Almost one-fourth of the people who use heroin develop an addiction, and 40-60% of the people working to recover from a heroin addiction suffer a relapse. In many of these cases, relapse occurs because of two important things – an underdiagnosed issue that may be fueling the addiction and ineffective short-term recovery programs. A relapse isn’t a failure; relapse indicates the need for a change in the treatment strategy. Understanding both dual diagnosis and the importance of long-term recovery is crucial to overcoming heroin dependency and addiction.
For people seeking recovery from a heroin addiction, the road is long, but medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction may make that road more accessible. However, for those looking to get away from dependency, even those medications can be problematic. When users decide to embrace medical assistance, they must also have a strategy for overcoming the dependency on those medications. It is possible to recover and start over if the person struggling with addiction addresses both the addiction and any underlying mental health issues. With long-term treatment and therapy for mental issues, those struggling with addiction may be able to fully recover from dependency with a heroin addiction drug rehab program.
The Relation Between Heroin and Mental Health
When someone uses heroin, the drug attaches to receptor cells in the brain and converts to morphine, slowing down brain activity and introducing a sedated state. It can have various effects on a user’s mood, depending on the person’s mental and emotional state prior to taking the drug. If the user does not suffer from any preexisting mental or psychiatric disorders, the heroin will most likely offer a sense of euphoria and relaxation. The sedation will manifest in a way that calms the user.
Unfortunately, many users begin taking drugs to treat undiagnosed mental health issues. If a recovery program offers help from the dependency but doesn’t work to treat anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or a host of other mental health problems, then relapse is almost certain.
Heroin and Depression
Though all drugs affect the mental state of users, heroin is particularly powerful. Depression often stems from: genetic factors, brain chemistry imbalances, stressful social environments, psychological trauma, physical disability, or drug and alcohol abuse. Heroin often leads to a feeling of elation, which can give depression sufferers a brief respite from their struggles. It can also intensify depression symptoms including a negative mood, flat emotions, low energy, anxiety or nervousness, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts. While a user may believe heroin is helping their mental health, it is obviously making their troubles worse. A person struggling with heroin addiction may lose his or her job, experience issues in relationships, have legal problems, or financial troubles.
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis
Spending the time necessary to understand a dual diagnosis can result in treatment for the underlying mental health problem, which means users won’t need to depend on heroin for self-medication – or what they think is self-medication.
Heroin withdrawal can be challenging, so addressing all psychological issues can help the next steps. Initial withdrawal symptoms can include nervousness, muscle pain, sleeping problems, restlessness, sweating, a runny nose, and watery eyes. Residual symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, involuntary leg movements, and intense cravings. The pain, frustration, and discomfort that accompanies these symptoms can cause a person to become deeply depressed. Once the brain has gotten used to experiencing euphoria almost exclusively with heroin use, it is exponentially more difficult to feel satisfied and happy in everyday life without proper treatment.
Heroin Use, Depression, and Suicide
The combination of a heroin addiction and depression puts many heroin users at serious risk for suicide. The rate of suicides among people struggling with heroin addiction is approximately 35% and people using heroin are 14% more likely to die from suicide than people who do not use heroin. Due to the difficulty of recovering from the addiction and the effect heroin has on the brain, many people will feel a sense of hopelessness that can lead to suicide.
Why Long Term Heroin Treatment Is Necessary
For people struggling with multiple issues or disorders, it’s crucial that recovery programs work to find the root of the problems and solve the foundational issues. It is important that doctors and rehabilitation experts treat both the addiction and the depression – and that takes more than 30 days. There is no quick-turnaround heroin treatment cure. Untreated mental health problems can make the path to recovery longer.
With a therapeutic community (TC) long-term treatment, the process can take between six and 12 months. TCs accentuate the need for full re-socialization, as opposed to focusing solely on the drug dependency. Evidence shows that TC is one of the most effective steps for people struggling with heroin addictions. While insurance can cover long-term heroin treatment, many families choose to pay privately for long-term treatment.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Heroin Addiction
When recovery programs offer dual diagnoses, recovery prospects are much better and there is a lower chance of relapse. Dual diagnosis is an approach to heroin addiction that is designed to cater to the needs of people who are struggling with both addiction and mental health problems. Elements of a successful dual diagnosis approach include:
- Comprehensive neuropsychological testing
- Intensive individual psychotherapy
- Peer group therapy
- Motivation support
- Behavioral modification therapies
- Opiate replacement therapy
- Antidepressant medication
- Family education and counseling to help repair damaged relationships
- Alternative therapies
If you have a family member who is struggling with a heroin addiction, long-term treatment is the most effective way to help. If he or she is also suffering from depression or other mental health problems, ensuring the facility includes dual diagnosis treatment options is crucial to long-term recovery. It can also provide help for families of addicts, adding emphasis on rebuilding relationships and re-establishing trust.