No one sets out with the intention of becoming addicted to heroin. But it often happens anyway, even if you had other plans. Heroin is part of the opioid epidemic that kills 128 Americans every day. Often, such addictions begin by accident, first with a legitimate prescription for painkillers after surgery or an injury.
But heroin addictions are far from innocent; they’re life-threatening. If someone you love has a heroin addiction, you probably already fear the worst every time the phone rings. But there’s hope if your loved one accepts the need to go to treatment. Here, the providers at 2nd Chance Treatment Center explain more about what you should know about heroin addiction.
How heroin addictions begin
Heroin addictions don’t necessarily begin with heroin. Sometimes, a person might get a legitimate prescription for opioid painkillers like OxyContin® or Vicodin®. These prescriptions are usually very time-limited, in an attempt to avoid causing addiction.
But it doesn’t take long to develop an addiction to opioids, particularly in people who are predisposed to addiction. Opioid addiction can develop after just five days. Opioids bind to receptors in the brain that release a chemical called dopamine, which powerfully relieves pain and makes you feel good.
The problem is that the dopamine-producing effects of opioids don’t last very long, and your body quickly develops a tolerance to them, causing you to use more. Whether people start out with heroin or with a legitimate prescription, it doesn’t take long to create the cycle of needing to take more.
Why heroin addictions are so dangerous
Heroin addictions are exceptionally dangerous because of the degree of physical tolerance that can quickly develop. This means you need to take more of the drug to achieve the same feelings you had when you first started taking it.
The problem is that although tolerance increases quickly, the difference between a dose that your body can handle and an overdose is very small. Many people with heroin addictions are at grave risk of experiencing an overdose and may have already experienced one. Sometimes, overdoses can be reversed if treated quickly enough. But the fear that an overdose will be fatal is very real and well-founded.
Why addiction is so hard to beat on your own
Many people think they can handle an addiction on their own by simply choosing to stop. But heroin addiction is particularly difficult to stop on your own because your body goes through powerful withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Blood pressure changes
- Body aches
These symptoms are particularly dangerous because the individual feels that they’ll go away if they just take heroin again. The relapse risk from at-home withdrawal attempts is very high. The safest way to stop taking heroin is with a medically supervised detox program, followed by rehabilitation therapy.
That’s where 2nd Chance Treatment Center comes in. First, we help the user safely get through the intense withdrawal period, what’s known as the “detox” phase. Then, we work on addressing the factors that contribute to addiction. Our goals for treatment are to help the individual identify and resist triggers, build coping skills to deal with drug cravings, and identify and heal underlying emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin, there’s hope. Call the providers at 2nd Chance Treatment Center, or schedule an intake appointment online, to take the first step toward recovery.