What is Heroin and how is it used?
Heroin is a powerful narcotic derived from opium and synthesized from morphine.
- Experts estimate that there are between 1 and 2 million regular heroin users in the U.S. and more than 100,000 new users each year.
- More than 5,000 people die each year from heroin overdose or complications from heroin abuse.
- Roughly 20 percent (around 90,000 visits) of all drug-related emergency room visits are attributed to heroin.
The reason heroin is so dangerous is that tolerance develops quickly, meaning the user needs more of the drug to feel the original sense of euphoria. With greater use comes the risk of heroin addiction, which ruins lives, destroys relationships, and wreaks havoc on body, mind and spirit.
Some of the specific risks of heroin addiction include:
- Blood-borne illness – Those who inject heroin into their veins run a high risk of exposure to illnesses like HIV and hepatitis (from sharing needles) as well as bacterial and fungal infections.
- Overdose – Heroin is unpredictable in its quality and purity. It can be mixed with harmful chemicals or can be extremely pure, which increases the risk of accidental overdose. It is also common for heroin users to mix the drug with cocaine and other substances, which can produce drug interactions that increase the risk of overdose.
- Withdrawal – If a heroin addict quits suddenly, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as body aches, sleep problems, vomiting, chills, fever and diarrhea.
Treating Heroin Addiction
If you’re addicted to heroin, there are a number of treatment options available to you.
Outpatient Heroin Addiction Treatment
Outpatient heroin addiction treatment allows the drug user to continue to meet the demands of daily life, such as work, school and family. However, this level of care is only appropriate for those who have not used heroin in large doses or for a prolonged period of time and those who have a high level of motivation and support. Outpatient opiate addiction treatment should consist of counseling, support groups, and medically assisted treatment using methadone or Suboxone.
Residential Heroin Addiction Treatment
In residential rehab, heroin addicts live in a facility for anywhere from 28 days to one year or more. Heroin rehab generally involves medically assisted detox using methadone or Suboxone as well as intensive, round-the-clock care and monitoring. Patients also participate in individual, group and family therapy, recreational activities, 12-Step meetings, and education about the disease of addiction. Those who also struggle with depression, anxiety, personality disorders or other mental illnesses can also receive treatment for those issues.
After a period of treatment in an outpatient or residential addiction treatment program, experts recommend continuing therapy and support groups like Narcotics Anonymous. Other options may include transitional living arrangements, sober living houses and extended care programs. It takes time to learn a new way of life and adjust to daily stresses and pressures, so continuing care has proven essential for lasting recovery.
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