Heroin is an illicitly manufactured opioid drug and is incredibly addictive. Even though quitting heroin use is difficult, it is not impossible. One of the main reasons it is so hard to stop using the drug is because repeated use prevents the brain from being able to produce pleasurable sensations on its own. This only reinforces an individual’s desire to keep using heroin.
At Landmark Recovery, we understand the nature of addiction. We approach treatment with proven methods like medical assisted detox and behavioral therapy to give our patients the highest quality of care and best chance of success.
Using heroin blocks pain signals and releases large amounts of dopamine, creating feelings of euphoria and making an individual want to use the drug again and again.1 At the same time, heroin causes the heart and breathing to slow, which can lead to a coma or hypoxia. This can cause brain damage or even lead to death.2
While some of the immediate effects of heroin are dry mouth and a feeling of heaviness in the extremities, heroin also influences the brain and nervous system in the long term. Like other opioids, heroin changes the neurochemical activity in the brain stem. It also alters the limbic system and blocks pain messages transmitted through the spinal cord.3 Ultimately, repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain. This can cause imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.4
Repeatedly using heroin can lead to heroin addiction or substance use disorder. Even though using heroin is dangerous, it is so addictive that the number of people using the drug only continues to grow. From 2002 to 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated a fivefold increase in heroin overdose deaths.5 Drug overdoses involving any opioid, including synthetic opioids like heroin, rose nationwide through 2017 as well, illustrating heroin’s continued contributions to the growing opioid epidemic in the United States.6
A person may be physically dependent or addicted to heroin if they begin to show signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal typically begins within 6 to 12 hours of the last dosage, then peaking after 1 to 2 days and subsiding after 5 to 7 days.7 A few heroin withdrawal symptoms could be:
There are also several behavioral signs that someone might be using heroin:
Because of heroin’s influence on the brain, it is best for an individual struggling with a dependence on heroin to detoxify (or detox) at a supervised center where FDA-approved, medication-assisted treatment can be used.
There are several medicines that can be used to treat heroin addiction. One of the most well-known is methadone, an opioid drug that weakly binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin does. Methadone produces similar effects without the “high,” which helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms so that the individual can focus on therapy. Eventually, the long-term goal is to wean the patient off methadone over time. FDA-approved drugs for opioid addiction include naltrexone, buprenorphine, and suboxone.8
Without medication assistance, an individual addicted to heroin will experience uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. A person may experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms within 8 to 12 hours after their last dose:8
The intensity and duration of withdrawal vary from person to person depending on the length of time they have used heroin and the dosage they take.
If you are considering different options for heroin treatment in Aurora, Denver, the state of Colorado, or the surrounding area, you should know that you have access to the highest quality of care at Landmark Recovery. We provide our patients with the opportunity to undergo heroin detox in a safe and secure environment under the care of trained clinical specialists. Our team of trained professionals will provide around-the-clock care and take the necessary measures to keep patients comfortable and pain-free. Patients will be closely monitored throughout the entire detox process and any potential complications, which can become life-threatening if not properly treated.9
Following heroin detox, our patients transition into an evidence-based heroin treatment program. This is because we believe detox is not treatment; we want to equip you with the skills to cope and navigate life sober. Our individualized treatment programs are also tailored to meet our patients’ specific needs. Our therapeutic approach – through individual and group counseling – has proven to teach new habits and healthy behaviors that can prevent relapse.
Some of the proven behavioral therapies used for treating heroin addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, contingency management, and other reinforcement and incentive-based strategies.10
Landmark Recovery of Denver is ready to safely assist you or your loved one through the heroin detoxification process. Detox is not a treatment for heroin addiction, but it is the critical first step to mental and physical wellness and lifelong recovery. Please call us today at (720) 702-9994 so we can provide you with more information about the heroin treatment programs in Aurora, Colorado, that can best meet your needs.
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1) National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018). Heroin Drug Facts.https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
2) National Library of Medicine (2018). Cerebral hypoxia.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001435.htm
3) National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021). What are the immediate (short-term) effects of heroin use?https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-heroin-use
4) National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021). What are the long-term effects of heroin use?https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use
5) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Number and age-adjusted rates of drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics and heroin: United States, 2000-2014.http://wonder.cdc.gov/
6) National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021). Overdose Death Rates.https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
7) American Addiction Centers (2021) What Does the Life of A Heroin Addict Look Like?https://americanaddictioncenters.org/heroin-treatment/signs
8) U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2018). FDA approves the first non-opioid treatment for management of opioid withdrawal symptoms in adults.https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-non-opioid-treatment-management-opioid-withdrawal-symptoms-adults
9) Darke S, Larney S, Farrell M. Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. Addiction. 2017;112(2):199-200.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13512
10) National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opioids, Marijuana, Nicotine).https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies/contingency-management-interventions-motivational-incentives