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Treating Heroin Addiction

Posted Mar 04 2010 11:51pm

The battle to fight an addiction to heroin is not easily won, but not impossible to win.  This battle takes a commitment and support.  The effects that withdrawal of the drug has on the body can be intense and it is better tolerated by getting assistance to help manage these symptoms than to attempt to go ‘cold turkey’. There are treatments available to people who are addicted and are ready to get that help for treating heroin addiction.

heroin addiction

Common Withdrawal Effects from Heroin Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last dose of heroin and they peak between 48 and 72 hours.

Some of these effects are muscle and bone pain, restlessness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  The patient may experience cold flashes and goose bumps.  There is an intense craving for heroin and the patient can become physically aggressive to go out and get it.  The effects can come about gradually but become increasingly intense as withdrawal continues.  These effects can last up to a week or longer in some cases.

Pharmaceutical Approaches Used in Treating Heroin Addiction

To help lessen or even negate the withdrawal effects of heroin addiction, there are many pharmaceuticals available for use today.  The most common of these is methadone.

Methadone has been used successfully for over 30 years.  It does have sedation or intoxicating effects and you are able to go about your daily routine uninterrupted.  It is taken by mouth once a day and can manage withdrawal effects and cravings for heroin for 24 to 36 hours per dose.

Buprenorphine, like methadone give the effects of heroin but weaker and the likelihood of overdose is lower.

LAAM is another medication much like methadone.  It is taken by mouth to minimize the effects of withdrawal and craving for 72 hours.  The longer lasting effects of the medication allow the medication to be taken only 3 times a week.

Naltrexone, another medication that is used in treating heroin addiction, also has long lasting effects.  The time between doses is dependent on the dose given, but it can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days.  This medication blocks the effect that heroin would have on the body, thus, no benefit to the addict to seek out and use heroin.

Behavioral Therapy is Used in Treating Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction can be treated as an inpatient or an outpatient therapy.  The use of therapy or medication alone can be successful, but the combination of both treatments is most effective.

Cognitive behavior therapy is focused on helping to change the patients’ behavior and thinking toward heroin and teaches ways to cope with stressors in life that can lead to relapse.

Contingency management approaches use a system where vouchers are given when points are earned by producing a negative drug test.  These points can be redeemed for items.  This is meant to encourage the patient to not use heroin to insure negative test results.

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