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Heroin has been around since the late 1800’s. It was originally developed as a cough medicine by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, then later became used by doctors as a non-addictive treatment for morphine addiction. It was believed that if the heroin was injected directly into the veins of the patient, it bypassed the digestive system and therefore was non-addictive.

As we now know today, this is not the case. Heroin, being far more potent than morphine, when injected directly into the bloodstream created a new and more addictive euphoria for people already struggling with addiction to morphine. It was subsequently controlled and then banned in the United States, but that has not affected its popularity. In fact, heroin used to be known as an “inner city” drug, but now seems to be at epidemic proportions, with the use and abuse of heroin now commonplace among people of every socioeconomic group.

How Addictive Is Heroin?

Heroin addiction is both a physical and psychological disorder. Heroin is highly addictive due to the fact that it activates many regions of the brain particularly the regions that are responsible for producing both the sensation of “reward” and physical dependence. Heroin use causes the addicts brain to stop producing “feel good” neurotransmitters, such as endorphins. So without the drug, not only is the person incapable of feeling pleasure, if they go too long without using heroin, the physical withdrawal due to the lack of endorphins kicks in very quickly.

In order for recovery to be lasting and effective, both the physical and mental addiction must be treated. The first step to recovery is detoxification (detox). During detox, users will experience symptoms of withdrawal from the drug that can include fever, sweating, vomiting, hallucinations, and depression. The process takes 7-10 days with symptoms peaking after 2 or 3 days. Detox is the first step to get the patient sober so that treatment can occur. After this period, there will still be a craving, but this can be curbed with behavioral therapy. Many detox symptoms can be alleviated through the careful administration of withdrawal medications if they are closely supervised by a physician.

Heroin addiction treatment is the answer

A primary goal of treatment is to use as little drugs as possible while keeping the patients comfortable during detox. Medications used for detoxing heroin users are buprenorphine and methadone. Buprenorphine is a new drug that became FDA approved in 2002. Compared to methadone, buprenorphine is more attractive because of one key feature: it produces weaker opiate effects and less physical dependence. These benefits allow it to be used in a much wider range of patients with much less risk, which is why we only use buprenorphine when detoxing patients and never methadone.

The best proven treatments are individualized & holistic treatment facilities which offer rehabilitation programs that last one to three months and focus on individual therapies rather than only groups. Individualized rehabilitation programs help patients overcome their addiction through counseling, meditation, 12-step programs, group activities and other means to rebuild a foundation for the patient so they can learn how to live again and do not slip back into active addiction when they leave the facility.

Since addiction is also a psychological disorder, mental health therapy is incredibly important for sustained recovery. Combining both mental health and substance abuse therapy has been shown to be the most effective approach in treating heroin addiction. Individualized treatment facilities can help treat and support addicted individuals in making the transition to a life of sobriety.

Because the patient is treated on both the physical and emotional level in a highly individualized way, they are able to discover and address issues that may have helped to fuel their addiction. Simply getting someone detoxed and giving them some education is not enough, because without the ability to practice new skills and process the damage their addiction has done to their lives in a supportive environment, many addicts will find themselves turning back to drugs once situations arise that they do not have the skills or tools to manage effectively.

When looking for treatment for any type of addiction, it’s important to ensure that the facility you choose is well-rounded and using as many modalities and types of treatment as possible to ensure the best chance at long term recovery.

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