Heroin addiction is a serious disease that claims thousands of lives every year. Many people believe that the first time a person takes heroin they will become hooked, but in reality this is rarely the case. In fact, prescription painkillers increasingly act as the gateway drug to heroin. Unfortunately, given it is such an addictive and potent drug, after switching to using heroin from opiate medications, it is difficult and rare to switch back.
Repeated use of heroin changes brain chemistry, creating long term chemical imbalances that are not easily reversable. When you use heroin, the drug enters the brain very quickly and binds to opioid receptors. This serves to increase feelings of relaxation, pleasure and euphoria, and blocks feelings of pain. It goes without saying that heroin is a highly addictive drug.
This is illustrated in a study published by British psychiatrist David Nutt and a team of addiction experts, who assessed the harm, dependence and potential misuse associated with 20 different substances. They found heroin to be the most addictive and harmful out of all the drugs in the study, with an alarmingly high rate of addiction: one in four individuals who try heroin then become addicted. Across the three categories assessed – physical harm, social harm, and dependence – heroin consistently scored highest across the board.
Not only does heroin create a physical dependence in the addict over time, tolerance to the drug also builds up very quickly. Tolerance means you need more and more of the drug to create a similar effect. If you’re addicted to heroin, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recover without some form of heroin addiction treatment. The safest option and your best chance at long lasting recovery, is a medically supervised residential detox, alongside treatment at a professional heroin rehab clinic.
So how do I stop?
Medical detoxification is the first step to start recovering from your addiction and to help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing from heroin involves switching from using the drug to a heroin substitute, and then gradually withdrawing from this substitute. Both Methadone and Buprenorphine (better known as Subutex) are used as substitutes, and help to reduce the withdrawal symptoms that are experienced during detox.
Think of detox as the first step in your recovery process: it is the foundation of your sobriety. By getting rid of all the drugs in your body, you are free to start your new life clean and sober. This is not to say it will be easy though. Detoxing from heroin is no mean feat and will require a lot of work and willingness on the part of the addict. It is a complicated process and is best overseen in a private drug rehab facility, with experienced staff who have the required knowledge and skillset.
With a highly addictive drug like heroin, and given the profound effect it has on brain function, withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and are often unpleasant both physically and psychologically. The intensity of symptoms and their duration will depend on the frequency, amount and length of time that an addict has been using.
Symptoms may include:
– Muscle and joint pain
– Restlessness and agitation
– Goose bumps
– Fever and chills
Both Methadone and Buprenorphine are opioids that are used as part of a heroin detox plan to treat heroin dependence. Different people react differently to medication, and so it is for your doctor and medical team to decide the correct detox regime for you. When doing so, your doctor will take into account a number of factors: the substances you have been using, your overall health, age, and any other health concerns they may have.
Methadone is an opioid drug that can help to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It provides relief in the same way that heroin can, but without the associated euphoria or ‘high’. The aim is to taper the doses of methadone over a specific period of time, allowing the addict to come off heroin entirely with as few withdrawal symptoms as possible.
Buprenorphine is also commonly used to treat heroin addiction, and is better known under the brand name Subutex. It is a partial opioid agonist, mimicking the effects that heroin has on the brain, by binding to the opioid receptors and producing similar effects. Crucially, it lacks heroin’s habit-forming properties, and doesn’t create the same highs, making it a suitable replacement drug that can encourage abstinence, reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.
When considering options for a heroin detox, it is important to remember that these are only short term solutions. What is paramount is that detox takes place within a safe, nurturing and supportive environment where the addict can address the underlying psychological and emotional issues that led to addiction in the first place. In most cases, a stay in a residential rehab is required, to not only break the cycle of addiction, but also to develop the necessary skills and coping mechanisms to stay stopped, and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. It is common for strong cravings for heroin to occur months after detox, hence why it is recommended that recovery take place within a residential rehab clinic.
We’re here to help
Drug addiction takes no prisoners and destroys everything in its path, and heroin is no exception. Heroin addiction doesn’t only wreak havoc on the life of the addict: it has a ripple effect on everyone around them too. Heroin addiction can be fatal, so we urge you to seek help now. The good news is, if you’re reading this, you probably want to stop and you know things have gone too far. Drug addiction is an incredibly lonely and isolating disease; so please know that there is help available and that you don’t have to suffer alone anymore.
If you or a loved one need a heroin detox, or would like more information on how to stop using and to start your journey of recovery, then please contact us today. You can speak to one of our expert team of addiction counsellors at the Providence Projects on 0800 955 0945. We are here to listen and to offer advice. We will talk you through your drug programme options: detox, family interventions, treatment programmes and bespoke solutions and therapies we can offer, as well as answering any other questions you may have about a residential stay the Providence Projects.
Please know that your life can change today and you can recover. As C.S. Lewis said: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”