What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a heroin addict?
Most people think of dirty, homeless "junkies" sticking needles in their arms. Probably in a back alley or run down house. This is not always the case.
The landscape of heroin addiction has changed over the last decade. A recent study by the JAMA network concluded that most individuals who enter treatment to quit heroin are white 23 year old females.
Our data show that the demographic composition of heroin users entering treatment has shifted over the last 50 years such that heroin use has changed from an inner-city, minority-centered problem to one that has a more widespread geographical distribution, involving primarily white men and women in their late 20s living outside of large urban areas.
It is important to understand why this is the case.
Heroin is rarely the drug that users start with. In most cases, teens start with prescription painkillers and eventually resort to heroin because it is less expensive than RX drugs. Once this happens the effects of heroin quickly take a tole and it becomes very difficult to quit.
Most of the time, help is needed to quit heroin.
What are the Effects of Heroin??
Heroin is an opioid. It acts as a depressant on your central nervous system. Opioids are used as pain relievers and people who are addicted to prescription painkillers typically experience similar effects.
The tools and techniques for how to quit heroin are similar to methods used to quit painkillers. However, heroin can cause its own unique problems because it is a drug that is commonly used intravenously. This carries an increased risk for diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and also infected abscesses.
Finding help to quit heroin can save your life. There is a common saying in the recovery community that "heroin addicts don't grow old."
Some of the short term effects of heroin use include...
- Sense of euphoria
- Slurred speech
The "high" that heroin brings is so euphoric that it can be difficult to live without. Heroin is very chemically addictive, but it is also psychologically addictive. The effects of the high that heroin produces change your perspective on reality and can quickly become a coping mechanism for users.
What to Know about Heroin Withdrawal
Withdrawal from opioids like heroin is a nightmarish experience. Heroin has a notoriously painful withdrawal process and in many cases relapse happens simply due to a person using simply to diminish the pain of withdrawal. Many times the abuser will report that he or she didn't even want to get high. It really takes a toll on the emotional and mental well-being of the person seeking to quit heroin.
It doesn't take long to become physically dependent to the drug and quitting heroin usually means going through a detox process, in which a professional will monitor you and give medication to help with the withdrawal symptoms.
Help for heroin detox and heroin treatment is available. If you are ready to get better, call us for help. 866-317-7050.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms include...
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Chills and intense cold sweats
- Severe headache
- Stomach cramps
- Leg pain
Medication can help alleviate the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Seeking professional help is a suggestion that cannot be overstated. If looking to quit heroin alone, unfortunately the statistics show that very few people can quit and stay quit for good.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
PAWS symptoms can last up to 2 years after quitting heroin. They include difficulty in thinking clearly, managing emotions and stress, sleeping, physical coordination, and memory. PAWS symptoms can be managed with continued addiction treatment and through an addict’s best efforts to live a healthy, balanced life.
More about Opiate Withdrawal
The withdrawal symptoms are similar to people who are in withdrawal from narcotic pain medication. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the person and their usage habits. In general, withdrawal symptoms start to appear about 6-12 hours after their last use. The symptoms peak at about 1-3 days and in about 5-7 days the physical withdrawal will begin to subside.
Withdrawal effects of oxycontin and other prescription pain medication are also very severe.
Medical Detox Treatments
In detox centers, there are a variety of medications that might be used to help treat the withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine is a medication that reduces muscle aches, sweating, cramping, runny nose and alleviate anxiety and agitation.
Buprenorphine helps to eliminate pain and it’s often considered to be the safest drug to use.
Methadone is a drug that can reduce physical pain and it can be used while pregnant. Suboxone also reduces symptoms.
How to Quit Heroin - Treatment and After Care Plans
It is important to know that withdrawal symptoms from quitting heroin are not fatal. Eventually the short term withdrawals will go away. The problem however, does not fully subside once physical symptoms have stopped. Your brain chemistry takes a much longer time to regulate itself. The irregularities in dopamine and serotonin levels often leads to depression, anxiety, strange sleep habits and mood swings.
It is at this point where many heroin overdose deaths occur. Depression leads to relapse. The body no longer has the tolerance for the drug it once did. The dose that the user was at one time using regularly can no longer be tolerated and the hit kills them.
Because of all these risks, the best way to quit heroin is by attending an addiction treatment center.
So much has been learned about addiction in the last century. Treatment centers now offer a range of treatment options. Most treatment facilities incorporate individual therapy, group therapy, spiritual measures, life skills and other phases into their treatment plan.
There is no one size fits all process to treatment for heroin addiction. Many different people have quit heroin using a multitude of techniques. If you are serious about quitting heroin, we recommend this 5 Phase Step Down Model.
More on Methadone and Suboxone
Methadone and Suboxone are two drugs that can help you quit heroin.
There has been a lot of controversy over the use and prescription of methadone. There are many different views on the effectiveness of the drug. Sober Nation has even gone as far to take an official stand on the topic. This drug has proven to be very helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms, but many times it leads to dependence on its own.
Talk to your doctor about the possibility of using methadone as an assist in quitting heroin.
The drugs block the effects of heroin, so that taking heroin will either make you sick or not affect your body at all. They also help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You might be prescribed these medicines in a detox center and you can also receive them in outpatient clinics.
Methadone is not a replacement for quitting. When researching how to quit heroin, replacing your heroin addiction for a methadone addiction should never be an option.
There are risks associated with Methadone and Suboxone. However, many people also report that these drugs have helped immensely in their attempt to get clean and maintain long term recovery.
Methadone and Suboxone are not intended to be taken for more than several months and you will need to wean yourself of them.
Behavioral and Cognitive Treatments
Learning behavioral methods to cope with addiction is just as important as getting off the drugs. Physically quitting usually isn’t enough and recovery has to be supplemented with therapy and support.
Rehab programs will often use a 12-step program (usually AA or NA). They may offer group counseling therapy and individual therapy, and they’ll teach coping skills that can help an addict manage their addiction and avoid relapse.
Holistic treatment may also be an option. If you struggle with the 12 step approach you can find holistic therapy that find other ways to work on the mind, body and spirit. Meditation, yoga nutritional eating habits and service work can all have a huge impact on your recovery. Many holistic options use these strategies.
Rehab programs often last 30 days to 3 months, but therapy can last as long as an addict needs it and involvement in counseling or 12-step programs is encouraged.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Support is crucial. Getting clean and sober is difficult no matter what, but getting off heroin and other opiotes has a very inique and cruel set of challenges that will absolutely take a toll. Help and support will help you get through the hard times in which relapse is most dangerous.
Every addict will have different experiences with quitting heroin and knowing what to expect can help. With the genuine will to quit and change their lifestyle, help from professionals and a support network - you or your loved one can persevere and live a long happy life.