Into Action Recovery Centers works with addicts to offer high-quality, individualized treatment for heroin addiction. Beginning with our admissions screening, we will work with you to develop an effective addiction treatment program. Our compassionate, professional staff is supported by a range of treatment options, from heroin detox and long-term residential programs to outpatient treatment and support programs.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid made from morphine, a natural chemical that is extracted from the seed pod of opium poppy plants. As a drug, heroin can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked. Like man-made prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain and quickly delivers a short-lived surge of pleasure.
Heroin is experiencing increased usage due to the popularity of club drugs such as Ecstacy and the availability of smokeable and snortable forms of the drug. The drug is also known as Big H, Black Tar, Brown Sugar, Dope, and Junk. Its increased accessibility, ease of usage, and social acceptance of club drugs have resulted in a new generation of heroin addicts. According to the CDC, in 2018, about 15,000 people died from a heroin overdose in the U.S.
Short and Long Term Effects of Heroin Use
Heroin is highly addictive, and regular users can quickly develop a tolerance that requires them to increase the amount of the drug they take. Heroin use can result in a range of short and long-term effects on the body. Initially, users may experience:
- dry mouth
- warm flushing of the skin
- heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- nausea and vomiting
- severe itching
- clouded mental functioning
- going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious
When heroin use is ongoing, the side effects can include:
- collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
- damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort the drug
- infection of the heart lining and valves
- abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
- constipation and stomach cramping
- liver and kidney disease
- lung complications, including pneumonia
- mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
- sexual dysfunction for men
- irregular menstrual cycles for women
Heroin Overdose and Treatment
When someone takes an overdose of heroin, their breathing can slow or even stop. As a result of this change in their breathing, the individual may deprive their brain of oxygen, causing hypoxia. This condition affects the nervous system, resulting in a coma or even permanent brain damage. Death is also possible with a heroin overdose.
Should a person overdose on heroin, the prescription medicine naloxone can be used as a treatment. It is available as an injectable or a nasal spray. To be effective, naloxone must be given to the person quickly. Sometimes, the individual may even need more than one dose. Naloxone binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, blocking how heroin and other opioids affect the body. Even if someone who has overdosed responds to naloxone, they should still be taken to an emergency department or to see a doctor immediately in case they require additional medical attention.
Heroin Detox Program
There are a variety of treatments for heroin addiction, including behavioral counseling and medication-assisted treatment (MAT), that have been proven to be helpful, particularly when used for a pre-determined period of time. Detoxing from heroin is only the first stage of treatment.
What To Expect During Detox For Heroin
Heroin is one of the most potent illicit drugs used for recreational purposes. Even after a few uses, the drug quickly builds up in the body and starts to alter how the brain works. Eventually, the brain and body become dependent on heroin and need regular doses of the drug to function normally. When individuals decide to quit heroin, the brain and body have to relearn how to function without the drug. This process, also known as detoxification, can be challenging, but knowing what to expect can give you insight into what the process is like.
What Happens During Heroin Detox?
Detoxification is the process in which the body metabolizes and removes drugs and alcohol from its system. Even though detox is a necessary part of recovery from heroin, the process can be uncomfortable. Here’s what generally happens.
As you begin the detoxification process, expect a physical and psychological examination. The purpose of the exam is to assess your current health, determine your specific detox and recovery needs, and develop an effective treatment plan. During the exam, trained medical professionals will ask questions about your medical history, mental health, and substance use habits. Expect to have exams such as an X-ray, electrocardiogram, urine, and blood test. By the time the evaluation is complete, you may be experiencing some withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal
Being addicted to heroin changes the brain’s natural chemical balance, forcing the brain to adjust to the presence of heroin. When an individual stops using heroin, the brain has to readjust again. The resulting high levels of adrenaline can trigger physical and psychological symptoms.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be different for everyone, but approximately 6 hours after the last use, the following symptoms might emerge:
- Runny nose
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pains
- Excessive yawning
- Excessive sweating
- Mood swings
- Inability to focus or concentrate
After 3 to 5 days, you may start to experience more intense symptoms that can include:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- High blood pressure
- Hot and cold flashes
Since these symptoms can be quite uncomfortable, medical professionals diligently work to help stabilize the brain. Again, we strongly discourage individuals from undergoing the heroin withdrawal and detox process on their own.
Medication Assisted Treatment For Heroin
Stabilization helps the brain and body relearn how to function without drugs or alcohol. This phase of the detoxification process can take some time, but medication can help speed up and ease the process.
For some individuals, medication-assisted treatment can be especially helpful in managing their withdrawal symptoms when they are first trying to stop using heroin. These medications work on the same opioid receptors in the brain but do not cause the same harmful effects that heroin can. There are three types of effective medications:
- Agonists, like methadone, that activate opioid receptors
- Partial agonists that activate opioid receptors but with less of a response, such as buprenorphine
- Antagonists, such as naltrexone, that block opioid receptors so they don’t create a reward effect at all
Some of the most common medications used for heroin detox include:
- Clonidine, which helps treat high blood pressure. Clonidine can also help alleviate anxiety, cramping, muscle aches, agitation, runny nose, and sweating.
- Buprenorphine, which helps treat severe withdrawal symptoms and shortens the length of detox by reducing the euphoric effects of heroin and decreasing cravings.
- Codeine phosphate, which can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Methadone, which can help prevent withdrawal symptoms. However, because methadone can be addictive, doctors use it sparingly.
Heroin Addiction Treatment Program
After the heroin detox process is complete and the brain has stabilized, it’s time to prepare for addiction treatment. The individual will need to decide between inpatient or outpatient care.
During this phase, the next component of heroin treatment begins which often includes behavioral therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and counseling sessions that can help motivate you to enroll in a professional treatment program for addiction.
Behavioral therapy works to help the individual change their thinking and behaviors, especially those that are related to drug use while increasing their coping skills to better manage stress and relapse triggers.
Here at Into Action Recovery Centers, we offer:
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization program
- Intensive outpatient program
- Extended care programs
The final component of effective heroin addiction treatment is ongoing aftercare and follow-ups, including incorporating peer support groups as part of an ongoing recovery process. This plays a large role in the effectiveness of a person’s treatment and their ability to maintain their sobriety long-term. Research shows that the vast majority of people who relapse do so within the first year. Surrounding themselves with a strong support system can help them stave off relapse.
At Into Action Recovery, we are sensitive to the different paths that can lead to heroin addiction, and we work with each addicted person to develop a custom treatment program to provide them with the best opportunity for success.
Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. Our center is conveniently located in Houston, Texas, and is led by experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals who specialize in personalized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
If you’re ready to take the next steps on your recovery journey, we’re ready to help.
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Please call us to see if your HMO, PPO, or EPO insurance plan will cover your treatment. Or ask us about our affordable self-pay plans.