heroin Addiction Medications
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a beneficial and often vital approach that helps individuals wean themselves off heroin. This is accomplished by using certain medications that mitigate withdrawal symptoms and cravings and help prevent future drug use.
The safest FDA-approved medication for the treatment of heroin addiction symptoms is naltrexone.
Naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol) is a medication known as a full opioid antagonist. It acts in the brain by binding to opioid receptors. In doing so, it blocks heroin from activating receptors and from inducing euphoria. For this reason, it reduces the person’s cravings to use opioids. Naltrexone is considered a very safe medication that may be used for months or years if necessary to prevent relapse.
Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention
After an individual completes a treatment program, ongoing emotional support is still needed to maintain long-term recovery. Regular visits to health providers, counselors, and therapists can help formerly active heroin users remain sober. Therapists work to help persons identify and overcome triggers and more healthily deal with daily life stressors. They can also teach people better coping methods and obtain more insight into the factors that contribute to their addiction.
Finally, support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide emotional support and accountability in a safe, welcoming environment. These groups are often integrated as part of comprehensive treatment programs. Still, they can also be found in various stand-alone locations, such as churches and local meeting halls.
Tips for Preventing Relapse
Use Medication Only as Directed
It’s essential that persons in recovery consistently use their medication as it has been prescribed and for as long as directed. During treatment, people who are given drugs should continue to use them until a health provider or addiction specialist says it’s safe to stop use. Discontinuing these medications can lead to more withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which often contribute to relapse and even overdose.
Attend Therapy, Counseling, and Support Group Meetings
Addiction is a chronic, often life-long brain disease that has effects that last long after detox and well into recovery. Even those who have been clean from heroin for months or years can be vulnerable to relapse, especially when experiencing grief or encountering stressful situations.
Heroin abuse has persistent effects on the brain’s pleasure and reward system that will endure long after the drug has been expelled from the body. Although a stressful situation can tempt an individual in recovery to use again, support from a therapist, counselor, or group support meeting can reduce the temptation to use and circumvent a relapse before it happens.
Getting Help for Heroin Addiction
If you are suffering from an addiction to heroin, other drugs, or alcohol, help is available! Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer comprehensive programs that include therapies and services clinically proven to be essential for the recovery process. We also treat co-occurring mental health disorders, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Our programs feature multiple therapeutic activities and services, including psychotherapy, group support, counseling, relapse prevention, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.