heroin addiction treatment

The Best Treatment Options for People on Heroin

There’s no denying the reality of the opioid epidemic in America. There were more than 72,000 total drug overdose deaths in America in 2017 alone. Almost 30,000 of those were from the synthetic opioid fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

Since heroin is often cheaper to get than prescription opioids, the epidemic encompasses this dangerous drug as well. Heroin use has been on the rise since 2007, with almost one million Americans using heroin in 2016. It is time for our nation to do something to change this.

Saving people who are using heroin occurs one person at a time. That’s why we’ve assembled this guide to treatment options for people who are using heroin. After reading it, you and your family can offer meaningful support to the heroin addict in your life.

Read on to learn about the devastation that heroin addiction can cause and the treatments that can help.

People on Heroin by the Numbers

You may not need more facts to convince you it’s important to treat heroin addiction in the United States. But here are a few figures that give an even clearer picture of the problem.

Increases in heroin use are especially troubling in young populations. Adults ages 18-25 have seen a greater increase of heroin users than any other age group. This is unfortunate, but it is also surprising, given the fact that there have been declines in heroin use in children ages 12-17.

Over a 10 year span from 2002 to 2012, the incidence of first-time heroin use was almost 20 times higher if the person had first used non-medical pain relievers. A study of young urban injection drug users published in 2012 found that 86 percent of them had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically before starting heroin.

Overdose deaths involving heroin have increased immensely in the past few years. In 2017 alone, there were nearly 16,000 overdose deaths that involved heroin.

It’s not just urban centers that are witnessing overdose deaths, both in first-time users and increased users. Suburban and rural communities, especially near St. Louis and Chicago, are suffering these effects as well.

Adults ages 18-25 are also seeking more treatment for heroin addiction. This group comprised 11 percent of admissions in 2008. That number was up to 26 percent as of the first half of 2012.

The Damage Heroin Does to a Person’s Body and Mind

It’s heartening to see a greater percentage of young people seeking treatment for heroin addiction. It’s a good thing they are, too, because heroin wreaks havoc on the body and the mind. Seeing these effects begin at such a young age is disheartening.

Here are just a few of the ways in which heroin affects the user.

In the short term, heroin can cause vomiting and constipation. It can also reduce one’s sex drive and make it difficult to achieve orgasm.

Because of these reasons, many people steer clear of heroin after trying it just once. The risks are just not worth the reward of the heroin high.

In the long-term, heroin abuse deteriorates white matter in the brain. This limits brain activity, which makes it difficult for heroin users to make decisions. They have less control over their behavior and become unable to respond to stress.

There are also long-term medical effects of heroin use. They include collapsed veins, abscesses, muscle and bone pain, infection of the heart, and risk of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

The Damage Heroin Does to Families

If heroin only hurt the user, it would be bad enough. But the drug’s damages do not stop at the individual level. They extend to families and loved ones as well.

Heroin users’ parents and spouses often adopt unhealthy and codependent caretaker roles. They blame themselves for their partner’s or child’s addiction. This entanglement only increases the guilt of the caretaker instead of helping the addict.

Another strain heroin puts on relationships is financial. Heroin users manipulate loved ones into supporting them emotionally and financially. These strains can damage these relationships to the point of breaking.

The children of heroin addicts also suffer from their parents’ addiction. These parents raise their children in toxic environments. This makes their children more likely to develop substance use disorders themselves.

Children of heroin addicts can also suffer from low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, and depression. They also display compulsive behaviors ranging from overeating to compulsive sexual behavior.

How to Tell If Someone Is Using Heroin and Needs Treatment

It’s clear heroin use is a killer of individuals as well as families. If you are not sure if your loved one is using heroin, here are some warning signs to look for.

They may have shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting, rapid weight loss, and scabs from picking at their skin. They may have slurred speech or be unable to hold themselves upright. Track marks from needles may appear on their arms or feet.

The psychological symptoms are also extreme. Your loved one may undergo quick personality changes from intense euphoria to anxiety and depression. They may also display an inability to make decisions or show emotions.

Frequently, heroin addicts display confusion and jumbled thoughts in their day-to-day lives. If they tend to drift off or get lost in conversation, they may be suffering the psychological symptoms of heroin addiction.

Heroin users also display external behavioral symptoms.

They may be secretive about their activities, like stealing or shoplifting. They may lack productivity or be unable to fulfill their responsibilities. They may spend all their time seeking out the next fix despite the consequences, no matter how severe.

Intervention or No Intervention?

Once you’ve identified that your loved one is a heroin addict, it is easy to become hopeless. Resisting this hopelessness is essential to getting the addict help.

You have to approach the subject of treatment to help the addict in your life. But this can be one of the trickiest parts of getting the addict the help they need.

One question that comes up early in the process is whether or not to hold an intervention. An intervention can help the addict come to their senses. They can realize the damage they are causing to themselves and to others.

But interventions don’t always look like they do on television. Interventions can backfire when an addict is unwilling to face their situation squarely. When this happens, an intervention may create more problems than it solves.

If you are certain an intervention is necessary for your situation, you may want to seek the help of a professional interventionist. There are a few tangible benefits of doing so.

As a third party observer, an interventionist can provide an objective perspective on your situation that you do not have. They can see the problems that exist in the family as well as in the addict. Because of their removal, they can address those problems in addition to the addiction.

Many interventionists take a holistic approach to treatment. They can help addicts identify co-occurring addictions and mental health issues. They cannot diagnose these things, but they can suggest resources for treating these issues.

Once the addict and their family seek help, an interventionist can also provide ongoing support. They can assist the family throughout the treatment-seeking process.

What Does Treatment Look Like?

Once the addict has admitted to their problem and committed to seeking out a treatment program, what are the options for treatment?

Not all programs are created equal. Some will work better than others, depending on the personality of the addict and the nature of their addiction. But here are a few common features you may find scattered across various treatment programs.


Many treatment programs begin with a period of detoxification. It’s a painful part of the process, and some addicts resist treatment simply because they are afraid of the symptoms of withdrawal that rear their heads in detox.

These symptoms may include stomach pain, muscle spasms, severe depression, agitation, nervousness, sweating, and nausea.

Detox usually lasts between five and seven days, and treatment programs often provide supervision and medical assistance to addicts during this time to help mitigate their symptoms of withdrawal.

Residential Treatment

Because of the intensity of heroin addiction, residential treatment is frequently recommended for heroin addicts looking to get sober. Inpatient treatment programs typically last anywhere from 30 days to or even six or 12 months, though those times can vary quite a bit from program to program.

The great benefit of residential treatment programs is their ability to treat the addiction holistically. These programs usually employ medical staff to treat the physical symptoms and issues that the heroin addict faces, but they also employ therapists and counselors to address the underlying psychological causes of the addiction.

These highly structured programs involve a variety of therapies as well as group and individual activities to address an addict’s problems and show them what a brighter future might look like.

Inpatient treatment programs can be expensive. They may cost a couple hundred or up to a thousand dollars per day. Fortunately, a good health insurance plan will cover much of the cost of inpatient rehab.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs, often referred to as IOP for “intensive outpatient program” or PHP for “partial hospitalization program,” split the difference between residential treatment and simply going off heroin cold turkey. These are programs that offer many of the resources of the residential programs without the time commitment that comes with living in the facility where you receive treatment.

Outpatient treatment gives some freedom to the addict, which may be a blessing or a curse, depending on the individual case. Typically, a PHP offers more structure and requires more of a time commitment than an IOP.

If the cost of an inpatient program is prohibitive, an outpatient program can give the addict resources in a structured setting without placing much financial burden on the caretaker.

Long-Term Aftercare

No matter how long the initial treatment program, a heroin addict requires a lifetime of support afterward. Since there are no lifetime treatment programs, that help has to come in other forms.

Some treatment programs offer aftercare in the form of returning to the treatment center with decreasing frequency after leaving the program. This provides some scaffolding from the resources of the program to the addict’s ongoing treatment team in the outside world.

That treatment team is an important part of aftercare. An addict should connect with doctors who support their physical health and mental health professionals who can address ongoing psychological issues.

Another bridge from treatment to unassisted living is the sober-living facility. This is a house for addicts fresh out of treatment. They maintain a structured routine and begin to look for jobs.

A sober-living facility can help an addict experience life in the outside world. They start to look beyond the walls of the treatment center.

Aftercare may also include attendance at 12-step meetings or other recovery groups. At these groups, addicts can experience community with each other while supporting each other in their recovery. Some addicts find this support in faith-based communities as well.

The Options for Treatment Are Many and Real

While the number of people using heroin is depressing, it doesn’t have to be a dead end. There are real options when it comes to helping heroin addicts face their issues and overcome their addictions. They involve patience on the parts of the families and willingness from the addicts themselves.

Check out our heroin addiction treatment services for more information on how you can help the heroin addict in your life.

heroin addiction

Rehab 911: 7 Signs of Heroin Use You Can’t Ignore

Your family is going through a rough time, and it’s hard to explain the issues away as simply life stress. It’s terrifying to think that your loved one might be abusing heroin, but if you do believe that is the case, you don’t have time to waste.

Heroin abuse is on the rise in multiple states, and it’s more than doubled among young adults in the past decade. What’s even scarier is that fatal overdoses are also on the rise.

If you think your loved one may be addicted, keep reading for the nine common signs of heroin use.

1. Behavioral Changes

One of the first signs of heroin addiction to watch out for is behavioral changes.

Among the most obvious is a sudden, inexplicable need for secrecy. This may be accompanied by increased aggression. You may notice this the most when asking your loved one about something that seems inconsequential to you, only to be met with an unexpected outburst.

These signs aren’t unique to heroin use.

What is somewhat unique to heroin use is mood swings, an apparent lack of emotional regulation, and depression. Heroin highs cause feelings of euphoria, which is part of why the drug is so addictive.

What makes it worse is that a heroin addict’s brain starts to rely on heroin to experience any feelings of joy or happiness. While off the drug, this can result in depression or sudden mood swings, especially if the individual is using drugs to self-medicate for an underlying mental illness.

Often, these highs and lows are taken out on the people around them, especially loved ones trying to express concern.

If your loved one is lashing out at you, try to keep your anger or frustration in check and look for patterns in their behavioral shifts.

2. Physical Changes

More obvious than the behavioral changes are the physical changes your loved one will exhibit after prolonged heroin abuse.

Heroin is taken by injection, which creates track marks, or puncture wounds resulting from injecting drugs and bruises that appear around the injection site. Many heroin users inject on their arms for ease of access and prominent veins.

On one hand, this is a good thing, because if track marks are in obvious places, they’re easy to spot. Because of this, chronic users will wear long sleeves or long pants to hide the marks.

You’ll likely also notice a decline in personal hygiene, especially if your loved one has been abusing for some time. Disorientation and drowsiness from heroin abuse may often lead your loved one to lose interest in (or forget to) take care of themselves.

Other physical symptoms immediately following heroin consumption include:

  • Constricted (small) pupils
  • Droopy appearance, as though it takes too much effort to support their limbs
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath

Another clear sign is suddenly losing a significant amount of weight. One of the side effects of heroin is a decreased appetite, which means that if your loved one is consistently high, they won’t have any desire to eat.

In women, this may also result in a sudden loss of her period as her body struggles to conserve resources.

3. Personality Changes

On the more frightening end of the spectrum are the personality changes resulting from heroin abuse.

When someone has a heroin problem, it becomes the focus of their life. It’s their reason for getting up in the morning and the sole motivator behind their actions. Anyone else’s needs become irrelevant, especially if they conflict with the person’s ability to get high.

If you notice that your once kind, generous loved one has become closed off, uncaring, and even selfish to the point of cruelty, this is a major red flag. Even the sweetest person can turn callous, reckless, and mean when looking for their next hit.

This also coincides with disengagement from family and friends. While an addict may be able to maintain appearances for a while, they inevitably turn further and further inward as their addiction worsens. Usually, this shows up in the form of excuses, missed commitments, and lacking interest in the wellbeing of others.

4. Lying and Manipulating

There are two big commonalities across addictions: lying and manipulative behavior.

If you’ve known and trusted someone for many years, it can be hard to set that trust aside when they start lying to you. A particularly skilled liar can fool their closest friends and family members for years on end.

But the sad truth is that addicts lie constantly, whether the lie is big or small. They lie about where they were when they were actually buying or using drugs. They lie about why they were late or why they missed a commitment. They lie about the thousands of dollars they spend on drugs.

If a person’s behavior changes and their explanations don’t add up, you have to hold onto your common sense. When an explanation doesn’t make sense, there’s usually a good reason.

Sometimes, you can investigate the explanation and catch your loved one in a lie. A lot of the time, though, there’s no way to call your loved one out for lying to you without voicing your real suspicions.

Manipulative behavior isn’t as obvious, especially if your loved one is good at it.

Sometimes it’s a subtle redirection of the conversation when your loved one is avoiding an explanation of where they were. Sometimes it’s more insidious, like guilt-baiting, the silent treatment, passive-aggressiveness, or conditional acceptance.

Sometimes, it’s obvious–promising to go to treatment, or to quit using, or any number of promises to lull you into believing them.

Don’t let yourself fall for it in the hopes that the problem will go away if you believe them. You can’t afford to wait for them to hit rock bottom.

5. Shifting Blame

Another common tactic among addicts is shifting blame, also expressed as playing the victim.

Your loved one may have been a responsible person before. Heroin takes that away. Remember–when someone is addicted, the only thing that really matters is the next high.

Addicted individuals quickly become masters of lying to themselves in order to deflect their internal feelings of guilt and blame, which makes it easy, as time goes on, to deflect blame onto others.

For example, if your loved one loses their job, they’ll say they were unfairly targeted by their boss.

Anytime you attempt to bring up problems with your loved one, they’ll find a way to shift the blame onto you or others. Don’t get angry, don’t rise to the bait, and don’t let yourself be misdirected. You know what the problem is, and you can’t let your loved one off the hook.

6. Ongoing Health Problems

Along with the physical symptoms of heroin abuse, your loved one will also experience ongoing health problems as a result of long-term abuse.

One of the most common signs is a runny nose that cannot be explained by an illness, allergies, the weather, or any other medical condition.

Since heroin is taken via injection, problems with the blood and veins are unique to heroin abuse. Repeated abuse can lead to collapsed veins, which can, in turn, create blood clots and abscesses.

If your loved one is careless with their needles, there’s also a high risk of blood-borne diseases and STDs, particularly HIV. Even if they don’t contract illnesses from other users, there’s still a significant risk of blood infections.

This may result in sepsis or septicemia, a condition in which the immune system is fighting overtime to resist a blood-borne infection.

In severe cases, this can lead to septic shock (a dangerous drop in blood pressure) which can quickly cause multiple organ failure–the kidneys, lungs, and liver are at especially high risk.

In addition, because your loved one isn’t eating (or isn’t eating normally), and because they’re neglecting personal hygiene, their immune system is operating at a disadvantage. This leaves them more susceptible to common illnesses and poorly equipped to fight off infection.

7. Change in Relationship Dynamics

Another thing you’ll notice in your loved one, especially as their addiction progresses, is a shift in relationship dynamics.

This will come in two parts. First, you will notice a declining interest in spending time with their family or friends. Second, you will see them spending more time with new friends who don’t seem to have any organic tie to them.

To be clear, making new friends on its own isn’t cause for concern. People make new friends all the time. It’s concerning if your loved one’s excuses for their time often crop up when these friends are involved, or if these friends exhibit many of the same troubling signs as your loved one.

And while a missed commitment here and there is rude, it’s not the end of the world. It’s cause for concern when it becomes a pattern of neglected family or work obligations followed by a litany of lame excuses, dismissiveness, or outright hostility.

Tragically, some addicts do become outright abusive to their loved ones, especially a spouse. If this happens, don’t let fear control you, and don’t feel like you owe it to your loved one to tolerate it.

There is no excuse for abuse of any kind, and there’s a difference between wanting to help your loved one and enabling their behavior. If a loved one is physically harmful or emotionally toxic, don’t neglect your own wellbeing in order to tend to theirs.

8. Financial Problems

If you notice your loved one is experiencing money problems that cannot be explained away, it could be a dangerous sign when paired with other red flags for heroin abuse.

Heroin is an expensive habit to maintain and it gets more expensive as time goes on. If items go missing in your home, bills are missed, or groceries are neglected, you should wonder where that money is going.

If you have any shared accounts that show withdrawals that cannot be explained, the same thing applies.

Someone with access to cash may also embezzle funds from their workplace or steal valuable items. They may also shoplift or commit credit fraud.

It’s also concerning if your loved one keeps asking you for money without any real explanation for their financial problems or why they seem to use up the money you give without any apparent improvement to the situation.

9. Loss of Concentration or Interest

Finally, you may also notice a loss of concentration or interest.

For example, a teenager who previously had good grades and performed well in school may start having academic problems or neglecting activities they once enjoyed. A spouse may neglect date night, happy hour, work functions, or dinners with friends.

A shift in priorities due to a job or a move is one thing. A sudden lack of interest in beloved activities is something else entirely.

This also ties into a lack of communication with friends and family. As your loved one sinks deeper into addiction, it becomes easier for them to cover their addiction if they limit interaction with friends and family.

If You See the Signs of Heroin Use

If you see the signs of heroin use in your loved one, you can’t afford to wait. Heroin addiction is incredibly dangerous and can have a catastrophic effect on your loved one’s life.

The good news is that you don’t have to fight it alone.

We help you get in touch with recovery professionals specializing in heroin addiction. Click here to check out our available resources. Or, if you’re ready to get your loved one started on the road to recovery, get in touch with us today.

Ohio Woman Shares Heartbreaking Reality of Heroin Addiction

heroinrealityIn an effort to show the public just what happens to people who become addicted to heroin, Eva Holland posted a controversial picture of her boyfriend, Mike’s, funeral in Ohio. Holland and their two children are seen standing next to the open casket of her longtime boyfriend. The jarring photo was taken and posted on social media so that people could see exactly what gets left behind when someone gets caught in the trap of heroin addiction. Holland understands exactly how an addiction to heroin can ruin a family. She and her children witnessed how Mike struggled with his condition.

One of the main objectives in posting the picture was to show the others how an addiction can affect anybody. “You may think it will never happen to you but guess what, that’s what Mike thought too. We were together 11 years. I was there before it all started. I knew what he wanted out of this life, all his hopes and dreams. He never would’ve imagined his life would turn out this way. He was once so happy and full of life,” explained Holland in part of her Facebook post.

Oftentimes, people who struggle with heroin addiction will attempt to get clean by enrolling in a treatment center. Experts agree that this is the best solution to an addiction problem. However, relapse can be an issue if people aren’t vigilant and there isn’t enough support or accountability. In Mike’s case, he reportedly relapsed months after completing treatment when he took a pain pill for a toothache. This quickly escalated into a deadly tailspin.

Since being posted on social media, the photo has received thousands of views and Holland has received support from all over the country. While the picture highlights the horror of addiction, it strikes a chord with the many people because it is the stark reality of what the end result will be if someone isn’t able to stop.

New York Senator Requests Federal Funding in Effort to Curb Heroin Trade

chuckschumerThe heroin epidemic has reached level highs this year, especially in the northeast region of the United States. In an effort to control the heroin trade, U.S. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is asking the federal government to allocate $100 million to the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The program will aid officials in New York and New Jersey in the ongoing battle as heroin use is growing along the east coast.

A large component of the effort involves assessing the region’s heroin trafficking patterns and enabling the sharing of information amongst local and federal agencies. Schumer is confident that the additional funding will give a much-needed boost to officials lacking the resources to effectively contribute to the effort.

$100 million is a lot, however, some might argue that it is necessary to combat the thriving heroin trade. Seizures of heroin in New York so far in 2014 have already surpassed those of any previous year since 1991. Schumer identified this statistic as “alarming trend that we must nip in the bud.” In addition to seizures, death rates from heroin overdose are also on the rise.

“Now everyone saw what happened with the crack epidemic. Our society ignored it for too long. It’s got its tentacles deeply into our young people, and took a decade to get rid of it,” Schumer said. “We cannot wait that long for heroin.”

The money would also fight the problem at its source. Schumer said the funding would help fight against Mexican and South American drug cartels, which are known to be supplying heroin to the New York and New Jersey area.

The funding would be included in the Senate appropriation bill that is being considered within the coming weeks.

World Drug Report Shows Afghanistan Still Top Source of Opium

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) just issued the 2013 World Drug Report. Among the many things mentioned in the report is that Afghanistan is still the top producer of opium poppies in the world.


There is some concern that international forces will withdraw from the country next year, but the high level of illicit drug production and trafficking occurs while the country is occupied with internatioanl forces anyway, so it appears that the focus should stay more on prevention, intervention and treatment instead.

Information released by the UNODC stated that Afghanistan produced 75 percent of global illicit opium production in 2012. The report did also say that heroin use was generally lower in many parts of the world, such as Europe, but was generally stable.

Heroin is a narcotic drug that is made from morphine, which is a derivitive of opium. About 1.6 percent of the population of the United States over the age of 12 has tried heroin at least once in their lifetime, which is the equivalent of more than four million people.

If you or someone you love is in need of heroin addiction treatment help, contact us today for information about interventions, rehabilitation programs and recovery support.