When a loved one develops a heroin addiction, he or she faces a very difficult road to recovery. However, the family and loved ones closest to that person suffer, as well, and it’s important to know how to handle these situations. Heroin addiction is eventually fatal if unaddressed, so family members of people with heroin addictions must acknowledge the gravity of these situations and the dire need for treatment.
Family members should be familiar with heroin FAQs concerning detox and treatment. While it’s important to know what to expect for a loved one struggling with heroin addiction, heroin FAQs for parents and loved ones of addicts can help the loved ones handle the recovery process more easily. Consider the following information about heroin withdrawal, detox and rehab, and then make the choice to help your struggling loved one with increased confidence.
Why Heroin Addiction Demands Medically Assisted Detox
Heroin addiction takes a catastrophic toll on the human body. Heroin and other opioids depress the nervous system, causing deep relaxation and feelings of intense euphoria. Opioid users crave this high, but the effects fade with each subsequent dose due to tolerance.
As a user’s tolerance builds, he or she will require larger doses of opioids to feel the desired effects. During this process, the person may neglect basic needs like food, water and sleep. Over time, heroin abuse can permanently alter some brain functions, as well.
People who use heroin are also at an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV by sharing drug paraphernalia and injecting heroin in unsanitary conditions. As an addiction progresses, the individual will pay less attention to things like nutrition and illness, and physically degrade to dangerous levels.
Increased tolerance also raises the risk of overdose. An individual who thinks he or she needs to take another dose to reach the desired high may not have any way of knowing the potency levels of a second dose. Too much, and a heroin overdose can easily be fatal.
Dangers of Heroin Withdrawal
Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) during the detox process is absolutely critical in heroin addiction care. Heroin withdrawal can appear within hours in advanced addiction cases, and the detox phase is dangerous without medical supervision.
Withdrawal symptoms can appear within six to 12 hours of the last dose, peaking after about a day. The peak of heroin withdrawal can last several days, depending on the level of addiction, and the post-acute withdrawal phase generally lasts about a week. However, withdrawal symptoms can persist for months or even years after detox.
Milder heroin withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, disorientation, vomiting and sweating. The person experiencing withdrawal will also have intense cravings for opioids, and likely display volatile mood swings.
During the peak of withdrawal, intense depression, anxiety and amplified first-stage symptoms are the norm. However, some people with advanced heroin addictions will experience increased heart rate and blood pressure and may have difficulty breathing.
While heroin withdrawal isn’t directly fatal, it causes several serious medical symptoms that can turn deadly in different circumstances.
Starting Recovery Stronger
The biggest benefits of MAT heroin detox include faster withdrawal recovery and an easier start to the rehab process. Heroin recovery is a long and complex process that requires deep introspection on the part of the patient, in addition to a carefully crafted treatment plan from the substance abuse treatment staff.
Heroin addiction treatment centers typically offer a variety of counseling and therapy options for heroin rehab, but all these approaches are easier when the patient can start in a more medically fit state.
How MAT Works
“Cold turkey” quitting doesn’t work with heroin addiction. When a person tries to quit heroin cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms are at their most intense, and the risk of serious medical complications is highest.
During MAT for heroin abuse, the patient slowly tapers off opioids – until he or she can withstand complete detox – along with nutritional support and medication to manage symptoms. This means less of a shock to the system, less severe withdrawal symptoms and a generally easier transition from regular heroin abuse to detox and rehabilitation.
Avoiding Enabling Behaviors
Family members and loved ones of people struggling with heroin addiction also need to know their roles as part of the support system. It’s crucial to know the difference between helping and enabling, and far too many family members fall into the trap of the latter.
Family members may enable an addiction by:
- Paying a loved one’s rent or other bills
- Making excuses for them
- Cleaning their homes
- Basically covering for them during daily life
While on the surface these acts may appear helpful, they prevent the individual with the addiction from feeling the consequences of his or her actions and effectively enable the drug habit.
Families don’t necessarily need to kick a struggling loved one to the curb or wait until he or she hits rock bottom to help. Eventually, heroin addiction can lead to a destroyed career, financial ruin, damaged marriage, family tensions and social ostracism.
The chances of these serious effects increase the longer an addiction remains unaddressed, and enabling can prevent a struggling person from seeing the reality of his or her situation.
Don’t Wait for Rock Bottom
Instead of waiting for the worst-case scenario to act, help your struggling loved one by encouraging detox as soon as possible. Find a treatment center that feels right for you and your family, and impress upon your loved one the severity of the situation. The cold reality is that heroin addiction is ultimately fatal for everyone who does not seek help, and the chances of recovery are highest when treatment starts early.
Find Heroin Rehab and Addiction Treatment
Parents and loved ones of people struggling with heroin addiction need to acknowledge that they face the real possibility of a loved one dying from heroin abuse if they do not act. Find a treatment center that addresses your loved one’s level of addiction and provides the therapies and counseling services that will be most beneficial.
It’s also essential to find a rehab program that covers relapse prevention counseling. Some treatment programs will also offer peer counseling programs like mentoring, sponsorship and guidance workshops.