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Choose the Best Executive Heroin Addiction Treatment Program

You are probably aware that heroin is an illegal drug, but you may not know that it derived from a natural product –poppy seeds. Heroin is classified in the same category as drugs like morphine (a powerful painkiller which is used in hospitals) and methadone. Codeine, which is available by prescription as well as over the counter to treat headaches, toothaches and other mild-to-moderate aches and pains, is also placed in the same category of drugs. All of them are narcotics.

The word “narcotic” doesn’t necessarily refer to an illicit drug. According to the United Stated Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the word comes from the Greek phrase for stupor. If you think about how heroin and other drugs like it affect the body, this phrasing makes perfect sense. Medications in this class will give you a high, but also make you feel calm and relaxed afterward.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug and it can be difficult to break free from the cycle of addiction. Medications have been used successfully for many years as maintenance treatments for heroin addicts. Newer medications used to treat people addicted to heroin have a lower risk of creating a physical dependence on them or they act as a blocker so you do not get high if heroin is ingested.

Heroin Basics

Street heroin generally looks like a white, off-white or brown powder. It may also have a dark, sticky appearance, which is known as “black tar” heroin. The issue with buying it on the street is that you have no idea how pure the product is and what it has been cut with.

Some dealers will add sugar, powdered milk, or starch to the heroin. Others will cut their product with quinine, strychnine, or other poisonous substances. This is a true case of buyer beware.

Heroin may be ingested by smoking, snorting or injecting the drug. People who are injecting it may use up to four times a day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Shooting heroin is the way to achieve the fastest and most intense high, and the effects of the drug may be felt in as few as seven or eight seconds. If the user smokes or sniffs heroin, the effects are felt in 10 to 15 minutes.

The initial feeling that you get when you use heroin is a rush of euphoria. Your skin may feel warm and flushed, and your arms and legs may feel heavy. You can expect your brain functioning to feel fuzzy during this time. Once the initial rush subsides, you will be “on the nod,'” where you will experience alternate stages of feeling drowsy and being alert.

The results of the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) had some very interesting results for heroin use among U.S. residents aged 12 and older. In that year, there were 140,000 first-time users. The average age of first use was 21.3 years.

*Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

With continued use over several weeks or months, you will start to develop a physical dependency on the drug. Once you reach this stage of addiction, you will experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to lower the amount you are using or stop using altogether. In the early stages of withdrawal, the following symptoms are common:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating

As the withdrawal process continues, your symptoms may intensify to include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

The Use of Methadone for Heroin Addiction

In his book, Methadone in the Treatment of Narcotic Addiction, author Dr. Andrew J. Byrne, MB BS, discusses the work of Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander, who used specific types of narcotics to treat addictions to similar drugs. The couple obtained better results with this method than using an abstinence-based approach to treatment. Going cold turkey is a very difficult way to break free from addiction. The withdrawal symptoms can be so unpleasant that a person starts to use again to make them stop, and the cycle of addiction starts all over again.

Methadone is similar to heroin, since it is in the same family of medications. When it is used as directed by a doctor, you can reduce the withdrawal symptoms you experience as you break away from your physical dependency on heroin, without getting high.

If you are using methadone as part of your addiction treatment plan, you may have to visit a methadone clinic daily to get your dosage. Keep in mind that if you are on methadone therapy, you have to stay away from alcohol completely. Drinking and using methadone only magnifies the sedative effects of the alcohol.

*Methadone Side Effects

According to the National Institutes of Health, methadone side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomachache
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

Methadone is meant to be part of an overall drug treatment plan. Getting off heroin is only the beginning. To avoid a relapse, you are going to need therapy and ongoing support to figure out the reasons you started using and better coping strategies for stresses which make you tempted to turn to the drug again. It may be helpful to think of the methadone as a way to get clean but the therapy is your long-term strategy for staying sober.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is used to prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop using heroin by producing similar effects in the body. However, when a heroin addict takes buprenorphine, they won’t experience the same “rush” that comes with heroin use.

This type of medication is available in a pill form and is placed under the tongue. It usually takes between two and 10 minutes for the tablets to melt. In most cases, a single dose is taken each day. Heroin addicts often have success maintaining their recovery when they utilize a buprenorphine maintenance program. Some addicts reduce their dosage of buprenorphine over a short period of time; however, some may need to take the medications for months or years.

*Buprenorphine Side Effects

The National Institutes of Health lists common side effects of this medication as:

  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Stomachache/nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a different type of medication used to treat people who have a history of abusing alcohol and/or street drugs like heroin. This medication is only to be used if you have already stopped using heroin or drinking alcohol. It works by making the cravings for alcohol or drugs you may have less intense. It also blocks the effects of opioids, including street drugs like heroin and prescription medications.

If naltrexone is part of your treatment plan, you can either take it at home or at a clinic. If you are told to visit a clinic to get your medication, you will need to plan to go there each day. You will also need to make a point of attending all counseling sessions (individual and/or group), as well as educational programs, support group meetings, or other treatment options recommended by your addiction counselor or doctor. Any recovery program is only as effective as the effort you put into it. It’s worth the effort – so stay committed.

It’s important to continue to take naltrexone as directed by a doctor, even if you get to the point where you feel well. It can only work to prevent cravings and block the effects of opioids when it is used as directed. If you feel that you don’t need the medication anymore and you want to stop using it, discuss your plans with your doctor.

Heroin Addiction Recovery Is a Journey

Breaking free from heroin and achieving long-term sobriety is a journey which you need to undertake on a day-by-day basis. If the idea of going through withdrawal has held you back from getting help with an addiction to heroin or if you have tried to get off the drug but have had a relapse, don’t give up. These medications are available to assist with your recovery and can help to keep you comfortable as your body chemistry adjusts to the new reality of life without heroin.

The best heroin addiction treatment medications do not take the place of expert addiction treatment offered by supportive counselors who can help you face your demons head on. Once the physical dependency has been dealt with, a way is cleared for you to work on underlying issues that contributed to the addiction. You may need to seek help at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center to learn how to live without turning to drugs as a means to escape stress, pain, anxiety or other troubling emotions. All of these tools, when used together, can lead to a new, sober life that is free from heroin use.