When someone has become addicted to heroin, their lives revolve around using the drug. This is not through personal choice however; rather, they are being driven to use by their illness. Heroin is highly addictive which means that individuals can rapidly spiral quickly from use and abuse to full-blown addiction. However, there are now numerous approaches to heroin addiction treatment that can support people into a fulfilling life in recovery.
A physical dependence on heroin generally precedes addiction and is characterized by a desire to take progressively greater amounts of heroin to get the desired effects. A particular hallmark of heroin dependence is withdrawal which can set in very quickly when an individual stops using the drug. Taking more alleviates these uncomfortable symptoms, which perpetuates the cycle of abuse.
There is no timeline for developing dependence on heroin as it depends on several factors including physiology, the period of time heroin has been used and the quantities involved. Research shows that a person who is heroin dependent is up to 20 times more likely to die as a result of their drug abuse compared to the average person.
Physical and Psychological Signs of Heroin Addiction
The signs a person is addicted to heroin are synonymous with the drug’s side effects which can range from mile to extremely severe. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the consequences of heroin abuse include the following:
- Brain damage caused by persistent artificial changes to the brain’s chemical balance. The brain’s functions can be impaired and can cause them to struggle with decision-making, regulating behavior and responding in healthy ways to stress.
- Physical tolerance or dependence which develops quickly with regular heroin use and causes the following withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops using the drug or reduces their intake: diarrhea, muscle and bone aches and pains, shakes, sweats, cold flashes, anxiety, and restlessness.
- The potential to develop an opioid use disorder, also known as addiction.
Other physical complications of long-term heroin abuse include:
- Increased risk of infection of the heart
- Constricted or collapsed veins
- Skin infections like abscesses and boils
- High risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV
- Respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis or pneumonia
Behavioral Changes of Individuals Abusing Heroin
Once using heroin has become a person’s priority, their whole world revolves around the drug. This leads to inevitable changes in their behavior that are observable by those close to them. In many cases, someone with an addiction will continue to use heroin even though they are fully aware of the damage it is doing in their lives.
The following behavioral signs are a strong indication that an individual needs to pursue rehabilitation from heroin abuse:
- They own or carry drug paraphernalia including pipes and hypodermic needles
- Changes in behavior that are outside of what loved ones consider “normal”
- Increased use of street slang that’s common in drug circles
- Resorting to theft from family members and friends to fund heroin abuse
- Track marks from using needles on their body
- Legal problems as a result of risky behavior such as driving under the influence of drugs
- Becoming withdrawn, secretive and sometimes aggressive, particularly when challenged on their heroin use
Holistic Rehab and Heroin Addiction
Although heroin addiction is broadly considered a physical form of the illness, there are also a number of psychological risks attached. Holistic rehab has been shown to be extremely effective in helping individuals overcome the sometimes intense psychological cravings to use heroin by using natural therapies and treatments. The physical cravings caused by heroin addiction are particularly difficult to treat in rehab, particularly during the detox phase. Holistic treatments can minimize pain and discomfort when used to supplement traditional heroin addiction treatment.
Holistic rehab is similar to traditional forms of addiction treatment in that its objective is to achieve sustainable recovery; however, its approach is quite different. Many people feel more comfortable receiving natural treatment rather than being prescribed powerful heroin treatment medication, particularly if they have been abusing drugs as potent as heroin. Holistic therapies such as yoga, massage therapy, and meditation can be invaluable in supporting traditional approaches in rehab, also acting as coping mechanisms in recovery.
The reason holistic methods are considered to be so effective in addiction treatment when combined with conventional approaches is they treat emotional and psychological issues that traditional treatments can’t. The difference between holistic and traditional medicine is that the latter focuses on treating physical symptoms which is often ineffective in an addiction context.
The Role of Therapy
Individual and group therapy is also an invaluable support in heroin rehab centers as it allows patients the chance to explore the thoughts and emotions driving their addiction. Many people with substance use disorder also suffer from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety at the same time. These patients, known as dual diagnosis, are recommended to pursue addiction treatment that addresses both conditions separately, at the same time.
After completing detox in a specialist heroin rehab center, an individual’s body has started to heal. The next stage of rehabilitation is to heal the emotional and psychological damage done by heroin abuse. While traditional treatments take care of the physical effects of substance abuse, holistic therapies provide psychotherapeutic support. When the two approaches are combined with individual and group therapy sessions, patients receive comprehensively balanced treatment to improve their overall well-being for a healthy life in recovery.