heroin treatment

New Approaches to Heroin Treatment

According to recent data, more than 9 million people worldwide struggle with heroin addiction. Even worse, about 5% of those who use prescription opioids eventually switch to heroin.

These are discouraging facts. However, it’s important to remember that professionals are developing new heroin treatments every day, and some of them already have high success rates.

Long-term heroin addiction can be life-threatening. Those who are addicted to heroin should enroll in a rehab facility, undergo heroin detox with professional help, and start addiction treatment. In fact, proper heroin treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

Here are a few new ways to overcome heroin addiction.

Deep Brain Stimulation

This method has been successful in animal models. As such, there are no valid reasons why it shouldn’t work on humans, too.

Deep brain stimulation involves stimulating the brain, particularly the subthalamic nucleus. This nucleus has a lens shape, and it rests under the thalamus.

Evidence suggests that the subthalamic nucleus plays a vital role in compulsive behaviors. The researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in California use advanced methods to influence this part of the brain to reduce heroin cravings. These methods can even eliminate addiction completely.

These scientists use high-frequency stimulation to influence the nucleus. It is possible to stimulate the brain in three different ways to achieve positive results:

  • Deep brain stimulation, aka DBS
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation, aka TMS
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation, aka TDCS

The DBS method is the only invasive method of the three. It involves placing electrodes in the brain to achieve an exceptional level of stimulation.

The other two methods (TMS and TDCS) are non-invasive. The researchers deliver the high-frequency stimulation through the scalp and skull. No electrodes are necessary for this purpose.

Some of these methods have been successful in treating compulsive disorders in patients with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. The researchers hope that these treatment methods might work on heroin addicts too.

The DBS Rat Study

A study performed on rats give scientists hope that DBS can be useful in treating heroin addiction in humans.

For example, the study involved 32 adult rats separated into two groups. The rats were self-administering heroin daily.

The self-administering method involves placing a lever into the cage of the rats. When the lever is pressed, heroin is made accessible, and the rats ingest it.

The first group self-administered heroin for a session of three hours each day. The second group self-administered heroin for twelve hours every day. As the scientists expected, the second group eventually increased the self-dosing of heroin.

Then, the heroin administration to these rats stopped for a few weeks. During this time of abstinence, one rat group received high-frequency stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus. The other group didn’t receive this treatment.

The self-dosing of heroin resumed after a few weeks. The first group (which received DBS) self-administered much less heroin in comparison with the other group. This means that high-frequency stimulation made a positive difference in heroin addiction.

Heroin Treatment Using Ibogaine

Another great treatment for heroin addiction is ibogaine.

Ibogaine is a hallucinogenic schedule I substance. It is illegal in the U.S. According to FDA, ibogaine has no medical application and it’s not safe for use. This substance is also banned in other countries such as France, Sweden, and Denmark.

However, recent evidence suggests that ibogaine might be suitable for treating heroin addiction.

A study performed by the Multidisciplinary Association on Psychedelic Studies revealed that ibogaine can help with heroin withdrawal symptoms. For example, nearly 90% of the study participants experienced a reduction in withdrawal symptoms. This is a huge improvement.

This may be part of the reason why many people go abroad to treat their heroin addiction with ibogaine. This substance is a one-time type of treatment, so you don’t have to take it regularly. Other substances used to treat heroin addiction such as methadone require periodic administration.

The Ibogaine Mice Study

A study performed on mice revealed that ibogaine can increase a certain protein in the brain known as GDNF. This protein is responsible for the development of substance addiction. In other words, if the brain makes more GDNF, it could prevent drug abuse and addiction development.

It’s important to note that ibogaine has also been associated with deaths among patients.

It’s crucial to regulate the administration of this substance to heroin addicts to prevent unfortunate events. For example, some of the patients who died as a result of taking ibogaine had pre-existing liver conditions. Such health conditions are contraindications to ibogaine and this might be the reason for their death. Having a thorough health checkup before using ibogaine is important.

It is also forbidden to take ibogaine if the patient has other types of opioids in his system as the combination of substances can cause death.

Contingency Management and CBT

CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is not a new treatment option. However, it can provide new and better results when it’s combined with contingency management treatments.

Contingency management (CM) implies a reward system which helps addicts get rid of substance abuse. For example, patients can earn points when they receive a negative drug test. They can use these points to buy certain items which promote healthy living.

CBT focuses on improving the patient’s coping skills with daily stress. It is also used to reframe the addicts’ perspective on the future. CBT can be used to replace bad habits such as substance addiction with good ones such as exercising.

When CBT is used in combination with CM, it can render positive results. Many addicts were able to reduce heroin consumption thanks to CBT and CM treatments.

Which Heroin Treatment You Prefer?

Whether you look for a heroin treatment for you or someone you love, it’s important to pick the right one. Choosing an appropriate treatment method will ensure greater rates of success. Which one from this list rang your bell?

If you’re still unsure, check out the various treatment options for heroin addiction.

References

Americans going abroad for illegal heroin treatment. (2018, April 11). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43420999

Ciccone, T. G. (n.d.). Deep Brain Stimulation for Heroin Addiction: Possible New Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/addiction-medicine/opioid-use-disorder/deep-brain-stimulation-heroin-addiction-possible

Heroin Statistics – Facts About Heroin Addiction, Use & Death – Drug-Free World. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/heroin/international-statistics.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis