Heroin is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. It is difficult to manage a heroin addiction safely, and there are health risks associated with coming off the substance on your own. It is strongly advised that you seek specialist professional support where you will receive medical intervention to assist in your detox. However, detox only addresses one aspect of addiction. Here, we will look at what heroin rehab at UKAT involves and why detox is only the first step in your journey towards an addiction-free life.
Why is heroin so addictive?
Heroin can be ingested through injection, snorting or smoking. It is a powerful opiate that binds to opioid receptors in the brain, causing an intense sensation of pleasure and cessation of pain. The brain quickly adapts to the opioid hit and rewires so that it no longer feels that burst of pleasure but instead adapts to feeling ‘normal’ with heroin in the system. At this stage, you may end up using heroin to maintain that feeling of normality, even if you want to stop. This is called addiction.
Addiction usually develops when we cannot cope with painful feelings or memories and want to block them out. Coming off heroin is only the first part of the solution, and without the following steps, you are at high risk of relapse. With heroin, relapse is particularly dangerous.
Why is it dangerous to stop using heroin on your own?
When the brain adapts to heroin use, it can be challenging to come off it because the cravings are so intense. The withdrawal process can be so stressful that many people will use heroin to stop the discomfort, even though they want to stop.
Physical detox symptoms can last several weeks, whilst psychological symptoms can last several months. Coming off heroin can be dangerous because when you stop taking it, the tolerance you had previously built up for the drug lowers rapidly. Jason Shiers who has been working with addictions for many years says “If the person then gives in to cravings and uses heroin again at the same level they were used to, they can experience an overdose – which can be fatal. “
This is why it is so important to withdraw from heroin safely, with medical detox, and then to do the work of repairing and healing the parts of your life or your emotional issues that led to the addiction in the first place.
What does heroin detox involve?
Heroin rehab provides a safe medical environment to support someone to withdraw from heroin use safely. Medication can be used to minimise or even eliminate the withdrawal effects. Some medications can manage the withdrawal effects of opioid use without giving the same ‘high’ as opioids. As a result, the person does not become addicted to the medication and can be weaned off it safely.
What comes after detox?
Detox is only the beginning of heroin rehab. You will also require psychological therapies to manage the risk of relapse. One of the challenging parts of coming off drugs is facing the parts of your life that you may have been wishing to avoid or have felt unable to handle. Therapy teaches you more about your addiction and where it comes from, and how to successfully manage complicated feelings so that you no longer need to escape them. Detox alone will not remove the underlying issues that drove the addiction in the first place, but it will clear your mind so you can focus on successful recovery.
Heroin rehab offers a range of different therapies to enhance your ability to understand your difficulties and face them with courage and strength. You will leave heroin rehab with a new set of skills for dealing with life, a better understanding of how you found yourself in this position in the first place, and a stronger outlook that will help you to face challenges more effectively. You will also have support from staff, doctors, and peers who have been through the same process and build connections with others within the rehab support group.
Detox is the safest way to come off heroin and provides a real opportunity to handle heroin addiction successfully. However, it only addresses physical addiction. Without dealing with your triggers, you’re likely to replace heroin with another coping mechanism rather than stopping addictive behaviour altogether. At rehab, you will receive all the support that you need to move on to the next chapter of your life free from addiction, as well as ongoing support when you leave as well.