Heroin Addiction Treatment: Is It Doable?

Heroin Addiction Treatment: Is It Doable

Does heroin addiction treatment work for people who want to recover from addiction? These days, to cope with the difficulties of life, more and more people are succumbing to drug use despite the adverse effects these drugs bring to their lives.

One of these drugs is heroin. Heroin addiction is a difficult challenge to face for both the person suffering from it and the ones surrounding them. However, this condition is treatable with the right interventions.

We will discuss heroin addiction treatment in this article.

We will discuss what heroin addiction is, how to identify people who are more at risk to suffer from it. Also, we will tackle how to recognize the specific signs and symptoms of the said addiction, heroin addiction treatment through detoxification and rehabilitation with the help of naturally raising dopamine levels, and lastly, the crucial role of loved ones in overcoming heroin addiction.

Related article: Mind-Boggling Facts about Heroin

Heroin Addiction: What You Should Know

Heroin, which also goes by the name diamorphine, is a substance derived from opium poppies. It is an opioid used medically in some countries as a form of pain reliever. It is also commonly used as a recreational drug, which leads to addiction for many.

Let us go to the science behind why heroin is addictive. Heroin causes addiction because it makes the brain release a massive amount of the chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is sometimes called the “feel-good hormone” or “pleasure chemical.” Dopamine, as a chemical, has several effects on our mood. When our bodies have large amounts of dopamine, we feel enthusiastic and motivated, like everything is in the right place. However, when our bodies have lower levels of dopamine, this motivation dips down as well, making us feel, in extreme cases, hopeless, depressed, and miserable.

Heroin is addictive. It causes the brain to produce a massive amount of dopamine, which results in a high-like or pleasurable feeling. However, this high is only momentary. Once the extremely high dopamine level decreases, there is a tendency to crave the same intense euphoric feeling again and take more doses of heroin. That is how the addiction starts.

People at risk of suffering from heroin addiction

Anyone of any age, gender, race, etc. can suffer from heroin addiction. However, some people are more at risk than others. 

Several factors may make someone more prone to heroin addiction. For example, those with severe and disabling depression may be more likely to be addicted to heroin. Due to the overwhelming feeling of sadness and anxiety, they may turn to heroin as a way to feel happy again and forget about the world.

Another example would be those who suffer sudden losses. It may be a sudden loss of a beloved loved one, an unexpected loss of a cherished job, or a loss of a considerable sum of money or something unexpected. The unforeseen downturn of events may make them resort to heroin to lift their spirits.

Others who are susceptible to addiction are those who are habitually partaking in risk-taking behaviour. Thrill-seeking, when pushed to the extreme, may provoke trying out drugs like heroin. From just a single trial “just for the experience and thrill,” a full-blown addiction may start, as the body will begin craving for the effects of the drug.

Also, those with a history of addiction with other drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and other things may trigger an addiction to heroin. Heroin addiction can prove fatal or cause worse effects on a person’s life, especially when paired with different addiction types.

These are only some of the possible factors that make people at risk for heroin addiction. It does not mean, however, that the possession of these factors automatically leads to addiction. The development of heroin addiction is still on a case-to-case basis. It only serves to remind people that they should be more mindful of their actions and seek help instead of relying on an addiction to cope.

How to Spot Heroin Addiction

If you notice these signs, especially if they are alarmingly increasing in intensity and frequency, then you or your loved one may be suffering from heroin addiction.

Physical Symptoms include:

  • needle marks (from heroin injection)
  • runny nose or nose sores (from snorting the heroin)
  • constricted pupils
  • constipation
  • heightened pain tolerance
  • slurred speech

Changes in mood include:

  • agitation and restlessness
  • drowsiness and lethargy
  • depression
  • memory problems

Changes in behaviour include:

  • neglect for personal hygiene which is incredibly worsening
  • becoming more and more secretive about activities and whereabouts
  • the unreasonable and sudden need for vast amounts of money 
  • declining performance at school or work
  • participating in risky or dangerous behaviour

Related article: Heroin Addiction Treatment: What You’ll Know about Rehab Will Shock You

How is heroin addiction treated?

Although it is not an easy process, heroin addiction treatment is entirely doable. There is hope for everyone who is suffering from addiction. With the support and understanding of medical professionals as well as loved ones, friends, partners, and other valuable and supportive people, anyone can get out of heroin addiction.

The types of treatment someone with heroin addiction must vary greatly in several factors including the length of the habit, tolerance level, the age of the drug user, weight, medical history, and a whole lot of other factors.

There are several types of heroin addiction treatments. Usually, these treatment types are performed simultaneously to ensure that they are valid and that they will have lasting effects, to prevent relapse.

A medical specialist best supervise any attempts for heroin addiction treatment. It is to make sure that the treatment is accurate.

Below are the various methods for heroin addiction treatment:

Detoxification from heroin

The first step to heroin addiction treatment is detoxification. It involves clearing the toxins brought about by heroin from the body. Detox aims to smoothen the transition to other forms of therapy up to recovery. The process can take a couple of days up to more than a week. Like in every step of heroin addiction treatment, this process is also best supervised by a doctor.

Some of those addicted to heroin choose to quit “cold turkey,” and without the help of any medicine. However, this is not very realistic or achievable for everyone, as this requires enormous self-control. The more feasible way to do a heroin detox for most people is through the assistance of some medicine.

Below are some of the medicines administered to patients during the detoxification process. Note, however, to take these medicines under doctor’s supervision:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Methadone
  • Codeine Phosphate

During detoxification, expect to experience symptoms of withdrawal, especially at the onset. Physical symptoms for this may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, hot and cold flashes, runny nose, abdominal cramps, and muscle aches, among others. Behavioural symptoms may include irritability, violence, anxiety, and mood swings. However, upon surpassing this stage, you are getting closer and closer to recovery.

Related article: What to Expect During Heroin Withdrawal?

Drug Rehabilitation Program

A drug rehabilitation program may also help. A drug rehabilitation program can usually last for a few months, and it can jumpstart your heroin addiction treatment journey.

Before the start of a rehabilitation program, each patient will undergo an evaluation. Every treatment is individualized and customized according to the assessment. The will also be a deliberation for the duration of drug use, the severity of the addiction, and other physical and mental conditions. From this, the most appropriate program will be designed and curated for the patient.

Drug rehabilitation programs also usually involve medical interventions. Pharmacological maintenance help alleviate cravings for the drugs, as well as withdrawal symptoms.

Mental health is also part of the healing process covered by the program. Many times, people suffer from heroin addiction due to psychological issues they cannot quickly resolve. The rehabilitation process involves managing anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders.

During the program, therapies and classes are available as well. These will help the patient cope, as well as keep their minds off drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. One of the therapies available can be group therapy. It is where patients can share with other patients their struggles, form a bond and a support group, and enhance their social skills. Another is individual therapy, where patients can discuss one-on-one with a licensed therapist, who can provide a sounding board as well as concrete steps to get over addiction.

Among the classes offered may be drug education classes. This way, patients will be educated about the concepts connected to and surrounding their drug addiction, which, in turn, helps them cope. Skills classes are also available for life skills which they can use to improve their quality of life once they get out of rehab.

Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

After getting out of drug rehabilitation centers, it may become a bit of a challenge to maintain a drug-free life outside a structured environment that a rehabilitation center provides. One thing that can be done to help facilitate heroin addiction treatment, as well as post-rehabilitation maintenance, is raising your dopamine levels naturally. This way, a person will still feel the benefits of elevated dopamine levels such as feeling motivated and enthusiastic, without the adverse effects addictions may bring.

Related article: Various Effects of Heroin on the Body

That said, below are the ways one can raise dopamine levels, the all-natural way.

1. Cut back on saturated fat

Fatty foods are delicious for most people. Animal fat, butter, and other fats and oils add deliciousness to food. However, when consumed in enormous quantities, saturated fat is bad for the body. It also has a direct link to maintaining dopamine levels. According to some studies, too much fatty food can deplete dopamine levels. It will not help in your heroin addiction treatment.

2.Stock up on lots and lots of protein.

While fat is terrible for dopamine level maintenance, protein can do wonders for it. Eating more fish, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, tofu, soy, dairy, legumes, and other healthy sources of protein helps raise dopamine. It is through an amino acid called tyrosine, found in foods rich in protein. Tyrosine can turn into dopamine through the help of enzymes within the human body. Due to this, more dopamine can be produced, elevating and maintaining the feeling of pleasure in the body.

3. Make it a habit to exercise.

Although more studies are needed to prove that exercise can raise dopamine levels, it is a proven fact that physical activities increase endorphins. Endorphins are the so-called “happiness hormones,” which reduces stress and improves mood. It will help in keeping a positive mindset as the patient goes on with their fight against heroin addiction.

4. Have plenty of hours for high-quality sleep

Lack of sleep may lead to a decrease in available dopamine receptors. Dopamine creates feelings of wakefulness. When depleted, the patient may feel sluggish and lethargic, and the mood may be down. To combat this, ensure regular and high-quality sleep to keep your dopamine levels preserved.

5. Bask under the sun

Extended periods of sunshine deprivation can reduce levels of dopamine. It is why others suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during seasons with low sunlight, such as during winter. Conversely, sunlight boosts dopamine in our bodies. Sunlight helps in improving a person’s mood. However, you also have to be careful of too much sun exposure, as ultraviolet (UV) rays are also harmful to the skin.

The importance of the role of loved ones during heroin addiction treatment

A heroin addiction treatment journey may involve a ton of ups and downs. People undergoing this may sometimes or often feel demoralized and unmotivated. They may also have trouble remembering things and keeping things in order in their daily lives. They may also feel ashamed of their condition and succumb to self-pity.

Family, friends, partners, and other people play a crucial role in helping out their loved ones who are undergoing heroin addiction treatment. As challengings situations may be, these people need to muster all their extra courage and tenacity. Soon they will find them self as a pillar of strength and a ray of sunshine for their loved ones.

Below are some tips on how to help those who are addicted to heroin:

1. Reduce conflict in your circle (if applicable)

A family or a group of friends who are full of conflicts is not an ideal support group for someone who is trying to recover from heroin addiction. These may increase the stress level, which may result to be tempted to retake drugs to feel good once again. If possible, settle conflicts within the group, or at least come to an amicable settlement to diminish or, at the very least, control conflict and tension. This way, everyone can partake in enjoyable bonding activities, which can also be of help to those who are undergoing heroin addiction treatment.

2. Educate yourself

As the famous saying goes, “knowing is half the battle.” Educate yourself by attending seminars and workshops on drug abuse, as well as those for related topics like mental health. This way, you are armed with expert knowledge, and can better navigate your way through a loved one’s struggle with heroin abuse.

3. Help your loved one follow every step of their treatment

On the course of heroin addiction treatment, your loved one may receive medicines, individual and group therapy, drug rehabilitation, and other forms of intervention. You can support them by reminding them of the schedules of when to take medicines, attend seminars, or go to appointments. If possible, you can also accompany them so they won’t feel alone. It will also help if you listen to any apprehension they may have about their medications, therapies, and the like. 

4. Accompany your loved one to recreational activities

Keep your loved one’s mind off heroin by engaging in fun and productive recreational activities together. They may lack the confidence and motivation to do these things alone, so you or other people who support your loved one should accompany them. These recreational activities may include learning and participating in different types of sports such as basketball and tennis or learning new skills such as how to play a musical instrument, baking, or speaking a new language. Engaging in artistic activities such as painting, writing, singing, and dancing may also help, and even serve as a catharsis for your loved one.

5. Persuade your loved one to join a support group

People who have experienced heroin addiction can best relate to what your loved ones are experiencing. Encourage your loved one to join peer support groups similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Research the nearest peer support group in your area and bring them there. Your loved one may be able to open up more to these people without feeling shame or judgement.

6. Reconnect your loved ones to friends and relatives

During the peak of their addiction, your loved one may have isolated him or herself from other people who used to be close to them. Serve as a bridge between them by reconnecting them. However, they also ensure that these relatives and friends are not suffering from addiction themselves. Renewing relationships with sober relatives and friends will help your loved one cope by being reminded of the good people and things in life before the addiction happened.

7. Provide and build strength for your loved one

Challenges and negative feelings are an inevitable aspect of life. No one can avoid them forever. However, suffering from problems does not have to result in destructive coping mechanisms such as heroin addiction. Instead, help your loved one develop toughness and perseverance against tragedies in life. Remind them that every struggle happens for a reason, that every trouble is temporary, and that every problem can ultimately be solved.

8. Identify and Provide Support for Heroin Addiction Relapse

Be mindful of the behaviour of your loved one. If they seem to be having the same behaviour as when they started their addiction, then they may be suffering from a relapse. Remind your loved one that relapse is normal and does not mean a complete failure. One can get over a relapse instead of submitting oneself to another start of heroin addiction. Treating it is a temporary roadblock to living a life completely free of heroin.

9. Never lose hope

Never lose hope: this goes for both of you and your loved one. In case of relapse and other roadblocks, keep the faith that these can all be solved. If the need to restart drug rehabilitation arises, then so be it. Do not lose heart and lose sight of your ultimate goal, which is a drug-free life for your loved one.

10. Take care of yourself too

As they instruct in airplanes, in case of emergencies, put on your oxygen mask first before helping others put on their own. Likewise, in the process of taking care of a loved one undergoing heroin addiction treatment, you may forget to take care of yourself in the process. You may get sick, neglect relationships, or fail to do things that make you happy. Do not forget to destress and continue living your life. This way, you have more chances to positively influence your loved one, instead of being dragged down by the situation.

Final Thoughts

Heroin addiction treatment is a combination of several factors. It includes medical and pharmacological intervention, individual and group therapies, rehabilitation, the support of family and friends. The perseverance of the one who suffers the addiction himself or herself is also a significant factor.

These methods work together in achieving healing and bringing back a better life for those who are challenged by addiction.

Heroin addiction is a grave condition that should be treated with utmost seriousness. However, one should not despair, as it is very treatable. Plenty of people have experienced addiction and have emerged victorious from their battle against it. Addiction does not have to be permanent, and recovery is very much achievable.

Related article: You’ll See the Colossal Effects of Substance Abuse Unfold