Heroin addiction can feel hopeless, but studies show that treatment for heroin abuse is effective and can help people live long, healthy lives in recovery. Treatment for the effects of heroin abuse should address an individual’s unique physical and psychological needs through a range of therapies while creating an aftercare plan that will set them up for success in recovery.
DreamLife Recovery in Donegal, PA has a detox center and inpatient treatment that is personalized to each individual with a team of addiction professionals on staff to guide them to recovery from heroin addiction. They can treat withdrawal symptoms, allowing for an easier trip through the detox process.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive illegal substance derived from the potent painkiller morphine. It is sold as a white or brownish powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected directly into the bloodstream. Heroin affects part of the brain called the mu-opioid receptors. These receptors manage pain, hormones, and neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is involved in the reward system. Immediately after using heroin, the effects of heroin abuse begin. Users experience a sudden rush of euphoria and physical warmth, followed by the sensation of heavy limbs and drowsiness. The user may “nod” for hours, going in and out of consciousness.
Heroin changes the brain chemistry of users, impacting the balance of neuronal and hormonal functions. As a result, people become addicted to heroin easily because their bodies become dependent on it to feel normal. Tolerance begins quickly with heroin, requiring users to increase the amount of heroin they take to feel the same high.
Side Effects of Heroin Abuse
Many side effects often occur as a result of using heroin, including short-term and long-term consequences. Side effects may include:
- Itchy skin
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Slowed heart rate
- Excessive sleepiness
- Impaired cognitive ability
- Slowed breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Mood swings
The act of sharing needles when injecting heroin brings the risk of developing hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. The longer a person remains addicted to heroin, the higher the risks become. Many people with long-term addictions risk organ failure, heart infections, lung conditions, and collapsed veins.
Another of the effects of heroin abuse relates to developing mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
A lot of crime is associated with heroin use, including stealing, violent acts, and being arrested. These results can have a great impact on someone’s personal life and employment, as well as cause a huge financial impact.
Signs of Heroin Use
If you suspect someone you care about may be abusing heroin, there are certain signs that may help you confirm your suspicions.
Signs of heroin addiction can include:
- Skin sores
- Bruises or track marks on arms or legs from needle injections
- Trouble with speech or coordination
- Digestive difficulties
- Respiratory difficulties
- Flu-like symptoms
- Mood swings
- Increased need for privacy
- Money disappearing or being used for secret reasons
- Stealing or lying
- Possessing drug paraphernalia
If you are concerned about a loved one and notice these signs, it could be time to consult a professional. You can always call to speak with a professional to determine if there is a need to intervene and find a treatment program. The sooner a person gets help, the safer they and their loved ones will be.
How Heroin Addiction Treatment Works
Many people let fear of withdrawal symptoms stop them from seeking treatment for heroin addiction. Many programs offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is a highly effective approach that helps manage painful withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. There are several medications available that can fully or partially block the effects of heroin in the brain, reduce cravings, and prevent or alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Once the physical elements of detoxing from heroin are managed, the counseling to heal the person psychologically can be more effective. A heroin addiction treatment program should address the underlying causes that led an individual to start using in the first place and set them up with healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress and triggers in recovery. Evidence-based clinical interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy, along with mind-body-based therapies like meditation, yoga, and exercise can help people to heal physically and mentally.
Talking to a Loved One Who Needs Help
A person suffering from heroin addiction usually has a hard time seeking help for their drug abuse. Loved ones may have to help a person abusing heroin recognize the need to get treatment. It’s important to express that you care for them and are ready to support them in seeking treatment. The person may have low self-esteem and feel they are not worth saving. Rather than making them feel guilty for their drug use, tell them they have an illness and can heal with help. Volunteer to find a treatment program for heroin addiction and help the individual understand how detox and treatment work. Knowing there is help available and they have your support can provide powerful motivators to become sober.
The Dangers of Detoxing Alone
Most medical professionals advise against a person attempting to detox from heroin alone. There is a high risk of overdosing while trying to detox because once a person has stopped using heroin, they develop a decreased tolerance for it. When detoxing alone, withdrawal symptoms can overwhelm a person, causing them to take the same dose of heroin they previously used. Their lowered tolerance can result in an overdose. Heroin overdoses can be deadly if the person stops breathing and develops hypoxia, which starves the brain of oxygen. Even temporary hypoxia can cause permanent brain damage.
It is safer to be supervised by professional help during the detoxification process. A detox facility can monitor the person to ensure they are comfortable and safe. Medications can help reduce cravings and the pain of withdrawal, setting them up for an easier transition to begin treatment and start recovering.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin just hours after the last use. Muscle soreness, bone aches, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, insomnia, restless legs, and irritability are just some of the withdrawal symptoms users may experience. These symptoms can last up to a week or longer. These painful symptoms are accompanied by intense cravings for heroin in order to stop the discomfort of the symptoms and become numb again.
DreamLife Recovery offers individualized heroin addiction treatment near Pittsburgh, PA. Contact one of our addiction specialists today to start your recovery.