Heroin addiction is a serious medical problem that often requires specialized treatment. Detox and rehab programs are typically used to enable discontinuation and recovery, either through separate facilities or a single treatment center. Heroin addiction has been linked with a range of adverse health and social problems, many of which are related to the addictive nature of the drug.
Heroin is a potent opioid analgesic drug related to the naturally occurring morphine molecule. Also known as diacetylmorphine, morphine diacetate and diamorphine, this drug is typically administered by intravenous injection and taken for its euphoric effects. While it does have some legitimate medical uses in some parts of the world, it is mostly purchased on the black market and consumed in a recreational context.
The majority of heroin use is intravenous, with people injecting the drug for a more potent and immediate effect. Also known as "shooting up", "slamming" or "banging", this method of administration is common and potentially very dangerous. Many of the health problems associated with heroin are directly attributed to this method of administration, with deep vein thrombosis likely with long-term use and blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitisa also easily transmitted when needles are used without the correct sterilization procedures.
Heroin can also be smoked, with the inhalation of the vapors often referred to as "chasing the dragon". This method of administration is more popular with casual users and those not dependent on the drug. Insufflation or snorting this drug is also possible, with users crushing the drug into a fine powder before inhaling it into the nose. The oral use of heroin is less common, with little to no "rush" experienced due to the slow onset of action. Anal and vaginal suppositories are another possible method of administration, with little research conducted on this less popular method of use.
Heroin addiction comes with a potentially severe physical withdrawal syndrome, with effects likely to be experienced within 6-24 hours of the last dose. Typical withdrawal symptoms include sweating, malaise, depression, sneezing, insomnia, cold sweats, muscle aches and pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, watery eyes and involuntary body movements. The severity of the withdrawal syndrome is directly related to the length and extent of addiction, with symptoms ranging from mild physical disturbances through to dangerous medical complications. Medical detox is often required to enable heroin discontinuation, with prescription medications and medical staff on hand to support the recovery process.
The process of drug treatment is often divided into two phases, with detox helping people to stop drug use and rehab treating the precedents of addiction. Typical treatment models used during rehab include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives and family therapy. Conventional group and individual counseling programs are widely used during drug rehab, with relapse prevention measures also initiated during residential programs and on an aftercare basis. Heroin addiction often requires ongoing medical and psychotherapeutic treatment, with opioid replacement therapy and behavioral therapies initiated to reduce relapse rates and support long-term recovery.