Turning Point Centers offers inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment options for heroin addiction, as well as access to medical detox facilities.
A variety of effective treatments are available as part of any heroin rehab program, including both behavioral and medications. Both approaches help to restore a degree of normalcy to brain function and behavior.
Although behavioral and medication treatments can be useful when utilized alone, research shows that for many individuals using both types of treatment provide the best results.
Medication / Pharmacological Treatment
Medications used in heroin rehab to treat opioid use disorders work through the same opioid receptors as the addictive drug; however, they are safer and less likely to produce the harmful behaviors that characterize a substance use disorder.
Three types of medications include:
1. Agonists – activate opioid receptors
2. Partial agonists – activate opioid receptors but produce a smaller response
3. Antagonists – block the receptor and interfere with the rewarding effects of opioids
A medication is used based on a patient’s specific medical needs and other factors.
Effective medications for treating Heroin addiction include:
Methadone (Dolophine® or Methadose®) is a slow-acting opioid agonist. Methadone is taken orally so that it reaches the brain slowly, dampening the “high” that occurs with other routes of administration while preventing withdrawal symptoms. Methadone has been used since the 1960s to treat heroin use disorder and is still an excellent treatment option, particularly for patients who do not respond well to other medications. Methadone is only available through approved outpatient treatment programs, where it is dispensed to patients on a daily basis.
Buprenorphine (Subutex®) is a partial opioid agonist. Buprenorphine relieves drug cravings without producing the “high” or dangerous side effects of other opioids. Suboxone® is a novel formulation of buprenorphine that is taken orally or sublingually and contains naloxone (an opioid antagonist) to prevent attempts to get high by injecting the medication. If a person with a heroin use disorder were to inject Suboxone, the naloxone would induce withdrawal symptoms, which are averted when taken orally as prescribed. FDA approved buprenorphine in 2002, making it the first medication eligible to be prescribed by certified physicians through the Drug Addiction Treatment Act. This approval eliminates the need to visit specialized treatment clinics, thereby expanding access to treatment for many who need it. Additionally, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in July 2016, temporarily expands prescribing eligibility to prescribe buprenorphine-based drugs for MAT to qualifying nurse practitioners and physician assistants through October 1, 2021. In February 2013, FDA approved two generic forms of Suboxone, making this treatment option more affordable. The FDA approved a 6-month subdermal buprenorphine implant in May 2016 and a once-monthly buprenorphine injection in November 2017, which eliminates the treatment barrier of daily dosing.
Naltrexone (Vivitrol®) is an opioid antagonist. Naltrexone blocks the action of opioids, is not addictive or sedating, and does not result in physical dependence; however, patients often have trouble complying with the treatment, and this has limited its effectiveness. In 2010, the injectable long-acting formulation of naltrexone (Vivitrol®) received FDA approval for a new indication for the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence following opioid detoxification. Administered once a month, Vivitrol® may improve compliance by eliminating the need for daily dosing.
What are some medical complications associated with heroin abuse?
Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and, particularly in users who inject the drug, infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
What are the signs someone is using heroin and may need heroin rehab?
• Sleep pattern will change dramatically (usually lack of sleep during the night)
• Staying in the bedroom away from others who don’t use the drug
• Not going out with usual friends to the pub etc.
• Silver foil will start to disappear
• Lack of money
• Hyper and more energy than usual
• Personal items (stereos, game machines, computers etc.) get sold to feed the addiction
• Money starts to disappear
• Dramatic weight loss
• Looking pale and gaunt in the face (no color)
• Eye pupils very small, with little reaction
• Don’t keep personal hygiene up to standard
• Loss of interest in cooked meals, depressed appetite
• Eating lots of sweet foods like chocolate bars and yogurts
• Lies (a drug addict will tell blatant lies to try and cover his tracks)
• In trouble with the law
• Parents often mistake the effects of Heroin use with alcohol use (but no smell of alcohol would be present)
What are the short-term effects of Heroin use?
The short-term effects of heroin usually appear immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours.
Heroin usually makes the user feel a surge of euphoria, followed by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and heavy extremities.
After the initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system.
What are the long-term effects of Heroin use?
The user may develop a tolerance to Heroin’s high and may need to use more to experience the same level of pleasure. This is why medical detox treatment, or tapering, is a necessary part of heroin rehab.
Chronic heroin users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.
Is it difficult to quit using Heroin?
It is difficult to quit using heroin. A short period of Heroin use, or other Opiates, changes the way the nerve cells in the brain work. These cells rely on the drugs to function and become dependent on it. When a “regular user” stops taking the drug, the nerve cells become very active and start craving for the drug, causing withdrawal symptoms which are commonly known as “cold turkey.” Cold turkey is a common name for a drug addict who is going through the withdrawal symptoms as part of their heroin rehab to try and kick the addiction, also known as detoxification or detox. This usually occurs between 8 and 24 hours after the last intake of the drug.
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Source(s): U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, mayoclinic.org, medlineplus.gov, cdc.gov, urmc.rochester.edu