spoon of heroin being liquefied for injection

How Drug Rehab Centers Treat Heroin Addiction

Now more than ever is necessary to treat heroin addiction, especially with so much of the country being heavily affected by the drug.

While there’s no such thing as a “safe” drug, there are some substances that are inherently more dangerous than others. A substance like marijuana isn’t really lethal while narcotics like heroin and painkillers have resulted in countless overdose deaths. In fact, heroin, in particular, has become a major concern among citizens and public officials alike as rates of heroin use and dependence have continued to climb in recent years.

This is why many addiction treatment centers are offering treatments and programming for the treatment of heroin addiction specifically. Yet, many are unsure of what the heroin addiction recovery process actually entails, which is why the following will offer a concise explanation of why heroin is so highly addictive and how drug rehab centers treat heroin addiction.

Why Heroin Addiction Is So Difficult to Treat

Heroin is a very addictive, illegal substance and a product of processing morphine, which is derived from the opium poppy. This makes both heroin and morphine very similar to opium on a molecular level as well as in their effects, which is why they’re commonly referred to as opioids.

It’s estimated that heroin is two to three times more potent than morphine and offers a more pronounced euphoria at high doses, resulting in heroin being an illicit drug rather than a controlled pharmaceutical. In fact, heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug, which indicates that the drug has no acceptable medical use.

When an individual imbibes heroin, the drug binds to opiate receptors in the brain. These opiate receptors are a natural means for individuals to overcome feelings of pain as well as to alleviate stress, which occurs when the body produces endorphins that bind to these receptors. Similarly, heroin binds with these receptors, but on an exponentially larger scale, causing pronounced euphoria while also acting somewhat as a sedative.

With repeated heroin use over time, the body begins producing less of its own endorphins and comes to rely on one’s heroin use as the primary source of chemicals that can bind to one’s opiate receptors, which is what is happening what an individual becomes physically dependent on a substance. Consequently, such an individual will experience withdrawal symptoms when deprived of heroin, making treatment a necessity.

Overcoming Physical Dependence with Detox Treatment

When a heroin addict decides to overcome his or her addiction with treatment, the first step of the process is to address the physical side of the addiction. After ceasing heroin use, an addict will experience the onset of withdrawal within a matter of a few hours.

Often compared to having the flu, heroin withdrawal symptoms would make it difficult for an individual to focus on the treatments received while in a drug rehab program; therefore, detox treatment is offered as a means of addressing the physical dependency and allowing an individual to begin treatment only after having overcome severe withdrawal symptoms.

Most detox treatments and programs include constant supervision and medical care while physicians monitor the severity of one’s withdrawal symptoms. This ensures that a patient is never experiencing such severe withdrawal as to threaten their health.

Additionally, this gives physicians the opportunity to determine if the use of so-called “comfort medications” are necessary. This refers to the use of medications, including mild benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants, to alleviate the severity of withdrawal symptoms and make a patient more comfortable during the detoxification process.

What Inpatient Heroin Addiction Programs Have to Offer

Although it’s possible to treat heroin addiction with outpatient programming, the majority consensus is that inpatient treatment is the most effective and offers patients the greatest chances of achieving lasting sobriety. In an inpatient heroin addiction treatment program, the addict will live on-site within the residential facility for the duration of the program, which can last between a month and up to several months.

Each day, a patient will participate in several hours of treatments and therapies. Individual counseling and psychotherapy is a major part of recovery programming as it allows patients to work with their counselors to identify some of the underlying factors that contributed to the development of their addictions, which is helpful because the therapist can teach the patient tools and strategies to prevent those factors from causing a relapse in the future.

Another major part of addiction recovery programs is group therapy. More often than not, these group sessions are educational in nature, allowing patients to learn a variety of skills—stress and anger management, life skills, relapse prevention, and so on—that will reinforce their newfound sobriety. Many facilities, especially the luxury facilities and those that offer above-average amenities, will offer a variety of complementary and supplemental treatments with which patients can personalize the recovery experience so that it addresses each person’s distinct needs and preferences.

Using Medications in the Treatment of Heroin Addiction

As mentioned previously, there are some instances when medications may be used during addiction recovery treatment. This might be confusing to those who associate addiction recovery with the cessation of any type of substance use, but there are a number of instances when medications might be used during the recovery process. One of the most common instances is during detox treatment when a patient might require medications to alleviate severe withdrawal.

Some facilities incorporate the use of buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) during the treatment process, which helps to alleviate post-acute withdrawal while individuals are in treatment. For dual-diagnosis patients—which refers to those who suffer from a co-occurring, or co-morbid, mental or emotional disorder—it may be necessary to include medications as a means of addressing symptoms that might otherwise cause a relapse.

Why Planning Aftercare Is Important to Recovery

As part of the intake process, many drug rehabs will help a patient to plan for his or her continued recovery and aftercare. The recovery process differs substantially from one person to the next since every addict’s needs are different. It’s almost always encouraged for individuals to continue participating in some level of treatment even after they’ve completed their inpatient programs.

For some, this might mean living in a transitional living facility for a period of time. Others might choose to begin an intensive outpatient treatment as a stepping stone between inpatient treatment and becoming solely accountable for sustaining one’s sobriety.

It’s also very common for recovering addicts to find and join twelve-step support groups as a means of continuing their recovery treatment, which can also offer these individuals a sense of community and belonging.

Need to Treat Heroin Addiction? Call Us Now

The journey from addiction to recovery differs for everyone since what works best for one individual might not be optimal for others. Finding the right drug rehab and choosing the right treatments is a very personal process that requires knowledge of addiction recovery, one’s own needs, and determination to rehabilitation.

If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about heroin addiction treatment or other types of chemical dependency, Drug Treatment Center Finder is here to help. Call us now at 855-619-8070 for a free consultation and assessment with one of our recovery specialists. A new life of health and happiness is just one phone call away.

Add a comment