The short answer to this question is: It will take the rest of your life. You will need to be vigilant and aware because recovery is something that needs to be maintained forever. So how do you get started? Let’s discuss this issue in more detail.
Getting Over Heroin Addiction
Recovering from heroin abuse takes time and effort- it won’t just happen overnight. There are processes and ways of life that have to be discarded and new ones adopted. For most addicts, whether heroin abuse or applying chapstick is your thing, getting rid of the substance is, of course, the first part.
People go through drug addiction treatment at different rates, so there is no pre-set length of treatment. Nevertheless, research has clearly revealed that good outcomes are dependent on an adequate length of treatment. In most cases, for residential or outpatient treatment, participation for less than 90 days is going to be of limited effectiveness.
Additional treatment lasting for considerably longer is endorsed for maintenance. Methadone maintenance for 12 months is typically thought to be the minimum. Some severely opioid-addicted people need to remain on methadone maintenance for many years.
Maybe you remember the message in the story of The Little Engine that Could and the optimistic thoughts the train prodded itself with. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” were the words muttered.
A lot can be said the same about heroin abuse, and the addict stuck in the throes of addictive thinking. How quickly this person recovers is how quickly they want to encourage themselves to move up the hill and get to the top.
Heroin Addiction Treatment and Recovery
As we discard this way of life and move onto the prospects of a new one, we start realizing how difficult yet easy recovery actually is. It really doesn’t take that much to abstain from something that will knowingly destroy your life.
When your mind is riddled with the chemicals of heroin abuse, sure it’s hard to see things rationally. However, once we can commence detoxification from the opiates– it’s like this filtered lens is then removed from our vision and perception of things. The focus of this only becomes clearer as we start various forms of introspection and gain self-awareness of ourselves.
About Heroin Withdrawal
Withdrawal and Detox—You are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit. It might feel like you have the flu.
Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal are:
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Runny nose
- Chills and fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Depression, anxiety and other mood changes
- Heroin cravings
The beginning phase of heroin withdrawal can change in time and severity. Withdrawal symptoms will usually begin 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. Symptoms will peak within 1 to 3 days and gradually diminish over 5 to7 days.
Symptoms of withdrawal can be severely painful, emotionally, and physically. A medically supervised detoxification is advised. Many people relapse because they can’t handle the symptoms. Some commit suicide. A medical professional can provide medical treatment to lessen the severity of the symptoms. Detox alone, without follow-up treatment, usually leads to returning to drug use.
It should be noted that some users go through weeks or months of withdrawal symptoms. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This increases the risk of relapse and is the reason that additional treatment is necessary to ensure long-term recovery.
Long-Term Treatment for Heroin Abuse
After detox, there is no perfect treatment for heroin or any drug. Many treatments can help. It all depends on:
- The person
- The addictive substance (heroin, in this case)
- Co-occurring medical conditions
Typical treatment programs include:
- Residential Treatment Program—The patient lives on campus at a treatment facility, removed from the stressors of life that may trigger a relapse. If you have been in an outpatient program and relapsed, this might be necessary for you.
- Outpatient Treatment Programs—Facilities may offer an Outpatient program or an Intensive Outpatient Program. In both cases, you will continue to live at home and attend sessions at the treatment facility. If you have a mild addiction and haven’t been increasing your tolerance, one of these programs could be right for you.
- Pharmacological treatment—According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone have been shown to improve the success of treatment programs in the long-term.
- Counseling and Behavioral therapies:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—This is a goal-oriented therapy and helps the patient focus on changing the thoughts and behaviors that contributed to his drug use. This will help with recognizing, avoiding, and coping with the situations where you were most likely to use heroin.
- Family Therapy—The family is central to the treatment of any health problem, including substance abuse. Family can be defined by the patient according to their most emotional connections.
- Individual and Group Therapy—Individual therapy is a joint process with just you and your therapist with the goal of improving your quality of life. In Group therapy, there will usually be 2 therapists and about 10 to 15 other group members. Members realize that they are not alone and that other people have a similar issue. It focuses on relationships and your reactions to other members.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy—DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on emotional issues. It is helpful if you have a co-existing mental condition (dual diagnosis).
- Twelve-step Facilitation—This is another individual therapy designed to prepare you to become involved in a 12-step mutual support program like Narcotics Anonymous. You will typically attend 12 weekly sessions. It follows the 12-step themes of NA and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Continuing Care and Relapse Prevention
These subjects are grouped together because, without some type of ongoing treatment, relapse is a very real possibility. Most addiction programs will encourage you to take part in therapy after formal treatment at the facility.
- Counseling and continuing care programs—Often, the treatment facility you attended will offer an ongoing treatment and counseling program.
- Sober-living Homes—Sober-living homes are group households for people who are recovering from addiction. People in these homes are required to follow certain rules and be responsible for themselves. There may be periodic drug tests to show continuing sobriety.
- 12 – Step Programs—Everyone has heard of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous), but you probably don’t know how they help. A twelve-step program is a set of principles that guide you through a course of action for recovery. The methods of the program have been adapted to discuss substance abuse and dependency problems. Although it is not a medical treatment, it provides social and complementary support to those treatments.
Addressing Concerns About Treatment and Recovery
One of the main problems treatment programs run into is treatment dropout. Motivational methods can also be used as they motivate patients and improve results. By looking at addiction as a chronic disease and offering continuing care and supervision, treatment programs can succeed in the long term. However, this often requires several sessions of treatment and readmitting patients who have relapsed.
Although relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some substances, it can be very dangerous. Overdosing is a very real possibility if the person goes back to using the same amount as he has used previously. The body is not adapted to the previous level of drug exposure. An overdose occurs when the person uses enough of the drug to cause uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
Like any other chronic disease such as heart disease or asthma, drug addiction treatment is not a cure. It is a method to manage the disease successfully. A relapse does not mean the treatment failed. Returning to drug use can actually be part of the process.
The rates of relapse for drug use are comparable to the rates for other medical illnesses. You have to continue to follow your treatment plan. A relapse indicates that you need to consult with your doctor. You may need to go back to treatment, modify your treatment plan, or try another treatment.
We have learned through science that there are stress cues that are linked to drug use:
- People you used drugs with or who were around while you used them.
- Places with a connection to your drug use.
- Things that remind you of your previous use. It could be the chair you sat in when you used it.
- Moods that formerly made you want to use. You may be triggered by happiness, sadness, loneliness, or anger.
- Contact with drugs. Being around people who are using may cause your relapse.
What to Look For in a Treatment Center
The stigma of addiction will often make individuals and families wait until the last minute to get help. Some providers prey on this fear. Look for these things in an addiction treatment center:
- An easy to identify physical address and contact information.
- Their website has pictures of real people, staff, and facilities. Look for authentic pictures of the space as opposed to stock photos.
- Accreditation. It’s not the clincher but it is a good sign if they have Joint Commission Accreditation for Addiction Treatment (JCAH0)’s Gold Seal for Behavioral Health or a certification of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities (CARF).
- Full-time staff with addiction counseling credentials. They should have professional credentials in counseling treatment.
- The facility understands and can handle co-occurring disorders if needed. They are able to provide mental health assessments and determine appropriate interventions and medications.
- The program is gender- and age-appropriate. Separate programming needs to be created to address the issues and needs of the genders and ages of the patients. Not a “one-size-fits-all” program.
- Detox is treated medically. If the facility offers detox, make sure they have 24-hour medical care and offer medication for symptoms of withdrawal.
- Evidence-based treatment. Make sure they practice life/coping skills and evidence-based treatments such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Medication-Assisted Treatment
- They provide their day-to-day schedule. Ask to see how the day-to-day is structured and supervised.
- There is a clear step-down or discharge process.
- They are clear and up-front about costs. No surprises.
- There is a policy of no kickbacks for referrals. They don’t pay for patient referrals.
This book of life is already a tricky enough read as is, but then when you throw in the disease of addiction, it becomes a whole new chapter of focus. For the chemically dependent, heroin abuse literally becomes a way of life for those that like to partake in such life-ruining debauchery. Wake up- heroin. Lunchtime- heroin. Time to go to work- heroin. Bedtime- a nice spot of tea with a few crumpets before we put our pajamas on. Sorry, that’s also slang for heroin.
Thinking in a positive/proactive manner
The quickness of recovering from heroin abuse is all about action. Unfortunately, we cannot think away the disease of addiction. We cannot wish ourselves to be opiate free.
We have to stand up to the obsession and toss all fear to the side. We’re only given this one book, and we must create the necessity for recovery of heroin abuse. You are the author. Remember- I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Think positively and know that you can recover.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Defeating addiction of all sorts means you have to believe in tomorrow. You have to believe that there is another chapter or sequel to your story. The reality of the situation is that this article wouldn’t have been read if there wasn’t some sort of concern. If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, please contact us today. We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you or your loved one on a path that we can all be proud of.