The Need for Heroin Addiction Treatment
Heroin addiction has skyrocketed in recent years. The drug’s popularity has waxed and waned in previous decades, but the last 10 years have given way to unprecedented levels of addiction. The need for effective heroin addiction treatment programs is more important today than ever before. But unfortunately, many addicts are never able to get the help that they need. Deaths related to heroin overdoses have climbed more than 275% between 2002 and 2013, with 8,200 Americans losing their lives to heroin overdoses just in 2013.
Reaching out to those in need of heroin addiction treatment and showing them that change is possible is crucial. Understanding that there are resources available can make the difference between life and death, and connecting the addict with those resources will save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Just as importantly as understanding help is available, those searching for treatment need to understand what effective treatment consists of. Properly arming the addict and their family with the facts will give them the ability able to sort through the thousands of treatment programs and find the one that is best suited for them.
In order to help you, a family member, or a loved one, this article will explain what you should expect during heroin addiction treatment. We will also explain what treatment consists of, some of the most helpful, evidence-based methods of treatment, and certain things to look for in a treatment program. Lastly, we’ll explain different methods of staying connected and participating in your recovery after completing treatment.
What to Look For
Before we explain the different phases of a heroin addiction treatment, we would like to make a few important points on what to look for in a treatment program. Finding the most appropriate treatment program for your needs is essential to your recovery. In order to do that, we need to establish what those needs are. Be sure to take the following information into account:
- Heroin-specific treatment. First of all, look for a program that specifically focuses on the treatment of heroin addiction, as opposed to a program that just provides generalized treatment strategies.
- Medication assisted treatment. Most heroin-specific treatment programs utilize medication assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medication and evidence-based strategies treatment strategies. These medications generally include naltrexone, suboxone, subutex, and/or buprenorphine, and help to reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal, and can even prevent the client from getting high should they relapse.
- Co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder is the presence of a mental health issue in addition to an addiction. Overcoming an addiction during heroin addiction treatment depends on addressing the additional disorder as well as the addiction. Failing to identify and respond to any mental health issues could result in relapse in an attempt to self-medicate.
The first phase in the heroin addiction treatment process generally begins with detox. Heroin is physically addicting, and will cause extremely unpleasant side effects in users when they make the decision to stop abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms are similar to a very bad case of the flu, and include nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking, and debilitating muscle cramps.
A treatment program must first address and alleviate these symptoms before the addict can participate in treatment. In order to do this, most treatment programs utilize a medical detox, which provides the client with medication and medical supervision during their withdrawal. A doctor will prescribe medications to reduce their symptoms, and continually monitor the client as they progress through their withdrawal. Medications will not completely alleviate their withdrawal symptoms, but the use of a medical detox during heroin addiction treatment will greatly reduce their discomfort.
After completing their detox, the client will then transition into a residential treatment program.
Residential Heroin Addiction Treatment
A residential treatment program will provide the client with the skills and insight they need in order to remain clean. Their approaches will differ depending on the treatment program, but most programs use therapy as their primary means to address the client’s patterns of substance abuse. Client’s generally meet individually with a therapist, and have the opportunity to discuss anything relevant to their addiction.
In addition to a therapist, most programs provide the client with a case manager or client advocate. This person assures that the client’s needs are being met, and is always available to help the client with anything they need.
Although each therapist will approach their task from a different orientation, one of the most effective therapeutic strategies in heroin addiction treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This evidence-based therapeutic orientation shows the client how to address and work through thoughts and behaviors that encourage their addiction.
Staying connected and continuing to work on your sobriety are both incredibly important after completing a residential heroin addiction treatment program. Although you have graduated from your program, you haven’t graduated from being an addict, and we strongly suggest continuing to participate in some sort of treatment.
There are many ways to stay connected and continue to recover. We aren’t here to promote a particular philosophy or agenda, just to stress the importance of participating in some sort of therapeutic outlet. Recovering from an addiction is a lifelong process, and recovering addicts must continue to address their addiction and their recovery after treatment.
There are many different resources you can utilize after a residential heroin addiction treatment program, including:
- 12 Step Groups
- Non 12 Step Recovery Groups
- Aftercare/Alumni Programs
- Outpatient Programs
Everyone has their own path, and some people find that church or therapy are sufficient to keep them focused on their sobriety. Some treatment programs offer strong aftercare and outpatient services, and if your treatment program has these then we suggest utilizing their supportive services. Others prefer to integrate themselves into a local 12 Step group after completing their residential heroin addiction treatment program, and have success through working the steps and attending meetings.
Whatever avenue you choose, it is your decision to make. Just make sure you continue to participate in your recovery, and reach out to the wide range of resources available to you in your local community.