Many people may have heard about the low recovery rate from heroin addiction. It is no secret that America is facing an ongoing opioid epidemic, and heroin has been among the top opioids used in this crisis, affecting millions of people. Heroin addiction is known to be associated with a high mortality rate and high relapse rate. Knowing this, people may wonder why they should even try to get clean.
If anyone is considering treatment for heroin addiction, start by understanding the science behind addiction. Addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic brain disease that can’t be cured but is treatable. Even for heroin addiction, health professionals and recovery experts have worked out effective treatments.
The Dangers of Heroin Addiction
Heroin is a highly potent opioid drug. People get addicted to heroin for a range of reasons. Some of these reasons include access to the illegal drug market or the misuse of prescription opioids. Many users of other prescription opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, may have first developed a dependence on their prescription. Then, when they could not access the prescription anymore, they turned to heroin.
Using heroin is associated with many dangerous side effects despite the temporary euphoric sensations. However, quitting on one’s own is not recommended. Because of its high potency, stopping the use of heroin may lead to intense and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. They may begin within a few hours of the last dose of heroin. The leading cause of death from heroin withdrawal is dehydration and electrolyte imbalances from vomiting and diarrhea. It is exactly because of the dangers associated with heroin addiction that getting professional treatment is the only path forward.
Brain Science Facts Behind Heroin Addiction
Like other substances, heroin use introduces a wave of artificially created dopamine in the brain’s reward circuits. While an individual enjoys this sensation for a moment, it quickly wears off, bringing reality and withdrawal crashing over them. With each additional use, the brain’s neurological pathways are gradually changing. Soon, the brain adapts to the drug, and nothing else in life provides the same satisfaction as heroin does.
Heroin addiction slowly forces the brain into a compulsive mode. Because of the intense dependency and withdrawal symptoms, their behaviors change when individuals no longer have the drug in their system. They no longer take heroin to get high but to escape chronically feeling low and pained.
Even during recovery, the brain can continue gravitating toward the pleasure achieved through heroin use. Relapses are a normal part of the process of recovering from heroin addiction. Unfortunately, because a period of abstinence can decrease tolerance, relapses are the most common situations for overdose. The real hard work begins when people achieve early sobriety from heroin addiction. They must guard sobriety as if their life depends on it — it just might.
Heroin Addiction Treatment Begins With Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Due to some potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, people with heroin addiction must seek a medically-assisted detox process. Health professionals at a medical-grade treatment center can help them taper off heroin incrementally and with assistance for uncomfortable or dangerous effects.
There are FDA-approved medications (such as methadone and suboxone) to help with the most common heroin withdrawal symptoms. Even with the help of these effective medications, recovering individuals may still experience severe symptoms. This is why they should detox in a facility that offers close monitoring and medical assistance.
Practical Advice for Heroin Addiction Recovery
Because the timeline of recovery from heroin addiction can be more complicated than other forms of addiction, individuals need a strong medical team to support them. Anyone who is considering treatment should heed medical advice from health professionals. Below are a few practical pieces of advice for people beginning detox and treatment:
#1. Do Not Try to Quit Heroin at Home
As explained earlier, people who attempt to detox from heroin at home may go through severe and painful withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening. Even with family members or friends around to monitor the process, an at-home setting does not offer the tools and resources necessary for safe withdrawal. Instead, individuals need medication-assisted detox treatment at a reputable treatment center that provides FDA-approved medications for detox from heroin addiction.
#2. Commit to Residential Treatment for Stable Recovery Progress
Even after detox, the effects of heroin may still impact an individual’s brain. If they do not enter residential treatment, the home environment may still present triggers that intensify cravings and sabotage progress.
As such, individuals need continued treatment following detox. A residential program is often the best start to treatment. Long-term outpatient or aftercare programs help individuals maintain their recovery progress after transitioning back to their everyday lives.
#3: You Need a Lifestyle Overhaul
Because heroin use tends to change people’s behaviors in an unhealthy way, a solid relapse prevention plan requires a lifestyle overhaul. This includes implementing a healthier diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation habits. With these in place, the brain has a healthy routine to stick to, which can be instrumental in maintaining sobriety.
Recovery from heroin is indeed challenging, more so than recovery from many other substances. However, like many other chronic illnesses, even if there is only a 1% chance of full recovery, why not try? Sobriety is the only way to live a full life and avoid misery for individuals and their loved ones. With the appropriate level of care, anyone can regain control over their life.
Even though recovery from heroin addiction seems challenging, it is not impossible. Recovery rates increase with medication-assisted treatment, which increases length and quality of life. If you are looking for a quality treatment center specializing in treating heroin addiction, look no further than Laguna Shores Recovery. Our treatment center offers a medication-assisted detox program to assist with recovery. We have an experienced and compassionate team who can provide individualized care. Laguna Shores Recovery has a full range of addiction treatment services to help you get sober and stay sober. We believe in holistic and trauma-informed care. Join this strong recovery community today. The change begins when you call (866) 774-1532 for a consultation.