Heroin Detox Medications That Can Help You Cope
A heroin detox process can be a harrowing experience when proper medical care is lacking. After long-term use, heroin’s effects leave the brain and body in a deteriorated state. For people who stop using, the resulting withdrawal effects make it extremely difficult to maintain abstinence for any length of time. Heroin detox medications act as a buffer between the body’s inability to function without heroin’s effects and a person’s desire to stop using. By reducing withdrawal effects and persistent drug cravings, heroin detox medications greatly reduce the odds of users giving up on detox treatment and resuming drug use.
After over 50 years of drug addiction research and application, both traditional and newly developed heroin detox medications have been made available to scores of treatment programs across the country. In most cases, a person’s individual circumstances will determine which type of heroin detox medication will work best.
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The Need for Heroin Detox Medications
Withdrawal effects and persistent drug cravings are the two biggest challenges recovering heroin addicts face. Many people in recovery battle ongoing residual withdrawal effects and drug cravings long after they’ve stopped using. According to David W Dixon, DO, heroin detox medications greatly improve a person’s chance of maintaining abstinence during as well as after detox.
A pervasive fear of experiencing withdrawal effects accounts for why so many addicts continue to use. After a certain point, addicts continue to use in order to ward off distressing withdrawal effects. These effects become no less comfortable during the detox process.
During detox, severe withdrawal effects can easily drive a person back to using again. Heroin detox medications are designed to help ease uncomfortable withdrawal effects, which greatly improves a person’s chance at a successful recovery.
Standard Medication Treatment Approaches
Different heroin detox medications work in different ways in terms of how each one helps to reduce withdrawal effects and drug cravings. Standard approaches use methadone and buprenorphine as medication treatment therapies.
Methadone, a long-time treatment for heroin addiction, is a synthetic opiate drug. Much like heroin itself, methadone occupies the same cell receptors as heroin and produces the same chemical effects without the potential for addiction. This mechanism of action greatly reduces the degree of withdrawal effects and drug cravings a person experiences.
Buprenorphine works in the same way as methadone, though some formulations of buprenorphine eliminate the body’s response to heroin altogether, which comes in handy in the event of relapse.
In terms of accessibility, strict government regulations only allow methadone to be offered through registered agencies, while buprenorphine can be administered by authorized private physicians, often at opiate detox centers.
New Medication Treatment Approaches
The newer brands of heroin detox medications attempt to improve upon existing treatments by addressing problems recovering addicts encounter when taking traditional medications. When the psychological urge to use becomes overwhelming, addicts may discontinue methadone or buprenorphine treatments and resort to using.
The Probuphine implant, new long-acting heroin detox medication, delivers a steady dose of buprenorphine for up to six months at a time. Vivitrol, another new treatment approach, uses naltrexone, a medication that curbs drug cravings by preventing users from experiencing heroin’s “high” effects, according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services. Vivitrol comes in injection form and can curb drug cravings for up to 30 days at a time.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What are the Treatments for Heroin Use Disorder?
- David W Dixon, DO. (2018). Opioid Abuse Treatment & Management.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Messages From the Director. Important Treatment Advances for Addiction to Heroin and other Opiates.
- New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. (2011). Addiction Medicine- Vivitrol.