Heroin addiction is a nationwide and increasing problem. Recent indications of growing heroin use in suburban communities in the US indicates that, though heroin use may be decreasing in some areas, many still suffer with this debilitating addiction.
Although heroin addiction is infamous for its powerful grip and persuasive withdrawal symptoms, recovery from opiate addiction is possibles possible if addressed correctly. Read on for more of the key strategies and factors which lay the framework for a successful recovery from heroin addiction.
Understanding the Cycle of Addiction
To understand the most important aspects of heroin recovery, we must first look at the cycle of addiction—how and why addiction begins, its continuance and the factors which perpetuate substance abuse.
Why Do People Use Drugs Like Heroin?
Because addiction is a highly individual condition, it’s hard to generalize for all substance abusers why one begins to use in the first place. Drug use usually indicates a desire to escape some sort of unwanted feelings.
Because heroin is less commonly a “gateway drug” and more commonly a substance which a user would build up to, use of the opiate is sometimes seen to occur because:
a) An individual has developed a tolerance to other drugs and wants to try something harder, or
b) A prescription opioid drug abuser has turned to heroin because he/she can no longer easily obtain the narcotic painkillers they crave.
Why Can’t Heroin Users Just Stop?
The chemical makeup of heroin makes the drug particularly hard to kick. The human brain possesses opioid receptors—sites which receive and relay signals from opiate drugs, including heroin, morphine, codeine, etc. Heroin (which contains chemicals similar to our body’s naturally-occurring endorphins—natural “feel-good” hormones and pain relievers), overwhelms the system with excessive endorphin-like feelings of euphoria, pain relief and intense pleasure. Concurrently, the body’s production of its own natural endorphins begins to shut down with continued heroin use, producing a strong dependency on heroin in order to feel normal.
The Cycle of Withdrawal and Relapse
When a heroin user stops using, he/she will eventually begin to experience symptoms of opiate withdrawal—nausea, muscle/bone aches, headaches, vomiting, excessive sweating etc. These physical discomforts can elevate to unbearable levels and often drive addicts to give up and relapse.
(Note: Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated with exact medical and nutritional steps, allowing the process of recovery to not be balked at the withdrawal stage.)
Treating Heroin Addiction
Remembering that heroin is rarely a drug user’s first encounter with drugs, and further than heroin itself is a physically gripping substance, the key aspects of opiate addiction treatment are approached accordingly. Some important points which remain in focus throughout heroin recovery are:
Treatment steps should be geared towards locating and resolving the exact underlying issues (influences, events, etc.) which led the person to use any drugs at all—whether heroin was his first experience with substance abuse or not.
When drugs and alcohol are consumed, residuals of these substances can remain lodged in the body’s fat and muscle tissue. This can produce difficulty with learning or perceiving and may even cause drug cravings even years down the road. Cleansing the body of these drug residuals, especially in the case of heroin abuse, is key.
Life Skills and Goal Orientation
Recovery from a heroin addiction takes hard work and a tremendous amount of courage. Heroin rehab should conclude with a full indoctrination in important life skills (communication, situation skills, relationship building, etc.) and a re-orientation to the individual’s new life, his goals and what he hopes to achieve in the future.