According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of heroin-related deaths has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Of people surveyed between 2011 and 2013, nearly 663,000 said they had used heroin in the past year; 379,000 said they had between 2002 and 2004.
Scott Davis, Clinical Director at The Meadows, says that the path that leads to heroin addiction is often different than that of other drug addictions. In many cases, it begins with a prescription for an opioid painkiller, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. (In others, it begins with prescriptions for Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Ativan.)
“A lot of the people who are coming to us with opiate addictions don’t necessarily fit the mold for most addiction. They don’t typically have the family history of addiction or the long-term dependence on the drug that you see with many other addicts.” “That doesn’t mean that they don’t have trauma, or that their family doesn’t have issues—in fact, they may have issues which exacerbated their dependence on the drug and made the addiction more likely—but, they might not have otherwise found themselves addicted had they not been prescribed an opiate as a pain killer.”
Once the pills become difficult to obtain, it can be easy for a person to slip into heroin abuse. Heroin’s chemical structure is very similar to that of prescription pain medications and works in the same group of receptors in the brain. It’s also cheaper.
Coping with Pain
For heroin and opiate addicts, there are typically three levels of pain that they must overcome in order to reach sobriety: the physical pain that led them to drug, the pain of detoxing from the drug, and emotional pain that led to their addiction.
For many opioid addicts, their drug problems start with chronic physical pain. That pain is real and needs to be taken into account when developing a treatment program for the patients.
At The Meadows, we have a full-time medical doctor on our staff to help patients address the pain and the medical issues that are causing it. Patients cannot thoroughly address any underlying psychological aspects of their addiction if they are suffering too much from the physical pain that lead them to abuse drugs in the first place.
Pain from Detox
Heroin disrupts the brain’s natural opiate production process, which helps reduce pain and calm the nervous system. So, when a person stops taking the drug, he or she feels pain and anxiety more intensely than before. This makes detoxing from heroin especially painful. The Meadows highly-trained medical team, which includes a 24-hour nursing staff, can help patients safely and comfortably detox from heroin and opiates onsite. They develop a detox plan for each person that helps them to stabilize more quickly, experience less pain, and avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms they would have if they went off the drug cold turkey. Easing patients through detox makes it a whole lot easier for people to stay in treatment and stay off of the drug.
In many treatment systems, patients detox in a hospital or other setting and then go to the treatment program. Because we have the ability to help patients detox in-house at The Meadows, they don’t have to wait to begin treatment. As long as the patient is feeling well enough, they can begin attending classes and therapy sessions within the first two to three days after their arrival on campus. This makes the transition into treatment easier for them and allows them to start developing coping strategies for living without the drug right away.
Emotional Pain and Trauma
While the path that led to heroin use may have begun with a need to address physical pain, the user probably soon found that it also minimized their emotional and psychological pain as well. Whatever coping mechanisms the addict had used before to manage their stress and anxiety may have fallen by the wayside, as the drug was able to do the trick much more quickly and effectively.
That’s why a key component of the treatment program at The Meadows focuses on addressing trauma, family issues, and emotion regulation. Our staff works with patients to help them identify and address any buried psychological pain and repressed feelings that may have played a role in triggering their addiction.
Letting Go of Shame
Many people who become addicted to heroin found their way to the drug unintentionally. Many of them may also be the only people in their families with an addiction problem, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and shame. Scott Davis says that one thing that makes The Meadows program especially well-suited for them is that there is no shame attached.
“We’re not going to tell them that they are bad people. We’re not going to tell them that it’s all their fault and that they should have known better. Because drug addiction is a disease. We’re going to look at the chemical addiction, and we’re also going to deal with the underlying issues that make this drug particularly potent for them in a non-judgmental way.”
If you think you or someone you love may have a problem with heroin or prescription medications, The Meadows can help. Give us a call at 800-244-4949 today or contact us online here.