Addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, 23.5 million people across the nation are battling the same demons right now, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Many of them are struggling with a dependency involving the same drug, too — heroin. Popularity of this drug hasn’t jumped significantly from year to year, but it has grown steadily over the years, advancing from 214,000 users in 2002 to 467,000 users a decade later in 2012, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin — also known as “smack,” “black tar” and “horse,” among other things — is derived from the sap-like contents of the pod of opium poppy plants which are grown primarily in the Middle East and South America. Heroin is most popular in and near the areas that it is grown, with Pakistan leading the globe in heroin use with an approximate 44 tons of the substance being used every year, according to The Diplomat.
The drug is highly addictive and can inflict tolerance on its users after one use in some cases. The Drug Abuse Warning Network notes that heroin was responsible for 83 emergency room visits for every 100,000 people in 2011. Those less fortunate – an approximate 4,251 – lost their lives in 2010 to heroin use, according to InTheKnowZone. So let’s talk about this powerful drug and how dependence on it can be managed.
The symptoms of heroin addiction, per HealthyPlace, are inclusive of:
- A loss of interest or appreciation for anything other than heroin
- Needle marks on the skin among injection drug users
- Persistent sniffling and running nose among those snorting the drug
- Slurring of speech
- Confused state
- Infections of the skin
- Extreme mood swings and hostile behavior toward others who try to assess their drug use
Heroin Addiction Treatment
The primary methods of treatment for heroin dependence are methadone maintenance, naltrexone, and buprenorphine treatment. These forms of treatment are delivered most commonly on an outpatient basis, but inpatient care is still widely available.
Methadone is a slow-acting opioid antagonist; thus, it inhibits users from achieving the high effect they would experience using heroin, and withdrawal symptoms
are limited, too. In America alone, there are over 115,000 methadone-maintenance patients in treatment, per the Drug Policy Alliance
. The drug boasts an impressive success rate of 60 to 90 percent, according to the California Society of Addiction Medicine
Naltrexone works in a similar way as methadone by blocking the opioid receptors in the user’s brain so the effects of heroin cannot be felt. The drug seems to work best in those who are more motivated to overcome their addiction. Regardless, retention rates were as low as five percent after six months of treatment among 252 heroin-dependent individuals and dropped to zero after nine months, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Buprenorphine is another opioid antagonist. It is growing in popularity in comparison to methadone due to the lesser likelihood of developing a tolerance or dependency on buprenorphine. So far, the drug has only increased in popularity, with 640,000 people suffering from heroin addiction receiving the prescription in 2009, per The Fix. Initial accounts determined by a Columbia University School of Medicine study showed that 88 percent of participants had not returned to opiate use six months after treatment. Nevertheless, studies since then haven’t churned out results quite that impressive, and many show increased rates of relapse in conjunction with the length of time since the user stopped taking buprenorphine.
In the case of any addiction, relapse is a real challenge that cannot be ignored. In one study published in the journal of Addiction, 60 percent of the treatment participants used heroin again quite soon following release from treatment. Per the Dallas News, some treatment options may have a relapse rate nearly as high as 90 percent — pointing the finger of blame at treatment interventions that don’t measure up.
For many, mental health plays a key factor not only in the development of addiction, but treatment of the patient, too. Helpguide cites that around 53 percent of people with a drug addiction may also have at least one serious mental health disorder. Thus, one of the top features many treatment facilities now offer is mental health screening to ensure patients aren’t going undiagnosed and in need of medication they aren’t getting, thereby leading them to self-medicate via their heroin abuse.
You can spend day after day imagining your future and considering whether or not it will involve heroin, or you can take the first step toward changing your life. It starts today; reach out to us via our toll-free number and let us help you find lasting recovery.