How Do I Help Someone Who Is Addicted To Heroin?

Heroin is one of the most abused drugs in all of America. It is also one of the most addictive drugs as well as one of the easiest to overdose fatally on. There is a reason why many people with experience on the drug say that it is only a matter of time before and addict makes a small mistake and ends up fatally overdosing.

If you have a loved one who is hooked on the drug, you may be very worried and at a loss on what to do. Caring for someone with a heroin addiction is not easy, but there is a lot that families can do to help. They can:

  • Hold a drug intervention meeting
  • Identify heroin addiction support group meetings in the community
  • Identify inpatient heroin treatment options
  • Interview heroin addiction treatment providers
  • Learn all they can about how heroin works
  • Look for signs of heroin addiction relapse
  • Obtain preauthorization for treatment from insurance companies
  • Participate in therapy appointments, as needed
  • Transport the person to the treatment facility

Understanding Heroin Addiction

Is heroin as addictive as so many people suggest? The answer is yes. Is recovery possible? The answer is also yes. Although it is very possible to recover from heroin addiction and many people have done it, it is in no way easy. Many persons that have tried to kill their heroin addiction have ended up relapsing or returning to it multiple times after a significant period of sobriety. What is it that makes overcoming heroin addiction such a difficult task?

Research shows that heroin hijacks your brain, effectively "rewiring" it so that it thinks that heroin is actually an essential chemical. The addicted, hijacked brain becomes singularly focused on getting high at all costs, so much so that individuals go to extreme measures to get that "high."

Heroin usually works in the same way as other opioids, in that it elevates the amount of dopamine that is released to the limbic reward system, which is a part of the brain that is responsible for pleasurable feelings. It is the limbic reward system that drives all feelings of intense pleasure, such as those that are related to eating, drinking and sex.

When somebody uses and abuses heroin, however, the drug takes over the limbic reward system, producing dopamine flushes and rushes of pleasure as well as euphoria. Following this intensely pleasurable experience, many report feeling like they absolutely need to seek out heroin repeatedly. This repetitive use of heroin is what drives dependency so quickly and intensely. This is also what contributes to addiction.

Detox from heroin as well as heroin withdrawal can prove to be supremely difficult and potentially harmful to the addict's body if it is not done under proper guidance and regulation. It can be very difficult - almost impossible actually - for persons that abuse heroin to quit on their own, as it affects brain parts which control judgment, planning as well as organization.

Heroin abuse will also hijack the brain's memory systems and the motivational systems. This could very easily result in an unwavering pursuit of the drug for one more high, and at any cost.

Statistics on Heroin Abuse and Addiction

More than 590,000 people had a heroin use disorder in the U.S. in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Out of all the illegal drugs that hurt, and even kill, people, heroin is one of the "number one" drugs, says CNN.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated in 2011 that 4.2 million people aged 11 and over had tried heroin, and 23 percent of those people would become addicted to the drug.

Heroin use is on the rise, climbing by 250 percent between the years 2000 and 2014 in Vermont, with more than 681,000 heroin users across the United States in the year 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Even in the face of these overwhelming numbers, real recovery is very attainable for persons that are addicted to heroin. Treatment options for heroin addiction can help individuals to build new, clean lives which are free from all heroin use.

Heroin Effects

Treating a heroin addiction will first require that the user is broken of their physical dependence on the drug. Since heroin usually has such an immediate neurological and psychological impact, virtually rewriting the brain's perceptions of pleasure, reward, and the anticipations thereof, addicted persons have to be slowly and carefully weaned off their drug dependence. This often entails stepping down the amount of heroin that they consume, all the while controlling the inevitable withdrawal symptoms which come from the addicted body receiving lesser amounts of the drug to which it has gotten so accustomed to. Withdrawal symptoms you can expect your loved one to go through are:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for more of the drug
  • Fever
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Suicidal thoughts (in cases of extreme or chronic heroin abuse)

Approaching a Loved One about Heroin Addiction Treatment

When someone is fighting a heroin addiction, his or her loved ones around them may feel unsure as to how they can address the problem. Addiction to the drug usually causes a range of distressing symptoms, and chances are high that the person genuinely wants to stop using but does not know how or doggedly keeps up the use of the drug primarily to avoid the onset of the very undesirable withdrawal symptoms.

When you are approaching a person who may not yet admit that they need help, you can expect to come up against some very common emotions of resistance, including:

  • Anger
  • Avoidance
  • Denial
  • Rationalizations of their drug use

Your loved one may have several excuses lined up for the negative consequences which are caused by heroin use and abuse. For instance, if they lost their job because of deteriorating performances, they may choose to blame it on a toxic workplace or an inconsiderate boss.

When initially bringing up the suggestion of treatment, do your best to avoid negative dialogue which focuses on judgment of them or their actions. Try expressing only concern and asking if they are open to hearing what you have to say. Give examples of how their substance use has harmed them — without resorting to outright blame. This will help them come to find their own personalized reasons for seeking treatment.

While there are sure to be some volatile emotions which have been building as your loved one has spiraled down into addiction, make sure to keep those at bay during your discussion. Addiction is already isolating and stigmatizing, so negative communication can push the addict further away. You will likely have better results if you encourage treatment in a caring and supportive manner while also making your personal boundaries clear and consistent.

In some cases, professional aid can be the one thing that kick-starts your loved one's journey to recovery. Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is a training program which is conducted by a therapist. It teaches the loved ones of persons struggling with addiction how to bring up the topic of treatment in an effective and constructive way. CRAFT has had a remarkable return for the years that it has been around - a 7 out of 10 return -and it involves lots of dedication and coordination on the family's part.

Just to be clear, providing support for your addicted loved one does not equal to enabling their addiction. All it means is to avoid abrasive situations, seeing as these will only do more harm than good. Remember that you can set boundaries while continuing to offer the necessary support and continuing to push for treatment.

By making it very clear that you indeed do love them no matter what and that you are willing to do what you can to assist them through their struggle against heroin addiction, you are forging a strong bond of trust in the relationship that they may actually have not have realized was present. This will go a long way in helping them get better and permanently breaking the chains of addiction.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin can be incredibly addictive, and as of the year 2012, over 100,000 persons were admitted to facilities of rehab for heroin usage. However, true recovery from heroin addiction is very possible. The exact treatment usually varies depending on the particular addict, but one of the more effective treatments in place is methadone. Once the addicted person undergoes HIV testing, cardiovascular infections and hepatitis B and C tests, the addict begins detox therapy. During the detox process, certain medications may be used:

1. Methadone is a synthetic opiate which reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms that are associated with desisting heroin use.

2. Buprenorphine is yet another prescription medication which has very similar effects to methadone. While these are admittedly addictive substances on their own, many physicians consider these medications to be lifesaving.

3. Behavioral therapy is used to help heroin addicts. Behavioral therapy is usually used along with prescription treatments to aid the heroin user in recovery.

Keep in mind that being confrontational will end up doing more harm than good. The best way is to approach the addicted loved one with warmth. This will help them sympathize with you faster as well as help them genuinely understand that they require help.