Heroin use has risen greatly over the past decade, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that heroin abuse increased by 63 percent between 2002 and 2013. The number of overdoses has increased as well, further raising the death toll of this drug. This also marks the rising need for heroin addiction treatment.

Heroin is an opioid that is listed as a Scheduled I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, due to its highly addictive and lethal nature. Heroin itself can cause respiratory depression, pinpoint pupils, constipation, pruritis and a very strong dependence and addiction. Heroin is often injected intravenously increasing the risk for bloodborne communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

The Effects of Heroin Use

Perhaps the most noticeable effects of heroin abuse are the consequences it has on one’s attitude and interpersonal relationships. Because of heroin’s effects on neurotransmitters and opioid receptors in the brain, the user’s reward system is considerably affected, often leading to a loss of motivation as well as apathy toward once enjoyable activities and relationships. This and other factors can make intervention and recovery difficult for heroin users.

After prolonged use, a larger amount of heroin is needed each time to attain a high. When the body is depleted of heroin, physical withdrawal symptoms can occur and, although not life threatening, these symptoms are extremely uncomfortable. This discomfort compels individuals to use the drug just to relieve the withdrawal symptoms, resulting in a vicious addiction cycle. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, bone pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Quitting heroin use is extremely difficult because of the withdrawal effects caused by this addictive substance.

Medication For Heroin Addiction Treatment

Many pharmacological agents that work on the same opioid receptors as heroin are used to aid in heroin addiction treatment. Agonists are agents that are similar in structure and function to the actual drug, whereas antagonists act on the same receptor as the drug but block the drug from binding to its receptor, thereby inhibiting its effects. Methadone, naltrexone and Suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing the side effects of withdrawal and curbing cravings which can lead to relapse.

Treatment For Heroin Addiction

Treating opioid addiction with medication-assisted therapy has been ongoing for over thirty years. Initially methadone, which is a type of opioid, was the treatment of choice for opioid addiction. This opioid agonist binds to the same receptors as heroin, resulting in a similar high. The amount of methadone is slowly tapered over time, but many patients will become addicted to methadone, resulting in another addiction cycle.

In 2002, options besides methadone were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat the heroin epidemic. The FDA approved the 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. It acts by blocking opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Naltrexone is a well-known opioid antagonist used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It was first introduced in clinical trials for opioid addiction treatment in 1973. Specifically, naltrexone is used to prevent relapse after the withdrawal from opioids. It is extremely important that the body is completely free of opioids, because when naltrexone is administered, severe withdrawal effects will occur, as this medication will act to eliminate all opioids in 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.

Heroin addiction recovery can be a long journey that requires both pharmacological treatment that can be obtained at heroin addiction treatment centers and heroin drug rehab centers. Behavioral therapy – such as cognitive behavioral therapy, neurofeedback, cognitive remediation, dialectal behavior therapy, and group and individualized therapy – can also aid in the heroin addiction recovery when used in conjunction with pharmacological therapy.

Treatment For Heroin Addiction at 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, staying on the cutting edge of addiction treatment and recovery.

We have integrated a host of holistic therapies into our arsenal of treatments for addiction and co-occurring disorders. Our facility also offers therapy in family, individual and group settings to maximize the chances of patients connecting with their treatment. If you or a loved one is seeking heroin addiction recovery, please contact us at our 24/7 helpline.

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