Heroin addiction is a major problem in modern society, with drug rehab centers around America treating people with a combination of detox, medication therapy, and behavioral therapy programs. The use of this drug often leads to increased tolerance, with a withdrawal syndrome experienced when people stop using the drug. Breaking a heroin addiction requires periods of intervention and medical detox, with behavioral therapy and relapse prevention systems in place to support addicts once they are clean.
Heroin is an opioid analgesic originally made by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874. While it does have a number of legitimate medical uses both in the United States and elsewhere, it is also a heavily abused drug that is commonly available on the black market. Heroin is also known as diacetylmorphine, morphine diacetate and diamorphine, with these other names used when heroin is administered in a medical context. Normally taken by intravenous injection, heroin produces strong effects of pain relief and euphoria, with the overall effect of the drug being two to four times more potent than morphine.
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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2012, about 669,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year. This number has been on the rise since 2007, with the biggest increase being among 18-25 year olds. The number of people using the drug for the first time is also rising, with 156,000 new people using heroin for the first time in 2012. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the number of people dependent on heroin or abusing the drug has doubled over the last decade, from 214,000 in 2002 to 467,000 in 2012.
Heroin is regularly taken in a non-medical setting, and is very popular as a recreational drug for the intense euphoria it provides. Users report a “rush” feeling along with an intense feeling of transcendent euphoria, with other common feelings including ambition, nervousness, relaxation, drowsiness and sleepiness. The use of this drug often leads to increased tolerance over time, with withdrawal symptoms likely upon cessation of use. Heroin is a very addictive drug, with recreational use often spiraling out of control to the point where users require drug treatment centers in order to get clean.
The treatment for heroin addiction includes medical detoxification to manage the withdrawal syndrome, with typical effects including sweating, malaise, anxiety, depression, akathisia, a general feeling of heaviness, excessive yawning, excessive sneezing, tears, rhinorrhea, insomnia, cold sweats, chills and severe muscle aches. Medication is normally offered to reduce these symptoms, with opioid replacement drugs and other medications used to manage the withdrawal process.
Opioid replacement therapy, also known as opioid substitution therapy, is also an important part of drug treatment. Long-term addicts are prescribed opioid drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine, with some countries also using slow-release morphine and other drugs at various stages of the recovery process.
The rationale behind opioid replacement therapy is based on a philosophy of harm reduction and addiction management, with prescribed drugs allowing patients to lead a safer and more productive life. In practice, 40-65 percent of all patients who participate in an opioid replacement program manage complete abstinence from heroin and other non-medical opioids, with 70-95 percent of people able to reduce their use significantly.
While therapists and medical staff have to be aware of addiction problems related to the substitute drugs themselves, this form of therapy plays a very important role in allowing heroin addicts to transition away from illegal drug addiction toward recovery and relapse prevention programs.
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