It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: discovering that their child is addicted to heroin. They confront them with this information and have a conversation about what their options are. They feel relief when they find out that the addict is willing to get help for their problem, and they research treatment centers that fit their needs. After they find a place that works they take their child and drop them off hoping that the next time they see them everything will be fixed.
When a parent, significant other, family member or friend finds out someone they love is suffering from heroin addiction, they are faced with some tough decisions. When rehab is the best choice, finding a treatment center isn’t as easy as doing a quick Google search. They then have to put their faith in the center, and hope they will help their loved one and keep them safe. Rehab should be the safest place for the addict to be, and usually is. However, as USA Today recently reported, sometimes a treatment center’s biggest problem is keeping drugs out.
Why Would Someone Use Drugs in Rehab?
Addiction consists of a combination of tolerance, loss of control, withdrawal, and craving. It is very complicated, and may be difficult to understand for someone who never experienced it. Many addicts when faced with the consequences of their addiction may want help, but when faced with withdrawal and craving may again experience loss of control. During withdrawal addicts are at their most vulnerable to relapse, their bodies are ravaged and for the first time in a long while they don’t have their drug to dull their feelings or make them forget about what they have done to themselves.
Heroin, in particular, has a very painful withdrawal. The addict suffers flu-like symptoms, body and muscle aches, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, diarrhea, and sweating. The physical symptoms last between 3 -5 days, and when they subside, the addict can experience post-acute withdrawal that lasts for months. During this second phase of withdrawal the user may experience insomnia, sweating and chills, sneezing, restless legs, stomach cramps, goose bumps, and general anxiety. These symptoms are not as extreme as the immediate withdrawal, but in combination with cravings, the addict may convince themselves that they are in much worse shape than they actually are.
If drugs are available, or the combination of symptoms and cravings are strong enough to make the addict look for ways to get drugs in to the center, relapse is very likely. When an addict has made the decision to use, they can become very inventive, and relapse is usually unavoidable unless it is absolutely impossible for them to get their drug.
How to Tell Someone Has Used Heroin
Heroin can be snorted, smoked, or injected. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is sick or if they are on heroin. In order to keep other patients safe in a rehab setting it is essential that the staff knows what signs to look for if someone is using heroin.
Warning signs to watch for:
- Track marks; if injecting, the user will have injection site marks
- Wearing long sleeves even in warm weather; this may be an attempt to hide track marks
- Slurred speech
- Increased sleeping
- Constant scratching
- Dazed appearance
- Nodding off, going in out of consciousness
Heroin addiction can be very hard to beat, even at rehab. Knowing the signs of abuse and keeping a treatment center free of drugs is imperative to an addict’s recovery. The farther away they can get from the drug, the better.