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How do you help someone who is addicted to heroin?

There are a variety of effective treatment options for heroin addiction, and it is often a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.  There are many things that a family can do to help, such as learning what they can about the addiction and how heroin works. They can also hold a drug intervention, which is the most successful way to help a heroin addict understand the importance of treatment.  The family should take the time to identify inpatient heroin treatment options and speak to their insurance provider to find out if they have coverage. The intervention process will transport the addict to treatment and ensure they get started on their program. Treating a heroin addiction first requires addressing the physical dependency, which is done through medical detox.

Heroin creates a strong neurological and psychological impact and essentially rewrites the brain’s perceptions of pleasure, reward and the anticipation of reward.  The medical detox process entails reducing the amount of heroin someone consumes while controlling the withdrawal symptoms. A detox program will not administer heroin to a patient but will provide other medications to alleviate withdrawal pain.  The withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, muscle cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting, cravings for heroin, and suicidal thoughts. Medically assisted detox is essential and is the first step during the treatment process. Inpatient medical detox allows for this type of care.

Some heroin addicts will try medication-assisted treatment, which is a detox process using suboxone and or buprenorphine during detox and then into therapy.  Medication-assisted treatment services are only effective when done with behavioral therapy. The detox process will often use medication because it is a medically supervised detox.  However, the use of medication during therapy is to help manage cravings, but an addict should explore options when they do not have to rely on drugs. If a heroin addict does not choose medication-assisted treatment, there are inpatient and outpatient drug rehab services across the nation to help.  Residential drug rehab programs provide better treatment options to help someone who is addicted to heroin.

Residential drug rehab provides everything that a patient will need while at treatment.  Heroin addicts require lengthy treatment to ensure all aspects of the addiction are treated properly.  Outpatient drug rehab can work, but this would depend if the addiction was not severe and did not require long-term inpatient care.  When residential drug rehab is complete, aftercare programs are an excellent option to provide further treatment and time to re-build a life after addiction.  Aftercare programs such as sober living homes can help recovering heroin addicts continue to work on his or her sobriety. Much of this process is finding new work, meeting sober people, and staying connected to peer support groups and other sober people.

Heroin Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation

Heroin and opioid abuse continue to contribute to the number of overdose deaths occurring throughout the United States. According to an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, drug overdose deaths head toward record number in 2020.  Within the first three months of 2020, an estimated 19,416 people died of a drug overdose. It is estimated that over 75,500 overdose deaths occurred in the 12 months between March 2019 and March 2020, an increase of 10%. If the increased rate for drug overdose deaths holds, the United States is on track to reach a new all-time record for overdose fatalities within a calendar year.

Countless people overdose due to heroin and other opioids, and it is essential for these individuals to get the help they need. The first step with treatment for heroin addiction is medical detox. Heroin withdrawal symptoms may only last a week or so, but the symptoms can be serious. Withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cravings for drugs
  • Anxiety and depression

Medical detox uses a process of withdrawal management and medication to control and ease symptoms. The purpose of to help the addict transition safely from medical detox to inpatient rehabilitation. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within six to twelve hours after stopping the use of heroin. Within one to three days, the withdrawal symptoms peak, and after about one week, the withdrawal symptoms subside. However, symptoms can persist for weeks or even months if further help is not gotten.

Medically supervised detox should not be considered the only approach used for treatment because it will not provide adequate counseling and therapy. Residential rehabilitation programs offer everything needed onsite and long-term treatment is usually the better option. Long-term rehabilitation usually lasts three to six months or longer, but every treatment center is different from the next. Counseling methodologies include traditional and non-traditional approaches and evidence-based therapy.

The biggest hurdle for heroin addicts to overcome is the psychological craving and lingering physical cravings. Aftercare support is important and a focus on physical health. Aftercare support could include 12-step support groups or other peer support organizations. Recovery takes time, and it is important to stay connected to other sober people.


Heroin Addiction Family Intervention

The process of convincing someone addicted to heroin they need help usually involves a family intervention. Intervention can motivate someone to seek help for heroin addiction. It is challenging to help a loved one struggling with any type of addiction. However, hiring a professional interventionist does ensure the process is done right. People who struggle with addiction are often in denial about their situation and unwilling to seek treatment. They may not recognize the negative effects their behaviors have on themselves and others.

Family intervention is a carefully planned process that is done with an interventionist and the help of family and friends. The purpose of the intervention and tough love is to persuade the addict to accept treatment. A family intervention provides specific examples of destructive behavior and its impact on the family and addict. The result of an intervention is an addict accepting treatment or facing the consequences of not taking the help.

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