Heroin addiction is a substance abuse disorder characterized by a problematic pattern of opioid use (e.g. heroin, painkillers) leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring in a 12 month period.
- Opioids (e.g. heroin, painkillers) are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use (e.g. heroin, painkillers) use
- A great deal of time is spent in activities, necessary to obtain heroin, use heroin, or recover from its effects
- Recurrent heroin/opiate use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home
- Continued heroin/opiate use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the opiates
- Recurrent heroin/opiate use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
- Heroin/opiate use is continued despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by opiates
- High tolerance for opiate use
- Withdrawals experienced from lack of opiate use
The above criteria was taken from the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). If you or a loved one meet two or more of the above criteria, there may be an heroin abuse disorder present.
How does heroin addiction or a heroin abuse disorder look in real life? Those who are heroin addicts typically prioritize heroin over everything else in their life. Opiate dependent people prioritize heroin over work, school, significant others, children and even their own health. Heroin addicts will typically continue to use heroin even if they have had legal consequences as a result of their heroin use.
Treatment for Heroin/Opiates
Treatment for heroin addiction typically happens over a period of 3-12 months based on the needs of each individual. Many heroin dependent individuals require a medical detox as their first stop due to withdrawal symptoms they experience when they cease drinking heroin. Medical detox for heroin addiction typically lasts between 2-7 days. There is typically no treatment in detox as the purpose of detox is to get the patient medically stabilized and prepared to be able to participate in treatment.
After medical detox, many recovering individuals choose to enter residential (or inpatient) treatment. Inpatient heroin treatment typically lasts 28 days. During residential heroin treatment, clients undergo assessments by professional counselors and physicians and participate in group and individual counseling sessions. Many clients continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms in residential heroin treatment and those symptoms are closely monitored and treated in an inpatient treatment center environment.
Stepping Down Through Levels of Care
Following residential treatment for heroin addiction , many clients enter “partial hospitalization” or “day treatment.” Day treatment for heroin use disorder is typically conducted Monday-Friday for about 6 hours per day (30 hours per week) consisting of group and individual therapy. Clients in day treatment typically see a psychiatrist on a regular schedule to continue monitoring of post-acute withdrawal symptoms and other medical issues. Clients will participate in day treatment for around 4 weeks following residential heroin treatment. Clients at day treatment level of care may live at their own residence or in a sober living home.
Following day treatment, the next level of care is intensive outpatient (IOP). At the IOP level of care, clients participate in group therapy for a period such as 3 hours per day on 3 days per week (9 hours per week of group therapy) and may continue seeing their individual therapist and psychiatrist as needed. Clients at intensive outpatient level of care may live at their own residence or in a sober living home.
Testing is a Key Component to Recovery
Heroin and other opiate drug testing is an important component of treatment and should be performed as medically indicated at all levels of care. In addition to urine drug screens, NorthStar Transitions offers a cellular Sober Link breathalyzer device to clients in day treatment and intensive outpatient for additional accountability.
Medication assisted treatment (MAT) should be considered by all individuals seeking treatment for heroin addiction. Drugs such as Suboxone, Zubsolv and Vivitrol may aid a heroin addict in their recovery.
If you or a loved one suffers from heroin addiction or a heroin abuse disorder, NorthStar Transitions can help! Please click HERE to verify your insurance and an admission representative will contact you within 24 hours to counsel you on the available treatment options and insurance coverage.