When an addict emerges from a detoxification program, that person has purged the drugs from his or her system and is technically considered “clean.” The addict may have worked incredibly hard in order to achieve this goal, struggling through withdrawal symptoms with the help of medications and living in a treatment facility for days or even weeks in order to complete the process. This is an admirable feat, but it’s important to note that the addict can’t be considered fully recovered at the end of the detoxification program. In fact, the journey to long-term sobriety has only just begun.

As an influential article published in The Lancet in 1996 makes clear, addiction should be considered a chronic condition. The authors of the article use diabetes as an example. People who are diagnosed with diabetes are often told to change their diets and increase their exercise rates in order to prevent a relapse. Less than 30 percent of these patients comply. Similarly, while a heroin addict may be told to never, ever use the drug again, many of them do use again. The article states that only 30 to 50 percent of addicts stay clean a year after detoxification treatments.

People with chronic conditions such as diabetes or addiction often need close monitoring, intensive therapies and repeat reminders to stick with the changes they have made. They may need these interventions for the rest of their lives.

See Related: Heroin Detoxification in California

Fundamental Aspects

Heroin treatment programs can vary widely, but the underlying principals of successful programs are often the same.

They can be summed up in 10 statements:

  • Addiction is a chronic disease that changes the way the brain works.
  • Therapies must be customized to meet the needs of each individual.
  • The treatment plan should change over time, as the addict’s needs change.
  • The treatments provided should focus on the entire person, not just the person’s addiction. Medical problems such as HIV/AIDS must also be addressed.
  • Addicts must have easy access to treatment.
  • People with addiction often have other mental illnesses that must also be addressed.
  • Remaining in therapy is crucial.
  • Counseling can help.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary in order to be effective.
  • Monitoring of drug use is important, as relapses occur.

At Michael’s House, the treatments we offer for heroin addiction closely follow these guidelines. For example, we provide targeted therapies to help people struggling with addiction and mental illness, and we customize our plans to meet the needs of each individual.

The help we provide is real, and we urge you to call us today at 760-548-4032.

The Role of Counseling

In heroin rehabilitation programs, the addict spends a significant amount of time talking to qualified counselors. According to an article published by the University of Utah, talk therapies are a crucial aspect of addiction rehabilitation as the therapies allow the addict to identify and manage drug cravings. The addict might also learn about how the addiction works, and what sorts of situations lead that addict to use drugs. One-on-one counseling sessions allow the addict to role-play and plan, learning new strategies that he or she can use in order to combat the addiction.

Some people benefit from participating in group counseling sessions. Here, the addict has the opportunity to meet other people recovering from heroin addiction. Often, addicts feel as though they are isolated, alone and struggling with their problem in a unique way. By introducing the addict to other people who are dealing with the exact same problem, the addict may feel less alone and more comfortable reaching out to others for help. A mental health counselor often supervises these group counseling sessions.

Addicts can also participate in group meetings with other heroin addicts. These meetings often borrow aspects from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where the addict is asked to take responsibility for the addiction, make amends for past wrongs, ask a higher power for help when needed and rely on a sponsor to help when cravings become intense. Some communities are developing group meetings specifically designed for heroin addicts. These Methadone Anonymous meetings, as described in the journal Substance Abuse, can be quite effective. Members polled said the program was of great help, and the longer people participated, the more likely they were to stay away from heroin and other drugs.

Treatment Facilities

When people think about heroin rehabilitation, they often think about long-term residential programs. Here, the addict lives in the facility for months at a time. In some facilities, the addicted person is allowed to come and go and maintain contacts at work and at home. In other facilities, the addicted person is asked to stay on the grounds at all times until, slowly, the addict is given permission to leave for short periods of time. According to a study published in the journal Substance Abuse and Misuse, these facilities are remarkably effective.

Of those studied, 93 percent reported improvement on drug addiction five years after completing a long-term residential treatment program.

In a residential program, addicts are asked to participate in counseling sessions on a frequent basis, and they may be asked to take part in group sessions with other addicts. If the person requires medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, those medications are given with a doctor’s supervision.

Addicts with successful jobs, unrelenting family-related duties or low incomes might not be able to participate in residential treatment facilities. Their insurance may not cover the cost of the stay, for example, or they may not be able to step away from their lives for long periods of time. That doesn’t mean that these addicts have no options when it comes to addiction treatment, however.

There are many types of outpatient treatment programs in the United States, including:

  • Day programs — The addicted person participates in intensive therapies during the day but returns home at night.
  • Doctor-provided therapies — Some addicts see their doctors for medication therapies, but continue with the rest of their lives as normal.
  • Outpatient counseling — Here, an addict meets with a counselor weekly and continues learning new methods to deal with addiction.
  • Community groups — Most communities provide 12-step program meetings multiple times per week, and these meetings are often provided at no cost. For people with extremely low incomes, this may be the most effective way to get help.

Medication Therapies

Rehabilitation programs take work, and some people recovering from heroin addiction struggle with withdrawal symptoms for weeks, months or years after they’ve completed detoxification programs. The cravings for drugs may be particularly strong when these people are placed in a stressful situation, such as a long rehabilitation program. These addicts may benefit from medications that ease symptoms.

According to an article published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, the medication buprenorphine may help patients stay clear of opioids like heroin. In this study, over 56 percent of people were still using buprenorphine a year after they began treatment, and more than 67 percent of their months were free of drugs. Buprenorphine doesn’t produce a high, euphoric feeling that heroin does. Instead, it simply blocks the cravings and helps the addict behave normally.

Some heroin addicts benefit from methadone treatments, and they may use these treatments for years. Methadone is a narcotic, so it does provide a euphoric feeling, but it’s often given at low doses so the user often isn’t motivated to use methadone just to achieve a high.

Sober Living

Some heroin addicts find it much too difficult to return home once they’ve completed inpatient drug treatment programs. They might find their neighborhoods to be full of temptations, and they may believe that relapse is simply too tempting to pass by. These people might benefit from sober living communities. Here, the addict lives with a group of other people who are also recovering from addiction, and the addict follows a strict set of rules that are designed to teach them new, sober habits.

In a sober living community, the addict is often required to spend free time in community meetings and house meetings, discussing addiction. The addict might also be required to clean or perform chores and hold down a job to contribute to the rent. These are all tasks that people must accomplish when they live in the community in order to stay sober, and in a sober living community, the addict can practice these behaviors until they simply become habits.

These treatment programs may be effective for people with hard-to-treat addiction problems. According to the Journal of Substance Use, people who lived in sober living communities tended to achieve significant decreases in drug and alcohol use, and they also tended to hold down jobs as well. This is quite an achievement.

Sober living communities might not always be covered by insurance, and the costs can vary widely. In addition, if the addict returns to heroin use even once, that addict could be asked to leave the community immediately without notice. These two factors might deter some people from considering sober living communities.

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