Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and heroin addiction can be difficult to treat. Heroin is an opioid, meaning that it acts by attaching to nerve receptors in the brain, releasing large amounts of dopamine, and making the user want to repeat the experience one the effects wear off. Eventually a tolerance is built, and over time and repeated use, the neurons will begin to adapt and only function normally with the drug.
Heroin is a narcotic commonly used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Heroin can be inhaled (snorted), smoked and more typically injected into a vein. As a narcotic, heroin activates sleep-inducing properties, pain reduction and general euphoria.
According to The US National Library of Medicine, the Bayer Company started the production of heroin in 1898 on a commercial scale. The first clinical results were so promising that heroin was considered a wonder drug. Quickly it was discovered that repeated use of heroin produced tolerance and by the early 190o’s heroin replaced morphine as the number one abused narcotic.
By 1931 strict regulations on its production drastically reduced the heroin output but opened the door to illicit underworld trafficking. By 1970 worldwide heroin market increased tenfold.
Heroin (Opioid) withdrawal syndrome occurs between 8-24 hours after last use. Withdrawal symptoms can last up to 10 days with long-acting opiates withdrawals can last much longer.
Withdrawal symptoms include: Nausea, anxiety, Insomnia, Hot and Cold flushes, Sweating, Muscle Cramps, Watery discharge from Eyes and Nose and Diarrhea.
Heroin dependence like all other opioids (Codeine, Vicodin, Morphine, Oxycodone, Dilaudid, Fentanyl) causes withdrawal symptoms, which makes it difficult to stop taking them. As described by the Mayo Clinic, addiction occurs when dependence interferes with daily life. Taking more than the prescribed amount or using illegal opioids like heroin may result in death.
Treatment varies but may include discontinuing the drug. Medications called “Agonists” such as methadone can help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, but as a long-acting opiate, methadone has its own discontinuance issues. Partial agonist medication like “Buprenorphine” was approved by the FDA in 2002 which like methadone is a long-acting opiate, but has a slow onset which reduces the risk of overdose and abuse.
“Antagonist” medication such as Naltrexone blocks the reinforcing properties of heroin and other opiates and does not create tolerance or dependence. The primary problem with naltrexone is low adherence to the medication and poor retention in treatment.
“Suboxone” contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine (Agonist) is an opioid medication and Naloxone (Antagonist) blocks the effects of opioid medication. Suboxone is one of the newest medications to treat opioid dependence and appears the most effective for stabilizing the user and significantly reducing cravings and a return to full opiate relapse.
In 2017 the US Department Health and Human Services declared a “public health emergency” called “The Opioid Epidemic”. Over 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2016, with recent estimates reporting that 115 Americans die each day from drug overdose.
Early interventions and pairing medications with inpatient/outpatient treatment or support programs generally has had the most success.
Heroin rehab is very similar to rehab and treatment for other drug addictions, although the symptoms of withdrawal during detox can last much longer. It is important that a heroin addict seek professional help as they embark on getting clean. The process can be painful, and there are ways in which the symptoms associated with withdrawal can be treated, making the process easier for the patient.
Once the symptoms have passed, the first step is identifying the reason for the initial use of the drug and how they eventually became addicted. Once those reasons have been identified, the right form of therapy and treatment can be implemented. We will develop a comprehensive plan to get the patient through detox and into addiction treatment through a variety of therapy options. We will continue to work with the individual post-treatment to help them avoid relapsing.