The United States is currently a victim of an opioid overdose epidemic. Many people’s physical reliance on opioids starts with prescription pain medications. In many cases, people suffering from prescription opioid addiction transition to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative.
Heroin addiction does not always result in long-term or permanent physical and psychological damage. If you or someone you know needs treatment for heroin, the time to reach out for help is now. Kingsway’s heroin detox in NJ offers world-class treatment, and we have experience in dealing with severe substance abuse and withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid that comes from morphine. Morphine is a natural substance that comes from the opium poppy plant. Heroin can be a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance, known as black tar heroin. It can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked.
Heroin is highly addictive because it alters the chemicals in the brain. Often, regular users develop a tolerance, which means that they need more and more of the drug to get the high they used to get when they first started using. And heroin is one of the most difficult substances to break away from.
Signs of Heroin Abuse
Signs of heroin addiction can include:
- Slurred speech
- Constricted pupils
- Drowsiness or agitation
- Needle marks (if injecting)
- Nose sores or runny nose (if snorting it)
- Changes in appearance or lack of personal hygiene
- Money problems like missing money or needing more without a logical reason
- Behavior changes like aggression or secrecy
- Building a tolerance for the drug
- Problems in school or at work
- Risky or dangerous behavior
- Reduced sensations of pain
- Problems with memory
Early on, there might not be any signs of a substance use disorder. This is particularly true if the person takes great measures to hide their use. But as heroin use increases, it gets harder to hide. One of the distinctive signs of addiction is the individual’s inability to stop despite multiple attempts and numerous negative consequences of using heroin.
What Makes Heroin Addictive?
Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid that attaches to the receptors in the brain to release the chemical dopamine. It doesn’t matter how you got the heroin into your body, it gets to the brain quickly. Your body sends the heroin along pathways in the brain where it enters the brain rapidly and increases the activity of the reward pathway by increasing the transmission of dopamine.
Dopamine is used by your nervous system to send messages between nerve cells. Dopamine plays a part in how we experience pleasure and pain. The user may think and walk slowly. The whole world slows down for them. Since heroin blocks your brain from getting pain messages and slows your heart rate and breathing, if you overdose, you may die.
In many cases, heroin users develop a tolerance. This means that they need more and more of the drug to get the high they used to get when they first started using. Most people who use heroin are aware of the risks but are unable to stop using it. This is what makes a professional heroin addiction treatment center so important for long-term recovery.
Who is at Risk for Heroin Addiction?
Anyone who uses opioids (such as heroin) takes the risk of developing an opioid use disorder. Still, there are factors that increase the risk of developing a heroin use disorder. Some of those risk factors include:
- Heavy use of tobacco
- History of severe depression or anxiety
- Openness to high-risk environments and people
- A family or personal history of substance abuse
- History of risk-taking behavior
It should be noted, however, that even if you or someone you care about has one or many of the risk factors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Addiction has many aspects, including genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
How is Heroin Addiction Diagnosed?
When diagnosing any SUD, including opioid abuse, there must be a complete examination and assessment by an addiction psychiatrist or psychologist. In some states, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor may make the diagnosis.
Along with a clinical interview, lab tests such as blood and urine tests are also used. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is addicted to heroin, you need to talk to a medical professional. A licensed drug or alcohol counselor, a social worker, an M.D., or a psychiatrist will be able to help you get the help you need.
What Are Short- and Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use?
The short-term effects of heroin use include:
- Dry mouth
- Warm skin flush
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heaviness in arms in legs
- Issues with mental health
- Going “on the nod” (This is a state of going in and out of consciousness.)
The long-term effects of heroin use include:
- Collapsed veins
- Liver and kidney disease
- Infections in the heart lining and valves
- Mental health disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
- Sexual dysfunction for men
- Lung complications
An overdose occurs when a person uses enough heroin to cause a life-threatening reaction or death. When an individual overdoses on heroin, breathing slows down or may even stop. This limits the amount of oxygen that can reach the brain. This condition is called hypoxia. Hypoxia has short- and long-term effects on the brain and the nervous system, including coma and permanent damage to mental health.
Sometimes heroin is laced with other drugs. A rise in overdose deaths began in 2014 is believed to be due to heroin being laced with the painkiller fentanyl. And, although it’s illegal, traffickers have intensified their production and increased the amount smuggled into the U.S. just to meet the demand for the product.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
You may wonder, ‘Is there a cure for heroin addiction?’ Unfortunately, there is no one perfect cure for any drug addiction, but there are several effective treatments available. The types of treatments used depends on:
- The individual
- The substance used
- Co-occurring medical conditions
Both behavioral (therapy) and pharmacological (medication-assisted treatment) methods help restore some degree of normalcy to brain function and behavior. Both treatments are helpful when used alone, but combining both types of treatment with the supervision of professionals is the most successful approach. A professional heroin addiction treatment center such as Kingsway Recovery can help an individual find long-term recovery.
For many people, trying to stop and failing makes them feel worse about themselves, which makes trying again that much harder. However, it’s important for them to know that they are not the problem. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and set in quickly because of how fast the body becomes dependent on the drug. Because of this, treatment for heroin must include a full range of care to offer the best possible chance at recovery.
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Symptoms typically begin in the first 24 hours after you stop using the drug and include:
- Aching muscles
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent yawning
After the first day, more severe symptoms may appear. They include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils and blurry vision
- Nausea and vomiting
Symptoms will usually start to diminish within 72 hours. The more severe symptoms may require hospitalization and medications. The most common medications prescribed for heroin withdrawal are Suboxone and Clonidine. For long-term maintenance, methadone may be necessary.
Treatment After Detox
Medications such as buprenorphine and naloxone are useful during medication-assisted treatment. These medications work by attaching to the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin does. The important difference is that they are less likely to create the same harmful behaviors typical of most substance use disorders.
There are three types of medications:
- Opioid Agonists: Agonists activate the same opioid receptors in the brain. Methadone is a slow-acting agonist and is only available through approved outpatient treatment programs. Lofexidine is also in this drug class.
- Partial agonists: They also activate the receptors but only produce a limited response. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist that relieves drug cravings without causing high or dangerous side effects.
- Antagonists: Antagonists block the receptor and prevent the rewarding effects of opioids. Naltrexone is one of those drugs. It blocks the action of opioids, is not addictive or sedating, and doesn’t cause physical dependence.
Behavioral Therapy at a Heroin Addiction Treatment Center
There are a variety of behavioral treatments that are used for heroin use disorder. And they are effective in residential and outpatient treatment programs. Some of these therapies are:
Individual and Group Therapy
These mental health therapies help the individual recognize their personal triggers for drug use. This includes any issues that might be causing emotional discomfort. Groups can help a person build coping skills and help discover ways to deal with a relapse.
Contingency management uses a voucher system whereby patients can earn points based on clean drug tests, attendance at 12-step meetings, or any other desirable positive behaviors. The points earned can be redeemed for things that encourage healthy living, such as a gym membership, dinner at a local restaurant, etc.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT was developed to help adjust the patient’s expectations and behavior as it relates to drug use. It also helps increase skills in coping with various life stressors by realizing how negative thoughts and behaviors are connected.
Your Future Begins Here
So how does the future look for a person who is addicted to heroin? Well, it is a serious condition, but it doesn’t have to be permanent or even long-term. And research shows that it is possible to have a successful recovery even if the person is reluctant to go to a heroin addiction treatment center. No one has to wait to “hit bottom” before getting help.
The scientific evidence is in. The combination of medical and therapy treatment can give you or a loved one with SUD a chance at a long healthy life. And to help remove the stigma felt by people who receive substance abuse treatment, federal rules have been enacted governing confidentiality and disclosure of patient records.
Get Help From the Heroin Addiction Treatment Center at Kingsway Recovery
Now you know that this can’t be handled at home. Kingsway Recovery center in New Jersey has the experienced, knowledgeable, and caring staff you need and deserve to make that desire to overcome your addiction happen for you. Heroin addiction is a serious disease that can’t be allowed to ruin your future. Contact us now to begin your journey to freedom.