There’s no doubt that we are in the midst of a devastating opioid epidemic. In 2017 alone, 72,000 people died from a drug overdose.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, it’s normal to feel helpless, scared, or confused. It’s also normal to question whether or not sobriety is possible.
Heroin addiction treatment can provide the relief and solutions you need to get your life back on track.
Let’s get into everything you need to know.
What Are The Signs Of Heroin Addiction?
Addiction is not always apparent. In fact, it can be subtle and insidious. Many people struggling with drug problems lie or hide their habits to appear ‘normal’ to the outside world.
With that said, heroin can be incredibly addictive. Typical signs of addiction include:
- Increased tolerance to heroin (needing to use more to achieve the desired effect)
- Presence of withdrawal symptoms when attempting to abstain from heroin or other opioids
- Spending a great deal of time and energy trying to obtain drugs
- Using heroin despite its interference with other obligations (school, work, relationships)
- Using heroin despite wanting to cut back or quit
- Using heroin in hazardous conditions (for example, when driving)
Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. That means it is not merely a phase, and it does not necessarily get better on its own.
If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with heroin addiction, there are a few telltale symptoms to consider.
When an individual stops using heroin, he or she undergoes a withdrawal period. This can range from moderately uncomfortable to highly distressing depending on the frequency and intensity of drug use.
Your loved one may complain about muscle aches, pains, or burning sensations. You may hear them say they feel like they’re “crawling out of their skin”.
Withdrawal symptoms can also look like the ordinary flu. Your loved one may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and goosebumps.
Signs of Physical IV Drug Use
If your loved one uses heroin intravenously, you may notice physical signs around the injection sites. These can include scars, bruises, scabs, and fresh needle marks.
Many users start injecting in their arm veins, but over time, people will use any vein they can.
Signs of Drug Paraphernalia
Drug injection paraphernalia can include:
- Syringes or needles
- Cotton balls
- Burnt spoons
- Belt or rubber tube (used as a tourniquet)
Smoking or snorting paraphernalia can consist of:
- Burnt aluminum foil
- Soda straws
- Rolled dollar bills
- Razor blades
- Powdery residue on a hard surface
- Hollowed-out pens
You may also spot small, individual baggies, balloons, or foil squares–all of which can be used to transport and store heroin.
Why Not Stop Cold Turkey?
Quitting heroin cold-turkey can be incredibly dangerous. While stopping heroin use is not inherently life-threatening, medical complications can arise.
For example, if you were using other drugs, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, a sudden detox can result in seizures, which can result in death.
Furthermore, detox is physically unpleasant. Some people describe it as one of the worst sensations in the world. Therefore, tackling this challenge alone may be nearly impossible.
Many people have great intentions to stop heroin use. After a few days of feeling the sickness associated with withdrawal, they often succumb to intense cravings. A vicious cycle of relapse occurs.
For these reasons, most professionals recommend admitting into a professionally monitored detox facility to enter the first stage of recovery successfully.
In a detox facility, individuals receive 24/7 support, monitoring, and evaluation during the intoxication and withdrawal process. They will also receive the encouragement to enter into a long-term treatment program.
What Are The Goals of Heroin Addiction Treatment?
Recovery can be a long and arduous journey. It may be one of the hardest experiences you face in your entire life.
The goals of heroin addiction treatment are to help you:
- Obtain medical and psychological stability
- Increase awareness of your addiction and risky patterns
- Develop a sober support system
- Learn coping tools to manage difficult cravings and life stressors
- Reintegrate back into society as a functioning member
- Feel empowered over staying sober
While all addiction centers have different rules and policies, treatment is designed to help individuals restore their livelihood.
Most treatment centers follow specified schedules offering a variety of therapies and groups. These may include:
- Relapse prevention classes
- Life skills (money management, legal issues)
- Trauma-based therapy
- Art therapy
- Yoga and meditation
- 12-Step meetings
- Psychoeducational groups
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Nutrition and fitness
- Specialized therapies (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy).
In these groups and therapies, you will learn to discuss your problems, develop healthy solutions, and create positive relationships with your peers.
You will typically have a treatment team that consists of a case manager, therapist, medical doctor, and one or more substance use counselors.
Each of these individuals will work together to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Together, you will all create a comprehensive recovery plan that will improve your chances of success.
Being Removed From Your Familiar Environment
One of the greatest advantages of attending treatment is the exclusive focus on you and your life. That’s why many people benefit from participating in a treatment program away from their homes.
This is not a punishment. Instead, it’s an opportunity to truly focus on yourself and your recovery without the distractions looming at home. After all, it’s hard to pay attention when you feel distracted by work needs, family, or running into your old dealer.
Developing A Sober Network
Creating a strong sense of community is one of the best advantages of treatment. Many people struggling with addiction feel alone and disconnected from the rest of society. They may feel ashamed or humiliated by their use, and they often feel like they are undeserving of quality relationships.
Proper treatment can squash this myth. You’ll be surrounded by people who get it. In even just a short amount of time, it’s possible to create powerful friendships with your peers.
Introspection and Reflection
In treatment, you will learn tremendously about yourself and your relationships with others. You will learn how and why you have used heroin to cope with life stressors, and you will learn about how to manage your emotions more productively.
Quitting the drug itself is often not enough to stay sober. You need to understand your triggers and your stressors. You need to be able to create a reasonable plan for the future to decrease your risk for a relapse.
Support For Co-Occurring Disorders
7.9 million Americans have a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders refer to the presence of both a substance use disorder and another mental illness, such as depression or anxiety.
When getting sober, you may struggle with increased mental health symptoms. You may feel more depressed or anxious. You may struggle to cope with the suppressed trauma that you’ve been numbing for years.
Most treatment centers provide on-site medical and psychological support for co-occurring disorders. This can include specific therapies or prescribed medications for mood management. It may also include additional treatment planning with mental health concerns in mind.
After all, if you only target the addiction without addressing other symptoms, you risk the chance for relapse.
Completing a treatment program feels incredibly rewarding. Being able to prove to yourself or others that you can stay sober feels terrific.
It’s tough to feel motivated to attempt sobriety when you don’t have good self-esteem. Paradoxically, most people struggling with addiction also struggle with self-esteem.
Treatment provides you with the coping skills, affirmations, and validation you need to see yourself in a better light. Being able to know that you are worth it can make a profound difference in how you live your life.
What About Long-Term Aftercare?
Treatment is only the first step in sobriety. Completing a program doesn’t mean the work is over. In fact, for most people, treatment is the easiest part of staying sober.
Professionals recommend long-term aftercare following treatment completion. This may include a step-down in care, such as transitioning into a lower level of treatment. It may also include moving into a sober living environment.
On a long-term basis, aftercare may include support group attendance and individual therapy. It may include attending weekly yoga classes or committing to praying every morning.
Recovery is something that people work on throughout their lives. Everybody needs to determine what will work best for them. Additionally, it’s normal to make modifications regarding aftercare along the way.
While there is no cure for addiction, there is management, and learning these skills can bring you the happiness and relief you deserve.
What If Relapse Occurs?
Relapse can occur during and after treatment. Some argue that relapse is a necessary part of recovery, that it’s just a routine step in the process.
For heroin addiction, relapse can be severe and life-threatening. Many individuals revert to using the same amount they did before entering treatment. However, because their tolerance has decreased, they face a higher risk for an overdose.
If relapse does occur, it’s essential to reach out for support as soon as possible. Entering back into a safe detox will usually be the safest bet.
If you relapsed, it is crucial to be kind to yourself. Your addiction does not make you a failure. Furthermore, trying again and asking for help is one of the bravest steps you can take.
If your loved one relapsed, it’s vital that you establish the boundaries you want to set. For example, you may not want this person living in your home. You may not want to provide him with money.
Boundaries help you maintain your sense of peace during this difficult time. They are not meant to punish your loved one. Instead, they are meant to promote recovery and help you preserve your emotional needs.
How Do You Convince Someone To Seek Treatment?
It’s devastating to watch addiction destroy the life of someone you love. You may feel angry, confused, or powerless to the situation.
Pleading often doesn’t work. Neither does begging, shaming, or guilt-tripping. In fact, these well-intentioned communication skills often backfire.
If you’re planning to talk for the first time, do it in a safe and controlled manner. Do not attempt to speak to your loved one if he or she is under the influence. Do not put yourself in a physically unsafe situation.
Instead, it’s essential that you voice your concerns in a safe and non-judgmental manner. Consider approaching your loved one with empathy. Let them know that you know they are struggling and that it must be very hard.
Ask questions and maintain a curious stance. Use ‘I-statements’ to verbalize how you feel. Keep a calm and even-keeled tone, even if they don’t.
You should prepare yourself mentally for your loved one to have an adverse reaction. You should prepare for lashing back. Defensiveness and denial go hand-in-hand with addiction.
At that point, you may need to consider staging an intervention. This typically requires gathering everyone into the same room to discuss how the individual’s addiction has impacted each of them.
If you choose to use an interventionist or stage an intervention, you need to be prepared to uphold your boundaries.
Seeking heroin addiction treatment can be a profound decision that changes your life. If you or a loved one are struggling, help and relief are available. You can live a meaningful and enjoyable life in sobriety.
Ready to take the next step in locating the best treatment? Contact our addiction intervention specialists today. We are here for you every step of the way.