Treatment of Heroin Addiction

Drug Abuse and Addiction

Ask any heroin addict. If you want to kick the habit, then you have got to want it so badly that it hurts. There are no half measures otherwise within days, you will be up to your old tricks again.

But it's not easy. Treatment for addiction is out there but the haul is long and tends to be more effective if the addiction is identified early.

There are a variety of treatments and as soon as somebody has taken the first step by contacting a drugs helpline or their GP, a user will find themselves faced with a bewildering network of support.

Very few effective treatments are done in isolation but rather in tandem with psychological support.

Available Treatment for Heroin Addicts

Methadone programmes have been used to treat addiction safely and effectively for over three decades - although its effectiveness depends on how committed the patient is and how good the treatment programme is

Doctors prescribe the synthetic opiate orally and it works by suppressing withdrawal symptoms for up to 36 hours. It relieves the craving and over a period of time, along with counselling, it will be reduced until eventually the patient is "clean."

Other treatment drugs such as LAAM, levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol. can block out the effects for up to 72 hours. Naltrexone and Naloxone also have the same effect and are now becoming more available in clinics as a substitute for Methadone.

The most recent drug is the least addictive Buprenorphine. Because there is a lower level of physical dependence once the drug is discontinued the withdrawal symptoms aren't as strong as Methadone.

For addicts who don't benefit from the methadone treatment alone, a number of countries, including the Netherlands , UK and Spain , prescribe heroin under supervision. This leads to gradual withdrawal of the drug as opposed to replacing it with another substance.

And then there is going "cold turkey" or detoxing. This is not really a treatment but more a method and it is not recommended to do unsupervised.

An addict will stop the drug abruptly and within eight to 24 hours withdrawal symptoms kick in with a vengeance. Vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle spasms, insomnia, sweating, chills, goose bumps (hence cold turkey). It is not pleasant and if done without support in a detox or treatment centre lapses are frequent.

The most successful are the community based residential centres which last at least three to six months with follow up support once the patient has left the clinic.

All the above treatments are most effective with a form of behavioural therapy or counselling. Contingency management therapy uses a voucher reward system, where patients earn points if they have a drug free test which can then be exchanged for a healthy living item.

Cognitive behavioural therapy helps people deal with their expectations and how to cope with the stress factors in the outside world which may have well led to the addiction. It will also help a person to develop better self esteem and worth which will make them believe they are better than any drug.


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