Understanding Heroin Dependence

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Heroin Dependence – Overcoming Addiction

Since the opioid crisis started taking hold, the abuse of heroin has been on the rise. In 2016, the CDC released heroin addiction statistics showing that 15,446 people fatally overdosed on heroin. Heroin is one of the most physically addictive substances, leading to its Schedule I status. Even though it can be difficult to overcome heroin dependence, heroin addiction treatment can make the entire experience of quitting much easier because of the evidence-based therapeutic treatments and opioid replacement therapies.

Heroin Dependence Defined

Heroin dependence is something that forms over time. Heroin is not meant to be in the body, and the body treats such substances as toxins. In order to attempt to continue with normal function with the constant presence of heroin, brain chemistry changes resulting in a reduction of natural processes which normally release dopamine – the chemical that controls feelings of euphoria that heroin induces.

After some time, the natural production of heroin becomes so low that the person feels forced to take more heroin in order to feel somewhat normal. This is what causes heroin dependence and subsequent withdrawal symptoms if more heroin isn’t abused. Not only does the person crave more heroin but they have severe flu-like symptoms when no heroin is taken.

Furthermore, some people may start using heroin because they already have an opioid dependence that was formed by abusing opioid pain relievers. When it becomes difficult to obtain new prescriptions, people often turn to heroin as an easier-to-obtain alternative, and it is often cheaper.

Heroin Dependence Signs

The signs that there may be an addiction to heroin can vary based on the person’s genetic makeup and the severity of the addiction. The length of the addiction can also cause additional signs to surface. The signs that another person may be addicted to heroin include the following:

  • Bouts of depression
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Hostility
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplained euphoria
  • Isolation from others
  • Weight loss
  • Bruises and scabs on the skin
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Drug paraphernalia such as needles and burnt spoons
  • Paranoia
  • Work or school performance lacking
  • Nodding off in the middle of conversations

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Thankfully, help is available for those who seek it. Unfortunately, based on heroin addiction statistics relating to treatment, only around 11 percent of addicts who need rehab manage to go to one for specialized treatment.

Treatment offers not only a way to overcome the vices of substance abuse, but it can also provide a safe place for a person to detoxify. Medications are often prescribed for this period to make the detox process easier and more manageable. They include such medications as methadone and suboxone. The medications help by giving the patient low quantities of opioids in order to make the symptoms less severe. They can then be weaned off the drug over time. In some cases, the opioid replacement therapy can carry of for years to help prevent relapse.

After detox, even if the person is using opioid replacement therapy, the addict must got through therapy to properly manage their addiction over the long term. In therapy, the person will learn how to deal with triggers that will occur in their future. Relapse prevention strategies along with various traditional forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy are essential for a long term sobriety.

Addiction is a lifelong condition that takes time and effort to overcome, but it is possible to go on to lead a very healthy and productive life even after a severe heroin addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.