Getting free of heroin addiction isn’t easy. It takes time. And it takes phenomenal commitment. But it can be done. If you take the first steps — making a decision that you want to get better, that you want to get your life back, then investigating how to do it — then the next step is to make the commitment to recovery, which is an evolving process.
Medical detoxification must be done under medical supervision, often in a hospital setting. If attempted alone, detoxification from heroin can lead to serious physical and emotional trauma that includes heart attack, strokes, and death. It is important to note that by itself, detoxification from heroin does noting to change long-term drug use. What medically supervised detoxification does do is manage acute physical heroin withdrawal symptoms when stopping drug use. Detoxification is a precursor to and required for continuing and effective heroin addiction drug rehab.
Methadone, a synthetic opiate, blocks heroin’s effects and helps significantly reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the individual, your medically supervised detox may use methadone or another therapeutic treatment. LAAM (levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol) and buprenorphine are two other commonly used detox drugs.
Since heroin addiction and abuse are serious public health problems in the U.S., drug rehab treatment may be funded by state, local, and federal governments. Your own employer-subsidized or private health plan may also provide coverage for drug addiction rehab and medical consequences. Get financial help to pay for the rehab from every available venue, but get into the rehab process early. The sooner you make the first step, the sooner you’ll be on your way to recovery.
While in detox
Your urges to use will be most severe right at the beginning. It is a fact that heroin addicts gravitate toward each other in detox. That’s only natural. After all, you have something in common. But it’s important to recognize that while you are here for detox and recovery, getting too close to another heroin addict during detox may not be the best thing for your own commitment to stay in the program. Here’s why. Your new friends may start talking about shooting dope, or smoking it, or snorting it. In fact, it may be all they talk about.
They may even encourage you to leave with them, to go out and score. But they have no intention of returning. Oh, they may tell you and themselves that they want to stay clean, but their addiction will take over. If you go with them, the lure of heroin will be compounded by being in the company of other heroin addicts.
You know that heroin is a different kind of addiction. Some heroin addicts don’t shoot up to get high. They shoot up to be able to function. Without heroin, they’re just strung out. You may be one of heroin’s newest victims: young people aged 19 and under. Heroin’s popularity goes in cycles. Right now, it’s back in vogue — with a vengeance.
Don’t listen to the talk, and don’t leave to go shoot up. It will only perpetuate the problem and you’ll sink deeper into addiction. The time for friendships with other former heroin addicts will come after detox and during continuing treatment.
Heroin addiction rehab takes place in specialized treatment facilities staffed by professionals, certified drug addiction counselors, psychologists, physicians, nurses, and social workers. Treatment takes place in residential, outpatient, and inpatient settings. Depending on the type of treatment setting you have chosen (or has been chosen for you), you may be involved in different treatment approaches. Usually, treatment involves a variety of approaches. These include counseling, psycho eduction, groups, family treatment, alternative therapies, relapse prevention, and others.
During your rehab program, it is crucial that you commit completely to the process. Expect the treatment process to last from 3-6 months. That doesn’t mean that you’ll stay in a residential treatment center that long, but it does mean that the recovery from heroin addiction does take time. You have to unlearn certain behavioral tendencies, identify the underlying needs and emotional urges that caused you to use heroin, as well as develop new and stronger coping mechanisms to be able to stay off the drug. During this rehab period, the structure, counseling and support you receive are the best means to provide long-term recovery from your addiction to heroin.
Once you leave residential treatment, if this is what you’ve chosen, you need to commit to regular outpatient or group therapy sessions for an extended period. Many certified counselors are now saying that a period of one year is more appropriate and conducive to heroin addiction recovery than a 30-day, or even 90-day, residential treatment program. It takes time to undo the damage that’s been done, the habits that have to be broken, the relationships that need to be severed and new, healthier ones cultivated.
After the “official” treatment is over, the old temptations may still rear their ugly head. Your former user friends may attempt to lure you back into the pattern. It will take willpower and commitment to say no and leave that all behind you. There are many “triggers” that could put you at risk for relapse, so it’s important to develop in advance ways to cope with these triggers.
Find clean, sober individuals with whom to spend time and develop friendships. Join groups to engage in hobbies, sports, and go on sober outings. You may find these through your counseling sessions or group therapy, or through 12 step recovery programs. Maybe it’s through your family or your church. Perhaps you could get involved in community activities or organizations devoted to helping others. It’s up to you to identify where your triggers might exist. You may need to find a new job if you used with co-workers. You may need to move into a new neighborhood. You may even need to move to a new city to avoid the traps where you once used.
You’ve got a fresh start, a new life, a new beginning. Celebrate your accomplishment by embracing all your tomorrows. Begin today.