Unseen Addiction and Heroin Treatment Options
When I was hit by the death of my young adult son in 2012 due to “multiple drug ingestion” while he was shooting up heroin, I had known nothing of his heroin addiction, let alone treatment protocols. I also had no idea how widely available heroin was; I only knew that he liked alcohol and sometimes combined it with prescription pain pills he took for the many accidents, aches and pains he seemed to have. Of course he paid no attention to my advice to stop or cut back on his substance abuse and risky behaviors. I now can see that his risky behaviors in sports and at work kept landing him in hospitals where he was given more opioids. That was pain management before we knew what we know now. In hindsight, we understand prescription opioids have been an accidental gateway to heroin addiction.
Now that we think we know better, we have created a new mindset—the opposite one. It’s the mindset to turn the prescription opioid faucet off to addicts. In my humble opinion, this mindset is playing a role in not only the failure to overcome the opioid epidemic, but in the resulting fast-growing rate of death by opioid overdose. I’m about to cover a lot of territory here to support my opinion, so please bear with me.
Heroin Treatment Options at Rehab Centers
Heroin addiction has become so widespread that today it touches just about anyone with whom you might broach the subject. If you or or someone you love is addicted to opioids or heroin, paying the price of admission to a rehabilitation center is often not an option. We can understand that many families have been financially wiped out because of one or more rehab facility stays. Recidivism is very high,1 which points out that rehabilitation is neither quick nor easy—and is often ineffective in resolving this life-sucking, death-causing addiction.
Choosing a facility, especially a free one, takes scrutiny that an emotionally-driven person may not have when at their wit’s end with this problem. Besides, whether or not you can pay out-of-pocket for a luxurious facility or are considering one that is subsidized, the waiting lists are long.2 Again, once the addict finally gets in, the treatment plan has a good chance of not working.
Regardless of whether the type of center you might choose is free or very costly, asking them about recidivism stats and success rates will likely not provide trustworthy answers or may not even be available, because most facilities don’t follow up with their past clients. The only way most know of their patients’ outcome is when they return for another round of rehab.3 That being a given, there are only three valid sources, with boots on the ground, from whom to garner the most valuable information about effective recovery from heroin abuse:
- Those directly affected: the addicts, their families, and their stories
- The doctors who treat heroin addiction and see the results
- Research findings since the 1960’s
I have explored many articles that reveal these sources of experience and findings, and I hope to clarify known heroin treatment options for shifting opioid addicts into maintaining recovery long term. An understanding from the experiences of the very people who are in touch with the realities of opioid addiction will reveal four key questions to ask any rehab facilities you may be considering. Those questions are presented at the conclusion of this 4-part article, which I hope you will read in full.
From Pain Pills to Heroin Treatment Options
It’s widely understood that heroin addiction very often originates from taking prescription pain medication.4 Ironically, it may be that prescribed medications are the answer to helping the addict get safely out the back door to a fairly normal life.
Anyone who has had a medical procedure, sports injury or accident addressed by a medical doctor in recent decades has probably used a prescribed opioid pain medication. If a patient becomes addicted to an opioid for which they can no longer get a prescription, they will do just about anything to get an opioid fix, regardless of their social standing or self esteem. (Be cautious of anyone offering you help after a major surgery. I didn’t realize I had much of an initial prescription stolen until my doctor said I had gone through it far too quickly. A sting confirmed my generous, caring helper was stealing my pain pills at a rate of 4-5 per day.) Opioids are so addictive that the addict cannot control their craving.5,6 Their craving becomes not one to get high, but one to stave off the deep lows they experience.7
Heroin is very easy to get—even in high schools across the United States!8 Being that an opioid craving is the most likely precursor to heroin, probably one of the most important actions for parents to take is to keep opioid medications private, whereby young people don’t even know they have them, and inaccessibly locked up just in case. In recent years, doctors have become restrictive in prescribing opioids for pain to all of us, and it’s up to us to likewise heed precautions.
Knowing heroin is easy to find in high schools, I’d like to stress that no one ever just “tries” heroin. Try it once and you are addicted. That’s what I was taught 50+ years ago, and it still appears to be true! Let’s continue this education for our children, along with the information that heroin is the next step after opioid pill addiction. If someone we love is already addicted to opioids, we must be vigilant against their temptation to use heroin to get over their opioid craving; obviously, heroin use is truly the antithesis to overcoming it!
We must understand that opioid cravings are so overwhelming, the addict is not capable of caring about the consequences of using anything to get a temporary fix. An opioid addict needs medical attention; however, you’ll soon learn how medical experts hands are tied up by drug policy. Hence, addiction has grown, as have opioid overdose death rates.
Odds of Overcoming Addiction Using Heroin Treatment Options
With 78 daily deaths in the US from opioid overdose,9 it’s time for the general public to take notice of the current drug policy regarding this addiction. Those troops on the ground who deal directly with the problem—the addicts, families, doctors and expert researchers I mentioned above—strongly agree that the standard treatment of opioid addiction needs an overhaul.3,10
Heroin addiction in the United States was first recognized as an epidemic in July of 2015 by the United States Surgeon General.11 When we question the standard so-called “treatment” protocol of sending heroin addicts to the revolving doors of overcrowded prisons and unsuccessful rehab centers, we see evidence they, along with the era of opioid prescriptions-a-plenty, have participated in the viability of the epidemic.3 Even looking back at the bye-gone days of intervention, we recognize it, too, often made things worse; thus its discontinuation. But with death by opioid overdose continuing to soar, what can we do to avert the sentence this addiction seems to present?
Einstein’s overly-quoted quote is appropriate here: The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We obviously need to change the standard care practices and laws that appear to have made things worse, and look to what the troops on the ground know and say about what really does work.
End of Part 1; Part 2 Coming Soon!
I hope you found Part 1 of this article helpful. Your comments are valued and welcome; scroll all the way down past the Footnotes to the highlighted word, “comments.” To get on my list to automatically receive my new blogs as they are posted, please email me at RoriOhara@SuccessSystemsInstitute.com. You can unsubscribe at any time.
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Part 1 Footnotes
- Whitehouse, Sen. Sheldon. “Breaking the Cycles of Addiction and Recidivism | Commentary.” Roll Call. N.p., 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
- Gile, Charlie. “As Heroin Epidemic Grows, So Does Rehab Wait.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
- “What Is Opiate Addiction & How Does It Begin?” Opiate. Accessed December 14, 2016. http://www.opiate.com/addiction/opiate-addiction-begin/.
- Choice, Giles: Addiction Isn’t a. “Giles: Addiction Isn’t a Choice.” Www.roanoke.com. Accessed December 16, 2016. http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/letters/giles-addiction-isn-t-a-choice/article_341bd7e1-a53d-553d-a413-83e8e168ecde.html.
- “How Does Someone Become Addicted to Opioids?” NIDA for Teens. Accessed December 14, 2016. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-over-matter/opioids/how-does-someone-become-addicted.
- Https://www.facebook.com/NIDANIH. “Rethinking How We Talk About Addiction.” Nora’s Blog, NIDA. October 27, 2016. Accessed December 17, 2016. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2016/10/rethinking-how-we-talk-about-addiction.
- Chuck, Elizabeth, and Erika Edwards. “Surgeon General Calls on America to Face Addiction Crisis.” NBCNews.com. November 17, 2016. Accessed December 14, 2016. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/78-people-die-day-opioid-overdose-surgeon-general-says-landmark-n685366.
- “New Meds Block Heroin Craving, But Reporter Finds Treatment Centers Don’t Use Them.” NPR. Accessed December 14, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2015/02/04/383782327/new-meds-block-heroin-craving-but-reporter-finds-treatment-centers-don-t-use-the.
- “U.S. Surgeon General Declares War on Addiction – Addictions.” Addictions. Accessed December 18, 2016. http://www.mhsso.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=news&id=185677&cn=1408.