Heroin is a lethal substance that creates intense dependency and a high overdose risk. In 2017, 47,000 people in the United States died from an opioid overdose, many of those from heroin, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse. Treatment for heroin addiction, including heroin detox, is available and can save your life or that of a loved one.
Treatment through detox and ongoing counseling is often necessary to help break the physical and chemical dependency this drug causes. Numerous addiction treatment options are available. Finding the best treatment for heroin addiction begins with knowing your options.
How Heroin Addiction Is Treated
Heroin addiction typically occurs because people chase the euphoric high the drug creates. Because it’s such a powerful opioid, to maintain that high, increasing amounts of heroin become necessary.
This taxes the body and creates a risk for overdose. Because of this, it’s common for patients to require a comprehensive treatment plan that includes several steps.
Treatment for heroin addiction typically requires detox due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms. When a person uses heroin for an extended amount of time, a chemical dependency forms within the brain.
This dependency on the drug makes it impossible for users to simply stop using it. If they do, it can create severe withdrawal, including a risk of sudden death, loss of consciousness, paranoia, seizures and additional trauma.
Heroin withdrawal treatment in a formal detox center is essential for many. Here, medications and treatment options help to minimize the impact of withdrawal. Treatments may include:
- Medications: Pharmacological treatments may help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, especially in those with a long-term, sustained addiction to opioids.
- Behavioral Therapy: During the initial stage of treatment, while working through detox, users may also begin behavioral therapy to discuss what’s occurring and why. Cognitive behavioral therapy, along with contingency management, is typical.
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Many people begin to achieve more stability after initial detox therapy. From there, they may enter residential treatment. This type of heroin addiction treatment is best for those with a severe addiction, an unstable home atmosphere or any other instance in which they are at a high risk for relapse.
Also known as inpatient treatment, this type of program can last a few weeks to several months, depending on the needs of the individual. During residential treatment, patients live in the rehabilitation facility to receive ongoing treatment and support in a safe environment. This allows for the removal of negative influences and of the triggers that may encourage them to use.
Inpatient treatment may include:
- Ongoing Behavioral Treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy continues throughout inpatient treatment to teach people to recognize the thought processes that lead to poor decisions.
- Nutrition Treatment: Heroin can devastate the body. Nutritional therapy is a key component of rebuilding a person’s health.
- Group Sessions: Most inpatient care includes group sessions where patients work with others in treatment and mentors to establish a solid foundation for recovery.
- Holistic Treatment: As one of the heroin treatment options many locations offer, holistic care focuses on restoring the mind, body and spirit using experiential therapy, meditation, yoga and other noninvasive techniques.
- Family Therapy: In some cases, those receiving care may also benefit from working with their families to improve relationships and overcome potential obstacles for long-term recovery.
The benefits of inpatient care are numerous, including improving healthy habit formation, having available medical care and establishing a community for support. Many patients remove negative influences from their life while developing a structured day. All of this aids in preventing relapse.
In some cases, outpatient treatment is available for patients after detox. Intensive outpatient treatment, which requires more time spent in the rehab center, is most typical. In all cases, patients spend time on a routine schedule getting care, but they live at home or in another stable environment.
Outpatient care may include sessions several times a week. Intensive outpatient treatment may require four to five hours of care a day, three to five times a week.
In all cases, outpatient treatment is designed to provide ongoing behavioral therapy, individual and group sessions and medication assistance as necessary. Customized treatment plans are established to help patients based on their needs.
Why Heroin Addiction Needs Treatment
Heroin is a powerful opioid. It creates an intense dependency, even with limited use. Without treatment, a person may find it nearly impossible to stop using the drug.
Additionally, the body often needs to recover from malnourishment, stress, and illness. Advanced heroin addiction treatment creates opportunities that might not occur without it.
How Long Does Heroin Addiction Treatment Take?
Individual factors, such as the amount of time a person has been addicted and the state of their health, will affect how long it takes for heroin addiction treatment. It can take up to three months to complete the first steps of recovery: heroin detox, medication management and counseling. In-house treatment allows medical care professionals to modify the care plan and adjust medications as needed.
Aftercare is a vital part of addiction treatment that reinforces the gains made through medication and counseling. After a residential stay, ongoing outpatient treatment gives recovered individuals many useful strategies for handling stress and dealing with life. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps those recovering from addiction learn the skills needed to manage life without the use of drugs. Recovery is a lifelong process, and 12-step programs and counseling can continue to give support on the journey.
Therapies Used in the Treatment of Heroin Addiction
Treatment for heroin addiction may include numerous aspects of care. Therapists can select from a range of therapies based on the unique needs of the person. Some of the most common treatments include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is a therapy process that teaches a person how to spot the way their emotions and thought processes play a role in their use. The goal is to teach them to notice when this occurs so they can change their thoughts to lead to better outcomes.
12-Step Programs: Many patients with heroin addiction can follow a 12-step program, a process of uncovering the cause of addiction and then making significant changes in their lives to overcome those risks going forward.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy: Designed to provide an opportunity to teach people how to make better decisions for themselves, motivational enhancement therapy helps to reinforce those good decisions.
Contingency Management: This type of therapy is very common in heroin treatment. It involves the use of stimulus control, and, when good results occur, positive reinforcement is used. The goal is to change behavior on a deeper level.
Medical Treatment for Heroin Addiction
The best way to break a heroin addiction is through medical supervision in a residential treatment facility. The first step in treatment is heroin detox. During this stage, withdrawal symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, pain and an intense craving for the drug. Each addicted person will benefit from a personalized care plan that includes the right medications to make these symptoms more tolerable.
Several drugs help with heroin addiction detox by lessening the withdrawal symptoms during the process. For example, loperamide slows down the activity of the intestines to reduce diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress. Clonidine can suppress withdrawal symptoms, and anti-nausea medications and sedatives may be given, depending on a person’s medical history. Nonprescription pain medications can also be effective for relief during heroin detox.
Three classes of drugs have proven to be useful in heroin addiction treatment:
- An agonist activates the same brain receptors as an opioid.
- A partial agonist partially activates the same receptors.
- An antagonist prevents opioid uptake by completely blocking brain receptors.
A health care provider will assess the risks and benefits of each drug and decide if one of them is helpful for each patient’s recovery.
Three major drugs used in heroin addiction treatment are:
- Methadone: An opioid agonist that gives a more subdued feeling of euphoria than heroin while preventing withdrawal symptoms. It also reduces cravings, has low overdose and abuse potential and can be taken during pregnancy. Methadone is used to help patients continue treatment and to prevent relapses.
- Buprenorphine: An opioid partial agonist that works the same way as methadone, reducing cravings and relieving withdrawal symptoms. Close supervision by a physician is needed to ensure the optimal dose.
- Naltrexone: A nonaddictive opioid antagonist that completely blocks the sedative and euphoric effects of opioids. It can only be used after a full heroin detox, isn’t safe to take during pregnancy and is often used for the treatment of less severe heroin addiction.
Some other medications often included in heroin addiction treatment include:
- Clonidine: This drug is given to control cravings and manage the desire to use.
- Loperamide: This drug is used to control diarrhea and gastrointestinal complications that are very common in heroin use disorder.
- Pain Medications: Most often, over-the-counter pain medications are used to help control pain and to limit access to opioids.
- Suboxone: Often used in detox and, in some cases, later, it works as a lessened form of heroin, creating some of the same benefits to the brain, allowing for less shock to the system when heroin is removed.
Holistic Treatment for Heroin Use
Holistic treatment during heroin recovery is ongoing. It provides a wide range of ways for people to get help in a nontraditional counseling session. Some options may include:
- Massage therapy
- Yoga or Pilates
- Experiential treatment such as hiking or equine therapy
- Acupuncture and other alternative medicines
Life-Long Recovery From Heroin Addiction
As with any substance-use disorder, people receiving heroin addiction treatment need to maintain some support for the first few years after leaving inpatient care or routine outpatient care. Support groups and 12-step programs can continue to help people to stay grounded and provide a solution for any relapse-risk situation. Patients work with mentors and, eventually, may become mentors to others to help support their recovery.
Heroin Detox at FHE Health
Help is available to you or your loved one. Learn more about the detox options at FHE Health by calling (833) 596-3502.