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Hooked on Heroin: Successfully Conquering One of the Toughest Addictions

a person talks to a therapist during Heroin Addiction Treatment

With all the media stories about how prescription painkiller abuse drives the ongoing opioid epidemic, it is easy to forget about another deadly opiate—heroin. The drug is killing thousands of Americans every year. How bad has the heroin problem become? According to a recent report, 591,000 people in the United States had a substance use disorder involving heroin in 2015, the most recent year available. The report showed that in just 10 years, the number of people struggling with heroin in this country increased by 70%. The need for heroin addiction treatment is higher now than ever before.

At Northpoint Seattle, our outpatient heroin abuse treatment programs are designed to help individuals overcome their substance abuse. We provide an intensive, individualized approach that combines counseling, medical intervention, and relapse prevention services. Our goal is to equip those with heroin addiction with the skills and resources needed to create positive changes in their lives and long-term sobriety. Get started today by calling 888.483.6031.

Why Is Heroin so Addictive?

All addictive substances promote addiction because they profoundly affect the brain’s reward pathway. They do this by artificially increasing the production of dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that lets people feel pleasure and is associated with learning and memory. Whenever someone performs an action necessary for survival—such as eating or having sex—dopamine levels rise, and they are rewarded with pleasurable sensations. They learn and remember that the action triggers a reward, so they are motivated to repeat that action.

Heroin rapidly floods the body with dopamine. Within seconds after using, dopamine levels jump 200%, resulting in a powerful, euphoric “high.” The feeling is so intense that one in four people who try heroin become addicted. Over time, chronic heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug. They need larger and larger amounts of the drug to experience the same effect. This tolerance drives skyrocketing heroin deaths because the amount of heroin that can cause a fatal overdose starts at just five times the amount necessary to get high.

Heroin Detox: The First Part of the Process

Long-term heroin abuse also results in drug dependence, when a person has been using heroin so long that natural dopamine production shuts down. A heroin-dependent person is completely unable to function without the presence of their drug. But since functioning without heroin is the goal, how can heroin dependence be overcome? It’s simple but not easy. Stop using heroin, and brain chemistry will slowly return to normal.

Whenever more heroin isn’t available, a person in recovery can begin experiencing withdrawal in as little as 12 hours after their last dose. Typically, heroin withdrawal symptoms last between five days and two weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction. The painful “dope sickness” of heroin withdrawal pushes many people back into active drug use.

This is why a medically-supervised heroin detox program can be beneficial. In a detox program, withdrawal occurs in a private, controlled, and safe environment. Medical personnel ensures the person’s safety, while support staff makes them as comfortable as possible. Because withdrawal takes place in a controlled setting, it reduces the likelihood of immediate relapse because more heroin isn’t available. The risk of relapse is further reduced because the staff makes every effort to comfort and encourage patients during this difficult time.

Inpatient Heroin Rehab: Structure and Care

After the detoxification process, successful recovery is further aided if the person follows up by checking into an accredited rehab program. For people with a long personal drug history or who have failed at previous attempts at recovery, an inpatient rehab program is often the best solution. During inpatient treatment, those in recovery live at a safe, therapeutic facility that is monitored and staffed 24/7.

People participating in a residential program are removed from the stresses and temptations of their normal daily lives. During treatment, their only concern is getting better. Inpatient programs are highly-structured and immersive. Keeping busy with wellness-focused therapies, education, and activities will fill the time that once was occupied by heroin addiction.

The Negatives of Inpatient Heroin Rehab

The most significant downsides to residential treatment are the time and the expense. Inpatient rehab generally lasts between 30 and 45 days, although it can be extended for people with severe addictions. For some individuals, being away from home that long is a problem because of other responsibilities and obligations, including their children, family, job, and school. For most people, the expense of lengthy inpatient rehab can also be prohibitive, costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unless a person has a good insurance plan, that means money becomes a barrier to recovery.

Outpatient Heroin Rehab: Flexibility During Recovery

Accredited outpatient heroin rehab programs also offer many of the same recovery services and activities provided by residential recovery facilities. But while residential programs typically last several weeks, outpatient rehab generally lasts several months. Some programs are open-ended and can last as long as needed.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are some of the most comprehensive types of outpatient heroin addiction treatment. IOPs usually meet several times a week for two to three hours per session. Most programs offer both day and evening sessions, which are flexible enough to accommodate almost anyone’s schedule. The main difference is that patients get to live at home and receive familiar support during treatment. They can also participate fully in their own lives while they recover. But best of all, it means they can apply what they learn in treatment to their daily lives in real-world situations.

Outpatient drug rehab also means less supervision. But participants are still held to high standards to ensure compliance goals of the program. For example, IOPs often require regular random drug tests with varying degrees of frequency. There can also be homework, practical exercises, and mandatory attendance at 12-step meetings, such as AA, NA, or Celebrate Recovery. Outpatient heroin rehab is so effective that many people who have just left a residential facility continue their recovery services with a local outpatient program.

Heroin Abuse Services at Northpoint Seattle

At Northpoint Seattle, we offer a comprehensive outpatient heroin addiction treatment program with personalized care and support. Our team of highly-trained recovery specialists provides individualized treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of each person in our patient family. Our goal is to empower people to develop healthy coping skills and a strong recovery foundation that will last a lifetime.

If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse, please call us today at 888.483.6031 or contact us online.