How To Stage An Intervention For An Advanced Heroin User

Heroin Addiction And Dependency Intervention

Addiction affects everyone who experiences it in different ways, and an intervention can be the last push a person needs to seek treatment for a substance abuse problem. Some people can overcome addiction with an outpatient treatment program and minimal ongoing support whereas others may need several inpatient rehab experiences, including relapses, before they can make real changes. Heroin addiction rates have increased all over the country in recent years, and heroin is one of the most destructive addictive substances available. Anyone with a loved one struggling with heroin addiction must realize the potential value of an intervention.

Why Is Heroin Addiction So Difficult To Overcome?

Heroin is a synthesized opioid, and opioids are substances derived from the opium plant used to treat various kinds of pain. In legitimate medical settings, opioids like morphine can help patients tolerate surgical procedures and manage postoperative pain. When abused, opioid addiction progresses very rapidly and causes a host of medical issues.

Like any addictive substance, heroin eventually builds up a tolerance to the drug in the user. He or she will require increasingly larger doses to feel the desired effects, which can range from whole-body pain relief to intense euphoria. However, opioid tolerance is different from other kinds of tolerance because of the structural effects it causes in the brain. Opioid use triggers dopamine release, causing a flood of positive “reward” feelings upon consuming a dose. As the opioid receptors in the brain wear down over time from overuse, the individual will start feeling as though he or she cannot experience a dopamine release without consuming opioids.

Facts About Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal manifests after a person has gone too long without a dose of his or her drug of choice. Concerning heroin, withdrawal can set in within just a few hours after an earlier dose has worn off. The person will begin to experience intense cravings for more heroin, and this withdrawal period can entail various unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Muscle spasms and joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shaking and nervousness
  • Intense cravings for more drugs

Heroin withdrawal starts within six to twelve hours after a dose has worn off, and symptoms peak within one to three days after the last dose. Within a week, acute withdrawal symptoms will subside, but the post-acute withdrawal phase can last for weeks, months, or years.

When a loved one experiences heroin withdrawal, he or she will likely feel compelled to seek another dose as soon as possible, in whatever way possible. Advanced heroin addiction is incredibly dangerous because withdrawal symptoms are more severe, and the individual experiencing withdrawal will likely seek out a large dose to compensate for the symptoms. Since heroin is an unregulated, illegal street drug, there is no way for a buyer to know exactly how strong a dose is prior to consumption. Unfortunately, the pain of heroin withdrawal propels many people toward overdosing.

Finding The Right Interventionist Or Intervention Program

A professional interventionist can provide an unparalleled level of support during the intervention phase of recovery for any family struggling with a loved one’s heroin addiction. Professional interventionists are certified, professionally trained, and experienced in dealing with various types of addiction. Staging an intervention without professional support can be difficult, and an intervention that takes a wrong turn can make it even more difficult for a person struggling with heroin addiction to finally admit his or her need for treatment.

Preparing For An Intervention

A professional intervention program and a trained interventionist can be the deciding factor in whether a struggling individual agrees to seek treatment. An interventionist will work with the friends, family members, and other intervention participants to help them prepare for the experience. The interventionist will also coach them on how to express themselves during the intervention in constructive ways and help them prepare for the subject of the intervention’s response, for better or worse.

Family and friends bracing for an intervention should remember the main point is to let the subject of the intervention know he or she has support available, if needed. It is also an opportunity to let him or her know that the addiction cannot continue unchecked. During most interventions, participants take turns relating how the subject’s drug abuse has negatively impacted their lives. The purpose of this is not to guilt-trip the subject but rather to encourage a recognition of the consequences of the addiction.

What To Expect During An Intervention

Everyone participating in an intervention should know what to expect before it starts. Trying to “wing it” does not work when it comes to interventions. All participants must prepare accordingly and be ready to handle some very difficult topics of conversation.

  • Those participating will take turns telling the subject how his or her addiction has negatively influenced their lives.
  • The people providing unhealthy support or enabling the subject’s addiction must be ready to tell him or her the enabling will stop, and mean it.
  • Everyone participating should express the desire to see the subject of the intervention overcome his or her ordeal and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
  • Participants should prepare to discuss past traumas, unpack family history, and take responsibility for past actions that may have contributed to the underlying cause of the subject’s addiction.

An intervention is not an easy experience. At the same time, it can be incredibly cathartic and healing for those involved to feel that at last they have the chance to speak freely and honestly about their feelings concerning a loved one’s addiction.

Post-Intervention And Continuing Care

Heroin addiction is incredibly dangerous, and not everyone who enters rehab will finish treatment or maintain sobriety. After an intervention, the subject will hopefully agree to enter rehab, and the intervention participants should prepare to offer support and comfort during this difficult time. However, true recovery from heroin addiction requires ongoing care that could take the form of support groups, counseling, or simply creating new, healthier habits. A well-executed intervention for an advanced heroin user could save his or her life.

Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

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