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Beating a heroin addiction is challenging, but new treatments and medical advances in recent years have made recovery easier and increased the chances of success for many. Recovery is a process of change, during which individuals improve their health, engage in activities that bring meaning to their life and work to reach their potential.

Two Facets for Treatments

Treating a heroin addiction ideally involves both medication and behavioral therapy. The withdrawal symptoms related to heroin detox can be uncomfortable, and medications administered during the detox process help to alleviate the severity of withdrawal and even shorten its duration. Research has established that treating an opioid addiction with medication keeps people engaged in treatment, decreases drugWhat You Need to Know When You’re Prescribed an Addictive Drug use and helps prevent criminal activity and the transmission of infectious diseases.

But detox and medications only take care of the physical dependence of the brain on heroin. Far more complex are the underlying psychological issues that led to the abuse and addiction, and that’s where behavioral therapy comes in. Through various types of traditional and alternative therapies, people in treatment learn to identify their self-destructive ideas, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthier ways of thinking and behaving.

The key to successful recovery is to choose a high-quality rehab program that develops each treatment plan based on individual need and assesses it regularly for any needed changes.

Medications Used to Treat Heroin Addiction

During withdrawal, medications help ease intense cravings, relieve nausea and abdominal cramps and reduce body aches. They can be used for long-term maintenance so that those in recovery can focus on putting their lives back together. These medications, which include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, affect the same opioid receptors as heroin, but they’re less likely to produce the effects of heroin, including harmful behaviors.

Methadone is an opioid agonist, which means it works by activating the opioid receptors. Taken orally, methadone reaches the brain slowly and dampens the opiate “high.”

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that reduces the intensity of drug cravings but doesn’t produce a high or carry the dangerous side effects that other opioids do.

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the action of opioids on receptors. Vivitrol is a new form of long-lasting naltrexone that only requires monthly dosages instead of daily.

Behavioral Therapies Used to Treat Heroin Addiction

Many people with a heroin addiction will relapse if behavioral therapies aren’t a part of treatment. For those who are ambivalent toward recovery, motivational interviewing is an effective therapy for addressing intrinsic barriers to treatment. It works by helping individuals identify their own reasons for wanting to recover, and it’s been shown to help improve adherence to treatment.

Contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy are known to be effective for treating a heroin addiction. Contingency management is a system in which individuals earn vouchers or cash for abstaining from heroin use.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps those in recovery replace harmful thoughts and behaviors with healthier ones, and it helps them develop skills for coping with stress, triggers and cravings. Alternative therapies and techniques like biofeedback, progressive relaxation and acupuncture can also help reduce stress and ease the intensity of cravings.

Holistic Treatments are the Best

If you or someone you love suffers from chronic heroin abuse or addiction, a holistic treatment program offers a comprehensive approach to recovery that addresses issues of the body, mind and spirit for better overall physical and mental health, a higher quality of life and an improved sense of well-being.

Recovery emerges from hope and the belief that people can and do recover from severe drug addictions despite the challenges, and they go on to lead happy, productive lives. By taking the first step and getting professional help, you can recover, too.

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Current Treatments for Heroin Addiction and Abuse
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