Teen Addicts Aren’t Getting Medications for Heroin Withdrawal

Teen addicts battling heroin withdrawal may not be getting the full addiction treatment they need, according to recent reports in the Journal of Adolescent Health. While 26 percent of adult patients addicted to heroin receive medication during treatment, only 2 percent of adolescents do, according to MedPage Today.

Teen Addicts Face Obstacles to Get Methadone, Suboxone

In 2013, Kenneth Feder and his research team at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore composited data of 139,092 people receiving addiction treatment in publicly funded programs in the US. They found several obstacles that prevented teen addicts from receiving medication-assisted treatment, unlike their adult counterparts.

Despite doctors being advised to consider Suboxone treatment services for adolescents with “severe opioid use disorders” by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016, Medicaid rules dictate that Suboxone may only be prescribed to patients age 16 and older, who also must have a waiver to receive the medication.

Other setbacks teen addicts face during treatment: Methadone is not offered in every treatment detox center; and even in places where it is offered, patients under age 18 will be required to have a waiver to receive methadone treatment. Though similar to Suboxone regulations, teen addicts have to jump through two more hoops to receive methadone, according to Medicaid rules, in that “adolescents with opiate addiction must have failed treatment twice in order to be prescribed methadone.”

“These treatments may not be covered by a state’s Medicaid program,” said Feder in MedPage Today. “And if they are medically necessary, we think they should be covered by a state’s Medicaid program.”

Heroin Addiction and Heroin Withdrawal

More than 500,000 Americans are addicted to heroin, an illegal opioid drug derived from morphine that is often mixed with other substances or stronger opioids, such as fentanyl. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6,000 teenagers and 155,000 young adults had a heroin disorder in 2015.

Many people addicted to heroin turned to the street drug after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, which currently affects more than 2 million people in the United States. Others, like teenagers, started to use the drug after experiencing peer pressure or the desire to be popular and hip with their peers. Teen heroin users have been known to try “cheese heroin,” a mixture of black tar Mexican heroin and Tylenol PM, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.

Some heroin users will survive the wild ride of their addiction and decide to end it once and for all. However, the struggle doesn’t end when people decide to quit heroin. Heroin withdrawal can be an excruciatingly painful process, which is the root of most addicts’ fears and the reason why a person may be hesitant in quitting their drug use. It’s because of heroin withdrawal that birthed the term “cold turkey,” the act of abruptly stopping the intake of a substance, but like with other addiction withdrawals such as alcohol, heroin withdrawal can have life-threatening symptoms.

This is why it is necessary for teen addicts and any client who needs them to have maintenance medications be administered during the treatment process. So if you or a loved one begins to show signs of heroin withdrawal, seek treatment immediately.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Impaired respiration
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

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Staff writer :