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Heroin Abuse Detoxification
Heroin use and overdose is rapidly reaching massive proportions in the United States. There are so many people who have a problem, that the Centers for Disease Control officially classified heroin addiction as an epidemic.
Heroin addiction treatment has three main phases, the first phase and probably the most critical is detoxification. This is the phase where many of the worst symptoms occur and the danger of relapse is the highest.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification or detox as it is often called is the process of stopping a drug suddenly with support, according to Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine. Sufficient support is usually necessary for heroin withdrawal success. This support helps to:
- Begin treatment on a positive.
- Ensure that the detox is successful.
- Prevent detox related relapse.
- Teach the addict valuable skills for re-entry.
- Make sure that the addict is safe during a difficult time.
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Encourage entry into a comprehensive treatment program.
Each aspect of the support during detox is vital to a successful detox experience, without it or when an addict attempts to do it alone detox may fail.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Addicts and others exposed to heroin withdrawal often state that this type of withdrawal is one of the worst of any of the addictive drugs. The symptoms come on suddenly and usually do not stop for weeks.
Opiate and opioid drugs share these withdrawal symptoms. According to the American Association of Family Physicians and other sources, the withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Abdominal Cramping
- Dilated Pupils
- Goose Bumps
- Increased Tearing
- Intense Cravings
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Aches
- Runny Nose
- Nausea and Vomiting
Each of these symptoms is intense. It is not just simply feeling like you have the flu. It is like having the worst flu imaginable. Most who experience it find that symptoms come back weeks, months, or even years later.
The Heroin Detoxification Process
Like most drug treatments, there is a process to detox. Regardless of which type of detoxification you choose, there are standard steps. These steps are:
- Intake - your biographical data is gathered.
- Assessment – this includes an assessment of your drug use as well as your physical health.
- History – your family history is taken and any possible genetic issues identified.
- Diagnosis – all of the information is compiled.
- Treatment Plan Development – doctors and therapists give you a treatment plan with best recommendations for your detox.
- Medication and Therapy – after you are admitted the center gives you any medication you need as well as behavior counseling for symptom management.
- Transition into Treatment – after the majority of symptoms subside you are given treatment options for the addiction and not just detoxification..
Most detox and treatment programs use these stages for the overall detox process, although the stages may change names or be in a different order.
Medical Detoxification for Heroin
The most common method for heroin detox is medical detoxification. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, the useful medications are:
- Naltrexone (useful in long term treatment)
All of these medications are useful in medication assisted treatment and medication maintenance treatment. Supportive medications are useful for treating individual symptoms. Doctors use:
- Blood Pressure Medications
- Medications to Control Heart Rate
Each of these are medications help support the body during detoxification, making withdrawal easier overall.
Nonmedical Detoxification for Heroin
During nonmedical detox, behaviorists and counselors help you through the withdrawal symptoms without any form of medication, except to treat issues other than addiction. This type of detox is very difficult to go through and has a high failure rate.
Nonmedical detox involves both behavioral and cognitive therapies. According to the University of Utah, cognitive and behavioral therapies:
- Help you talk through your experiences with addiction.
- Identify problem behavior.
- Correct problem behavior.
- Improve your relationships.
- Deal with the symptoms of withdrawal.
- Help correct problems in negative thinking.
- Motivate you to change.
- Talk you through stressful and high risk situations.
Despite all of these benefits, many people relapse due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Medication Assisted Detox
This type of detoxification relies on both medical and nonmedical detox solutions. This is usually the most successful method of detoxification. Most people who use this method find they have a choice once they complete detoxification. They can stay on the medications or they can wean off them.
Weaning or tapering is the gradual reduction of a medication until you no longer are dependent on it. After successful weaning, you do not experience the symptoms of heroin or medication withdrawal.
Staying on the medications is useful if you became addicted to heroin because you suffer from chronic pain. Some of these medications may be used for a lifetime.
After Heroin Addiction Detoxification
After heroin detoxification, you need to engage in a full treatment program. Your addiction does not end once you are done detoxing. There are a variety of aftercare and treatment programs you can attend. Your detoxification clinic can help you find the treatment program that is right for you.
Many treatment centers have both detox programs and full treatment for heroin addiction and detoxification. These treatment centers offer medical detox, medication assisted addiction treatment, and medication management. Each treatment center is different so it is important to find the right one for you.