People who abuse heroin are often self-medicating away psychiatric and physical pain.
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug which has a devastating impact on addicted individuals and society including :
- Disruptions in family, workplace, and educational environments;
- Social consequences such as crime, violence;
- Medical consequences including: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis;
- Symptoms of Addiction:
- Tolerance, or needing more and of the drug just to feel normal;
- Physical dependence resulting in withdrawal symptoms if opioids are abruptly stopped;
- Psychological dependence including craving drugs and addict behaviors
- How does Heroin Affect the brain?
- Heroin act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain involved in reward and pleasure. Using larger amounts increases the “high” but also the risk of overdose.
- The Dangers of Heroin-Opioid Use
- Heroin is very dangerous to adolescent brain development and can cause irreversible delays in brain maturation such as impaired cognitive, intellectual performance and social behavior.
- A high dose of heroin can cause death from cardiac or respiratory arrest when used alone or in combination with other drugs.
Tolerance to the euphoric effect of opiates develops faster than tolerance to the dangerous effects. Therefore, people often overdose by mistake because they are trying to get a higher high and take too much.
Those who are addicted to heroin and stop using the drug abruptly have severe withdrawal, known on the street as “Dope Sickness”.
Today we have excellent medications to help people comfortably and safely get off heroin and control the cravings to keep them off. Some of the medications stop the urges to use, others stop the pleasure from the high. Furthermore, medications can be used to minimize withdrawal symptoms and maximize comfort, eliminating the fears of being sick during withdrawal.
- When heroin is abruptly discontinued, symptoms of withdrawal appear. These include restlessness, irritability, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting cold flashes with goose bumps and severe drug cravings.
- Heroin withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, but unlike withdrawal from alcohol and sedatives such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates, it is not life threatening.
- The physical withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from one week to one month, and the emotional symptoms such as depression, low energy, anxiety and insomnia can last for several months. Psychological dependence can be a lifelong problem.
Heroin addiction often occurs when people try to “self-medicate” serious psychiatric illnesses. People with both Heroin Addiction and a Psychiatric Disorder are call Dual Diagnosis.
- Many people use heroin to cope with psychiatric problems. Long term, this will not work, but will makes matters worse;
- This is why diagnosing and treating co-occurring psychiatric problems is so important in Addiction Medicine;
- Addiction Recovery Models , must address both the Co-occurring psychiatric issues in order to be successful.
- Kittay’s Addiction and Psychiatry Model treats Dual Diagnosis and is effective.
Self-medicating with an opioid like heroin is a dangerous path, therefore, diagnosing and treating co-occurring psychiatric problems is essential to addiction recovery. The sooner one gets help with a qualified Addiction Medical Doctor, the sooner one can break the bonds of addiction.
Nearly all people who use Heroin, use at least one other substance; most have tried at least three.
Your Individual Evaluation & Treatment Plan for Heroin Addiction includes:
- Addiction, Medical and Psychiatric Evaluation;
- Medically Supervised Home Outpatient Detoxification;
- Evaluation and Treatment of Co-occurring Medical Disorders and Poly-Addictions;
- Maintenance Treatment with Suboxone, Subutex or Sublocade to manage cravings and prevent relapse;
- Vivitrol or Rivia to prevent cravings and addiction relapse;
- Medication Management of Anxiety, Sleep and/or Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorders;
- Cognitive Behavioral Restructuring of Stresses and Cues;
- Relapse Prevention.
The vast majority of heroin addictions can be safely and comfortably treated outpatient, and do not need inpatient care.
Treatments are individually tailored for safety, comfort and effectiveness to minimize withdrawal symptoms and avoid medical complications. Medications are prescribed to help prevent cravings, reduce use and prevent relapse. Medications target the brain’s reward systems, and the way nerve cells communicate restoring balance in brain chemistry. Psychiatric problems and symptoms are medically treated as necessary.