Heroin and Opioid Addiction

Is an opioid or heroin addiction affecting you or a loved one? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 2 million people in the U.S. alone abuse opioids, and roughly a half million are addicted to heroin. In many instances, this addiction is not the result of recreational use, but is the consequence of abusing a prescription medication.

No matter how addiction begins, deciding to commit to opioid or heroin rehab can be the first step on the road to recovery. And considering the number of opioid addiction treatment centers to choose from, finding the right location for you or your loved one may be a challenging process in itself. For this reason, it is critical to become educated about the nature of addiction and what to expect when attempting to detox.

At Altus Treatment Center, we want you to know that you or your loved one is in good hands. Our highly skilled and dedicated staff are here to help patients overcome addiction in a supportive and professional way.

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This use of heroin has been a part of our society for more than a century now. As with any opioid, this substance is both highly addictive and leads to a difficult withdrawal process. With continued abuse, heroin and opioids will completely take over the lives of those who are addicted.

Street heroin comes in a variety of forms that are usually not readily identifiable to those unfamiliar with the drug. It is sometimes found in a powder form, either brown or white. At other times, it is sold as “black tar” heroin, which looks very much like the name would indicate.

The “high” users experience from heroin is due to the drug’s targeting of pleasure centers within the brain. Following ingestion (snorting, smoking, or injecting) the body converts heroin into morphine. Once in this form, it is able to bind to the brain’s opioid receptors and cause a state of intense euphoria.

The possibility of an overdose on heroin is very real and is a growing problem in emergency rooms around the country. Making the situation even worse, street heroin is also frequently mixed with other drugs, typically cocaine or other stimulants. This combination enhances the chance of overdose to an even greater degree.

Besides stimulants, heroin is often “cut” with other impurities by dealers to stretch their supply of the drug. Again, these substances cause heroin to pose an even greater risk to the user’s health. Additives used by heroin dealers may include:

  • Baking soda
  • Laundry detergent
  • Strychnine
  • Talcum powder
  • Caffeine
  • Flour
  • White sugar
  • Fentanyl

Undergoing heroin rehab can present many challenging situations for the addicted person. The unfortunate reality is that relapse is a common occurrence. Changes in the addict’s neurochemistry, due to extended use, can trick the brain into thinking that it needs the drug to carry out normal functions.

Because of the extreme nature of this type of addiction, heroin detoxification should only be performed when professional medical personnel are available to monitor and supervise. Going “cold turkey” can be a severely painful process and often results in a failed attempt at rehabilitation. By withdrawing from within a facility, one can gradually step down with substitutes such as methadone.

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Recent research revealed 75% of those in heroin rehab claim their addiction began as a dependence on opioid painkillers. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that compared to 1999, four times as many overdoses due to opioids are now being reported. For many in the medical community, it is viewed as an epidemic and one that will continue having serious consequences on the lives of many.

The pain associated with opioid withdrawal can at times be as intense as that of heroin withdrawal. There are several factors that contribute to the difficulty of withdrawal, including the severity of the addiction, and the specific opioids that are being used. For example, an abuser of short-acting opiates will experience symptoms within 6 to 12 hours after a final dosage. This range is increased to 30 hours with long-acting opiates.

There are typically two stages of withdrawal in opiate detox: early and late. Early stage is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Tearing up
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Nose running
  • Sweats
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Fever

In the later stages, the following can be expected:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Depression
  • Drug Cravings

At around the 72-hour mark, symptoms are usually at their worst. They can last for up to a week, although they become less severe as time passes. It should also be noted your psychological dependence will outlive the physical craving for the drug.

Those seeking to detox from opioids have a few different treatment options to choose from. Many programs will offer medications to help alleviate symptoms. Just as importantly, counseling is also available. The patient remains under constant care from medical doctors, as well as mental health professionals.

The medical field views opioid addiction as being chronic in its nature. It is an unfortunate fact that relapses are a common occurrence for many. It is usually necessary for therapy to extend far beyond the point of detox or inpatient care. One of the major concerns is that relapsing after detox can greatly increase the chances of an overdose.

Whether you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers, it is imperative that you seek out professional medical care. Identifying an opioid addiction treatment center that fits your needs could be the difference between beginning your road to a better life, or your continuing struggle with addiction. Altus Treatment Center may be the right treatment facility for you and your addiction. It is important to come see us as soon as you are ready to discuss your addiction treatment options.

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