Teen Heroin Addiction

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Heroin, an opioid made from morphine, is an extremely addictive substance. Heroin use has risen significantly in the past decade, with about 475,000 heroin users (aged 12 or older) in 2016. It is an illegal drug and classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Despite the dangers associated with its use, the number of overdoses and deaths has increased in recent years.

Heroin users often feel a sense of euphoria or rush that is usually followed by a state of sleep and wakefulness. When awake, a person may feel confused and suffer from poor memory, decision-making and self-control abilities. Some of the common names of heroin in street parlance are Horse, Black Tar, Hell dust, Junk, Smack and Thunder. Typically sold as a white or brownish powder, or as a black sticky substance, heroin can be injected, smoked or snorted.

Heroin users, over a period of time, develop tolerance to the drug and crave for larger doses to achieve the same state of ‘bliss’ which they experienced when they first began using it. The drug is often injected intravenously, increasing the risk for blood-borne communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Chronic users may also suffer from liver and kidney disease, abscesses, pneumonia and infection of the heart lining and valves.

Perils of addiction

Perhaps the most noticeable effects of heroin abuse are its consequences on one’s behavior and interpersonal relationships. Heroin binds itself to various opioid receptors, especially the ones that promote feelings of pain and pleasure, sleep and breathing.  Because of this, the user’s reward system is considerably affected, often leading to loss of motivation and apathy toward once enjoyable activities and relationships. This can make intervention and recovery difficult for heroin users.

A fast-acting opiate, regular heroin usage leads to tolerance of the drug and uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior despite the consequences. This soon turns into physical dependence and addiction.

When the body is depleted of the drug, it can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms. Though they are not life-threatening, they can be extremely uncomfortable. The length of the withdrawal depends on the dosage, frequency and duration of heroin abuse. The discomfort further compels individuals to use the drug just to relieve the withdrawal symptoms, resulting in a vicious cycle of misuse and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, bone pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and headaches. A medically supervised detox program at well-equipped heroin detox centers can help manage the discomfort, overcome addiction and reduce a chance of relapse.

Symptoms of addiction

Short-term use of heroin can lead to problems like nausea and vomiting. However, there are other signs and symptoms as well, including:

  • Skin infections
  • Slowed breathing
  • Itching
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Dry mouth

Long-term abuse of heroin causes reproductive problems, persistent mental health issues, and risk of infectious diseases. The drug-seeker faces problems in personal, profession and social life, along with undergoing financial and legal issues.

Treatment for heroin addiction

Medication-assisted therapy is a common method of treating opioid addiction. Methadone, Naltrexone and Suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing the side effects of withdrawal and curbing cravings which often lead to relapse. Methadone is an opioid agonist that binds to the same receptors as heroin, resulting in a similar high. The amount of methadone is slowly tapered over time, but many patients have reported getting addicted to methadone, resulting in a vicious cycle.

In 2002, other treatment options besides methadone were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat the heroin epidemic. FDA approved use of the combination of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) to manage opioid dependence. This combination medication is known as a partial opioid agonist/antagonist and antagonist combined. Naltrexone is a well-known opioid antagonist used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It was first introduced in clinical trials in 1973. Specifically, Naltrexone is used to prevent relapse. It is extremely important that the body is completely free of opioids because administration of Naltrexone can result in severe withdrawal effects, as the medication targets elimination of all opioids from the body. Vivitrol is the injectable form of Naltrexone that can be administered on a monthly basis. Most drug-rehabilitation facilities offer at least one of these treatment options. A comprehensive treatment for heroin addiction consists of a medically supervised detoxification treatment followed by behavioral therapies or counseling sessions

Heroin addiction recovery requires pharmacological treatment that can be obtained at certified addiction treatment or rehab centers and behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), neurofeedback, cognitive remediation, dialectal behavior therapy, and group and individualized therapy.

Why choose Sovereign Health

At Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego, we have extensive experience in dealing with heroin and all other forms of opioid addiction. Our team of experienced behavioral health professionals keeps abreast of the latest breakthroughs in opioid research, and administers state-of-the-art treatment for sustained recovery.

A dually licensed and Joint Commission accredited facility for substance abuse and mental health, Sovereign Health provides customized treatment plans as per the specific needs of the young patients. Heroin detox treatment is followed by psychotherapies and evidence-based treatment modalities including CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), neurofeedback, and experiential therapies like equine therapy, art therapy and music therapy.

Our facility also offers therapies for family, individual and group settings to maximize the chances of recovery and help them remain connected to their loved ones. If you know someone who is seeking treatment for heroin addiction, please call us at our 24/7 helpline and speak to a member of our admissions team. You can even chat online with a representatives for further assistance.

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