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Heroin Addiction Treatment – Addressing America’s Biggest Drug Problem

Heroin is an opiate (opioid). With opioid abuse at an all-time high, heroin addiction treatment has never been needed more than right now. It is a highly addictive drug processed from the poppy plant. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder that has been reduced with sugars, starch, powdered milk, or quinine.

Twenty years ago only serious “junkies” used it on the streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Today, use has reached every social strata and age group in America. Just recently, the sweet little state of Vermont, maple syrup capital of the world, was struck by the epidemic among the young people there.

Evidenced-based treatment methods have proven to be the most effective in successfully treating opioid abuse. Here is a good resource for more information about evidenced-based therapy. These are 2 primary signs of abuse:

  • Tolerance—more of the drug is needed to achieve the same “high”
  • Dependence—the need to continue use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms

There are a wide range of therapies and treatments for opioid abuse. The most effective methods are a combination of behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and the proper applicable medication.

Recently approved FDA medications for relieving the cravings to use include buprenorphine and methadone. Both work by binding to the same cell receptors as heroin but more weakly, helping a person wean off the drug and reduce craving. Another medication is Naltrexone, it blocks opioid receptors and prevents the drug from having an effect on the brain.


If a user stops using the drug, they will experience severe symptoms of withdrawal or worse. Withdrawal from opiates can occur whenever any chronic use is discontinued, or even reduced.

Users also experience severe craving for the drug during withdrawal, precipitating continued abuse. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after the last usage. When the person stops taking the drug, the body needs time to detox, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and typically subside after about a week. Some individuals may show psychological withdrawal symptoms for months.

  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Watery Eyes
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Muscle Aches
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Diarrhea

There is overwhelming evidence medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the most effective therapy for opioid abuse recovery. Suboxone is a prescription drug method which does help opioid addicts recover.

“…Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction…”

When heroin enters the brain, it binds to cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain and body, especially areas involved in the perception of pain and pleasure.

  • Regular use changes how the brain functions

Short-term effects of heroin include a rush of good feelings and clouded thinking. For the first several hours after taking heroin, people want to sleep and their heart rate and breathing slow down. When the drug wears off, and their body goes into withdrawal, people often feel a strong urge to take more.

Pure heroin is a white crystalline powder with a bitter taste that predominantly originates in South America and Asia. Heroin can be snorted or smoked. Heroin, is also known on the street as;

  • smack
  • junk
  • H
  • ska
  • horse

How It’s Used

Users generally ingest the drug by injecting, snorting, or smoking it. Injecting it releases the drug directly into the bloodstream. Snorting is the process of inhaling heroin powder through the nose, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Smoking involves inhaling heroin smoke into the lungs. All three methods of administering heroin will lead to addiction and severe health problems.

  • “Black tar” heroin is sticky and most often produced in Mexico

With regular heroin use, gradually the user builds up a tolerance. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity of effect. Heroin use will eventually cause chemical changes in the brain, resulting in addiction.

Heroin is becoming an increasing concern in areas where lots of people abuse prescription opiates and painkillers.
Prescription opiate pain medications are in the same classification as heroin and therefore have a similar effect. Research now suggests people who abuse these prescription pills may be opening the door to heroin abuse.

  • It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.
  • According to a recent government survey, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older have used heroin at least once.

In three recent studies nearly half of young people who admitted injecting heroin stated they were abusing prescription opiates before they started using heroin. This would seem to be because heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription drugs. Many of these young people also report that crushing prescription pills to snort or inject the powder provided their initiation into using heroin.

Once someone realizes they need heroin addiction treatment, they need to know what are the steps necessary to get into the process called treatment, rehab & recovery. Use our free nationwide database to help you find the right rehab program. See also our list of the best drug rehab centers in the U.S.