Heroin Addiction Treatment Center

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How to Treat Heroin Addiction: Detox, Withdrawal, and Rehab

This article aims to inform the reader about heroin addiction and the treatment for this addiction. It discusses the treatment process from detox to withdrawal and recovery.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opiate, chemically similar to both morphine and codeine. This addictive drug is a psychoactive substance extracted from the resin of the seed pod of the opium poppy plant.  It is a highly addictive substance that has been used as a painkiller for hundreds of years. 

The look and color of the drug vary on how it is made and what other substances are added to it, ranging from white to brown powder or a black sticky substance. Some of the street names for heroin are horse, smack, brown sugar, or junk. The drug has been classified as illegal in the United States since 1924.

The increase in the population’s use of heroin is related to the massive numbers of people misusing opioid pain killers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Those addicted to these two painkillers switch to heroin as it is cheaper, easier to obtain, and produces the same effect. This has led to both the increase in heroin use as well as deaths resulting from a heroin overdose.

How Is Heroin Used?

Heroin can be taken in several ways. It can be sniffed or snorted through the nose, injected into veins with a needle or syringe, smoked by heating it on tin foil and inhaling the fumes, or swallowed.Heroin is most often mixed with water and injected into a vein (intravenously) using a needle and syringe. The user may inject heroin several times a day. In some cases, heroin is combined with other drugs such as cocaine (“speedball”), tranquilizers, or alcohol which can be extremely dangerous.

Why Are More People Using Heroin?

In the United States, the number of people who use heroin has risen steadily since 2007. Two factors may be partly responsible for the increase in heroin use. First, a growing number of doctors are prescribing legal narcotics such as OxyContin and Percocet to treat pain. Often these drugs are not as effective as the patients had hoped, and they end up looking for a more powerful high.

The other factor is that heroin has become cheaper to buy on the street than prescription drugs. Furthermore, the availability on the street is easier without a prescription however, drug dealers usually mix the illegal narcotic with other substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. 

The ratio of these adulterants is unknown and the user is never quite sure what exactly they are taking or how strong it is. Between 2010 and 2017, the opioid overdose death rate increased nearly 400% because of the impure heroin laced with fentanyl.

What Are the Effects of Heroin?

The short-term effects of heroin, apart from the euphoric feeling, may include, dry mouth, upset stomach, nausea, breathing issues, sighing, headaches, constricted or pinpoint pupils, vomiting, itching, fuzzy brain, drowsiness, heavy limbs, and warm or flushed skin. 

The long term heroin effects range from skin infections (abscesses and cellulitis), insomnia, infections of the cardiac lining (pericarditis) and valves, liver and kidney disease, issues with the lungs (tuberculosis and pneumonia), menstrual issues, miscarriages, sexual problems in men, collapsed veins, constipation, arthritis, joint pains, depression or other mental health problems, and an increased chance of needle related diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV. 

The Various Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Genetic makeup, the amount of drug used, the frequency of use, and dependency on the drug results in different signs and symptoms in people. The most typical symptoms of heroin addiction include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding loved ones
  • Constricted pupils
  • Coughing up blood
  • Declining work or school performance
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Dry mouth
  • Euphoria
  • Extreme itching
  • Feeling nausea
  • Flushed skin
  • Forced, pressured speech
  • Frequent stomach cramps
  • Hallucinations
  • Hiding the drug
  • Hostility
  • Increased sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of  personal hygiene
  • Lying about drug use
  • Mood swings
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Overdressing in warm weather
  • Paranoia
  • Periods of exhaustion
  • Periods of hyperactivity 
  • Possession of pharepanelia
  • Respiratory infections
  • Scabs or bruises
  • Severe Itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Stealing
  • Track or needle marks
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Zoning out during conversations

Treatment of Heroin Addiction

The first step in heroin addiction treatment is detoxification. Also commonly called detox, this process of getting the body off heroin and the length of time varies but takes about a week. During this period, it takes some time for the brain to recognize that the drug is no longer present in the body and it fights back causing cravings. There is also nausea and vomiting. Other heroin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Chills and cold flashes
  • Jitters
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Trouble sleeping

Typically, the heroin withdrawal timeline is:

  • Withdrawal begins between six to twelve hours from the last intake
  • The peak for symptoms is between one to three days
  • The withdrawal starts to subside about a week later

Heroin withdrawal is a difficult process for many users and may result in relapse, or the return to use of heroin after an attempt at stopping. Heroin withdrawal symptoms are generally milder than morphine withdrawal symptoms. It is, however, a difficult process for many users and may result in relapse, or the return to use of heroin after an attempt at stopping. 

In an inpatients treatment facility such as West Valley Detox, medication, such as methadone and buprenorphine are given to help with heroin withdrawal symptoms during detox. These help to reduce the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms and in doing so, reduce the chances of relapse. Furthermore, around-the-clock treatment at a residential facility that provides counseling and other evidenced based therapy will help prolong heroin sobriety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches recovering users how to pay attention to the things thought about and done when it comes to drug use. It helps to better cope with stress and other triggers. 

The fully dedicated staff here at West Valley Detox has lots of experience helping individuals kick their heroin addiction and go on to live fulfilled sober lives. While initially, heroin causes a rush of pleasure, the negative consequences soon outweigh any sense of fleeting euphoria. We know how difficult it is to decide to get help, but it is a step in the right direction. Our amazing team of health professionals will get you through detox, set you up with an effective treatment plan, and teach you the skills you need to get back to a higher level of functioning.