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What Types of Rehabilitation Services are Available for a Heroin Addict?

Some people mistakenly think that it's impossible to become a heroin addict if the illegal opiate is smoked or snorted rather than injected. But heroin is extremely addictive whether it's smoked, snorted or injected. Heroin addicts can be any age and from any socio-economic background. There are several rehabilitation options available for a heroin addict who wants to stop using the drug. Drug rehabilitation therapies strive to reduce and prevent drug use in the ways that are the best for each person in terms of his or her physical, emotional, social and psychological health.

Drug rehabilitation options for a heroin addict include living in a treatment center for about three weeks or more followed by ongoing outpatient services. Battling heroin addiction is a long-term process. Both live-in and live-out drug rehab for heroin addicts may include one or more of methadone therapy, opiate detoxification, cognitive-behavioral therapy and counseling.

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Methadone therapy involves a heroin addict taking low doses of other opiates such as methadone, subutex or subuxone as a way of gradually stopping heroin use while avoiding harsh withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is a synthetic opiate, whereas heroin is a natural opiate derived from morphine from the poppy plant, and stays longer in the body. When opiate abuse is stopped suddenly, intense withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, insomnia and loss of appetite occur. Heroin withdrawal may also induce feelings of panic or anxiety. Methadone therapy has helped many heroin addicts stop using heroin without having to experience heavy withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate detoxification may be done before a heroin addict enters a drug rehab center or begins methadone therapy. Methadone or other drugs are used to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms and the whole detox process can take one to three weeks. Heroin addicts going through opiate detoxification should be under medical supervision and supported and helped through the detox. A newer form of detox called rapid or ultrarapid opiate detoxification takes only one day and involves the heroin addict being put under general anesthesia and treated with the detoxifying drugs clonidine and naltrexone. The rapid detox method for opiate addicts is heavily debated as some medical professionals support it while others don't — in either case, all detoxification therapies are considered to be the first step only in the process of treating drug addiction.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for a heroin addict teaches ways to decrease the urge for the drug. New ways of thinking and acting in stressful or tempting situations can help avoid substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works best when it's a part of other drug rehab therapies. Individual and group counseling are other rehabilitation services that can help heroin addicts resist using the drug. Drug counselors help addicts work through the emotional problems behind their drug abuse and this can provide useful insight into what may have led the person to start using heroin.

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