There are vast amounts of options for heroin addiction treatment. Once addiction is identified by the dependent, treatment becomes more effective. The first step in treatment would be to detox completely off of the heroin. Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Alpha-2 Agonists (Clonidine and Lofexidine) are some substances that act as an opioid, and can reduce withdrawal effects, therefore making the detoxification less painful. Treatment of heroin dependency is associated with a full behavioral change. There are various forms of behavioral therapies, which aim to find a root of emotional discomfort that causes the dependent to use.
Detoxification programs aim to achieve safe and humane withdrawal from opiates by minimizing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Detox is not considered to be by itself a treatment for addiction. Detoxification is useful only when followed by a long-term treatment. Some examples of long-term treatment is residential or outpatient treatment centers, medications as part as treatment, or various forms of therapy.
The use of methadone is primarily overseen by a clinic. When properly prescribed, methadone is not intoxicating or sedating, and its effects do not interfere with ordinary activities such as operating a vehicle. Methadone relieves cravings, which is a major cause of relapse for heroin addicts. The effect of Methadone can last anywhere from four to six times longer than heroin. Methadone is medically safe even when used for 10 years or more. Methadone dosages must be carefully monitored in patients receiving treatment for HIV.
The use of Buprenorphine is an alternative method for the detoxification process. Compared with other medications such as Methadone, Buprenorphine causes weaker opiate effects and is less likely to result in an overdose. Buprenorphine causes less physical dependence; therefore patients who discontinue use generally have fewer withdrawal symptoms than do those who stop taking Methadone.
In addition to Methadone and Buprenorphine, an Alpha-2 Adrenergic Agnostic can be prescribed. Forms of Alpha-2 Adrenergic Agnostics such as Clonidine or Naloxone block the effect of heroin. Meaning even when used the effect of heroin to an addict can no longer be obtained. Naloxone has a long-lasting effect, ranging from 1 to 3 days. This treatment is especially helpful when treating highly motivated individuals who desire to stop, but remain craving the sensation the drug may give.
Behavioral therapies have the highest success rate of recovery from addiction. There are many effective behavioral treatments available for heroin addiction. Residential and outpatient approaches combined with a detox have been proven to improve manageability of addiction. Several new behavioral therapies such as contingency management therapy and cognitive behavioral interventions have shown particular promise as treatments for heroin addiction, especially when applied in concert with pharmaco therapies. Contingency management therapy uses a voucher based system, where patients earn incentives based on performance. Cognitive behavioral interventions are designed to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviors related to drug use. By increasing coping skills meant for dealing with life on life’s terms, patients are able to find solutions other than heroin to deal with various life stressors.
By combining both behavioral and pharmacological treatments patients have shown the ability to restore normal brain functions and behaviors. Recovery requires long-term maintenance. Recovery results in an increase in employment rates and lower risks of sexually transmitted diseases.