Heroin addiction is on the rise in America, big time. Heroin is an opioid and a depressant. This means that it dampens the speed at which the user’s brain sends electrical signals to the other body parts. Because of this, the user feels pleasantly lethargic after they take a hit. Heroin is extremely addictive and users have to use more of the drug chasing the high they got the first time. Heroin is used in the following methods:
- injected into the blood stream
After injecting it into the bloodstream, it takes effect within seconds. This has made injection the popular way of abuse and it creates a stronger dependency.
- Most addicts fatally overdose through injection
This deepens the addiction further and makes trying to get off it more difficult and painful. With continued exposure to the drug the brain becomes so sensitized and dependent that when it is cut off, the mind and body are “starved” and cannot function normally.
Being addicted to heroin is like being on a roller coaster ride. When high, one feels like they are on top of the world but once the drug wears off they rapidly descent to the lowest of lows. Most addicts even those that want to stop taking heroin fear withdrawal and they find themselves going back to it again and again.
There are a variety of effective treatment approaches to treating heroin addiction. It could be through therapy medication, lifestyle changes and support groups. The treatments are aimed at restoring some degree of normalcy in the brain function and the behavior of the patient. There are both inpatient and outpatient clinics. If a user does not take the step to enroll themselves into a rehab treatment center chances of recovery are very slim. Pharmacological (medication) and behavioral treatments can be effective if used alone but research has shown that integrating moth treatments is the most effective approach.
According to the CDC, the following usage statistics is true:
- Heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18–25 in the past decade.
- More than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
- 45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.
The key sign of heroin use and addiction is a person going into withdrawal.
- Heroin withdrawal symptoms start just hours after the user had their last dose
They peak one to three days later and subside gradually between five to seven days after they kicked in. In cases where the user was an extreme heroin abuser whether in terms of amount consumed or the duration of abuse, the symptoms may take weeks or months to subside.
- This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome
Heroin withdrawal is never the same for every user. The longer one was using and how much they were using are factors that dictate how dependent the brain and body was to the drug. The severity and duration of the withdrawal will also vary.
- The term “super flu” is used to describe the withdrawal stage since the symptoms are like a bad case of the flu
- It is mandatory to have a person with medical training or credentials to manage the detox and withdrawal process
The withdrawal symptoms are usually not life threatening, but the user can take heroin and other dangerous substances in an effort to alleviate their mental and physical distress. The user can take a lethal amount in an effort to compensate for how debilitating the effects can be. Along with the physical symptoms the addict also experiences despair, loneliness and a strong compulsion to go back to taking the drug. Here is a list of some of the withdrawal symptoms after stopping taking heroin;
- Cold sweats
- Anxiety and depression
- Unstable moods
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Vomiting and nausea
The sensation of withdrawal is compared to being under water and being oxygen deprived. But with the right attitude they can pass through the withdrawal period to freedom.
Medical professionals will prescribe anti-anxiety medication such as Suboxone to help the person through the process comfortably. Finding distractions such as reading a book or spending time with people helps the user deal with the withdrawal. You distract yourself from focusing on the discomfort of the body and keep focused on getting clean. Entering a rehab greatly increases one’s chances of success. Being in a protected environment and having the support they need makes the process much easier.
Inpatient rehabs usually eliminates the outside environment and other social factors that can make it harder for a person seeking sobriety to achieve it. Many of former addicts have inpatient rehabs to thank for their sobriety. In the rehab residents have structured routine that usually includes daily therapy, activities and support groups. Every heroin rehab center is different from the other and they have different types of activities. They not only focus on mental health but they also focus on the physical health as well that is why they support daily exercise and other exciting activities such as hiking excursions. Some other treatments might take up a more relaxed form and have a luxurious treatment setting. The duration of staying in the rehab will last from 30 days to 90 days depending on several factors including how severe the addiction and if they have been through the process before and relapsed.
The answer to the heroin addiction problem is not in-prisoning more sick people into jail. The answer to the heroin addiction problem is treatment & rehabilitation. It takes place in 3 steps. They are:
1 – Detox & Stabilization
The first step usually involves chemical withdrawal from substances also known as detoxification. Modern methods of detoxification make it less intense and more comfortable than it was in the past. A few hours after the last dose of heroin one starts to experience the withdrawal symptoms that resemble a strong flu. They can be very uncomfortable and that is why many addicts fear getting clean.
The symptoms of withdrawal can be tough of the patient hence it is recommended that they should go to a professional treatment center to increase their chances of recovery. The first step to overcoming heroin is through detoxification. Trying self-detoxification is not a good idea. The withdrawal from heroin can be painful and can last for weeks for some people. If there is a physician around they will prescribe medication to help minimize the discomfort and also help the patient’s body slowly adjust.
2 – Therapy
After the completion of detox, the patient will start therapy sessions with counselors and also join support meetings with other patients. In these sessions they learn more about their triggers and how to identify them. Most residential centers will teach them physical exercise as a way to deal with stress.
3 – Maintenance
As soon as you return home from a residential center or after you are done with intensive outpatient treatment follow up is required. Follow up involves attending 12 step program and also going for individual therapy. The families of former addicts form a great support system and that is why they should also go for counseling. This helps them deal in the changes in family dynamics that developed due to the heroin use of one of them. To ensure that one does not relapse they should make sober friends and hobbies. Keeping busy ensures they are not bored.
The simple definition of a “drug addict” is someone who abuses a mind-altering substance despite the negative effects it has on their life. Drug addiction crosses all financial social boundaries. There have been a lot of famous drug addicts throughout history. The professional DSM-5 diagnosis for drug addiction is a set of criteria for various categories of drugs. The criteria includes drug craving, going through withdrawal, using despite negative consequences and others. A professional evaluation makes a distinction between “mild” and “severe” levels. There are certain signs and symptoms of addiction including physical and behavioral.
If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences such as loss of job, family problems, debt, physical problems that are brought on by drug abuse, then he or she is probably a drug addict.
Signs and Symptoms of A Problem
Although some addicts are very good at keeping their drug use hidden, it is very difficult to keep a drug problem a secret from the people around them forever. There are certain signs and symptoms of someone being addicted to drugs. In general, they all relate to changes in the way they think and act. The physical signs of being a drug addict can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects; stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.
- Tolerance Tolerance means you need more drugs to feel the same effects
- Withdrawal As the effect of the drugs wear off the person experiences withdrawal symptoms. These may include anxiety, shakiness, trembling, sweating, vomiting, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite and headaches.
- Loss of Control Using more drugs than they intended despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time
- Neglecting Other Activities They spend less time on activities that used to be important to them
- Use Despite Negative Consequences They continue to use drugs even though they know it’s causing problems
Here is a list of some physical and health issues that might indicate there is a problem.
- Bloodshot eyes and or dilated pupils
- Nosebleeds from snorting drugs
- Changes in appetite weight loss or gain
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in personal grooming
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
- Slurred speech or unstable coordination
From Use to Abuse to Addiction
For someone who has become an addict, drug use often starts out as an “experiment” often turns into more and more use. For someone with an addictive personality, it leads to an addiction. Eventually, it becomes difficult to derive pleasure from other normal activities, such as sports, food, or sex. After repeated drug use, an addict reaches a point when deciding to use drugs is no longer voluntary. Scientists have proven drugs literally change your brain.
It is during this transformation process that a drug abuser becomes a drug addict.
Drug Addiction Quiz
Here are four questions to help determine if someone is at risk of becoming an addict:
- Have you ever felt you ought to cut down on your drug use?
- Have people ever annoyed you by criticizing your drug use?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drug use?
- Have you ever had to take a drug first thing in the morning?
One or more “yes” indicates there is a potential problem with drug use.