How long does a severe heroin addict need to stay in rehab? Someone with a long-standing heroin addiction who has relapsed from previous treatment may need another stay in rehab of up to a year. It may take that long for old behavior patterns to be replaced by positive ones and for the brain to heal from long-term heroin abuse.
Heroin is illegal in the United States. This means that all heroin sold comes from illicit, clandestine labs where there is little quality control. There are 2 basic types seen on the streets. One is black tar, a dark, resin-like substance that can be injected or snorted. It’s full of impurities, bacteria, possible unknown toxins and unreacted alkaloids. It’s the most common form sold in the western part of the United States. The second type is typically in the form of a beige powder. This powder can be injected, snorted or smoked. In more recent times, heroin addiction has become much more dangerous because much of the nation’s supply is tainted with fentanyl, a powerful opioid about 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is not that hard to synthesize. It’s smuggled in from rogue labs in countries like China, although the drug is illegal there.
When heroin is cut with fentanyl, overdose deaths are inevitable. There is no way to know if the heroin is cut with fentanyl or not just by looking. All heroin abusers should test their heroin with fentanyl test strips available online but many do not.
Intravenous heroin users also risk fatal heart damage from bacteria in the heroin. This bacteria gets into the bloodstream and migrates to the heart valves, where it can cause severe and life-threatening damage. The heart’s four valves direct blood flow and keep it moving to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Dirty heroin can also cause septicemia, a possibly fatal blood infection.
Treatment for Severe Heroin Abuse
Treatment for heroin abuse is similar to that for all opioids. They all affect the brain and body in similar ways, more or less. The goal for someone with repeated past treatment failures would be to deliver more intensified treatments in the form of group therapy, individual therapy, alternative therapies like music and art, animal care, dance, equine activities and creative writing. Some rehabs also offer massage, biofeedback, meditation and yoga. These newer therapies have been proven to be useful and may provide extra support for the person with a very severe heroin problem. Faith-based recovery programs may offer a unique and effective dimension for severe heroin addiction.
The following protocols should be available for all clients recovering from heroin abuse but especially for someone with a history of repeated relapse:
- Individualized treatment plans
- Recovery support services like peer support, aid groups, religious assistance groups and community services
- Long-term management to guard against relapse before it happens
- Dual-diagnosis care for concurrent mental disorders
- Access to standard, FDA-approved medications
- Behavioral support services by licensed therapists
- Behavior modifications like CBT, DBT and EMDR delivered by experts in their use
The stigma of drug abuse is alive and well. Many people think that MAT is nothing more than replacing one addictive drug with another.
Addiction is a brain disease. Someone who has been abusing heroin for many years is unlikely to be able to function in the long term without medication-assisted treatment, MAT, consisting of long-acting opioids like methadone and buprenorphine. Both are far superior to injecting contaminated heroin into a vein.
A severe heroin addict should also attend sober living for at least six months after release from rehab. This will provide a structured, drug-free living environment to support the recovering addict as they ease back into society and normal life. Sober living homes allow the person to leave the facility to work, go to school or some other meaningful activity. There are usually support groups and meetings as well. Heroin abusers with a history of failed treatment need extra time to get themselves back on track.
Help for Heroin Abuse
If you’re struggling with heroin abuse or you know someone close to you who is, you need to find help right away. That’s why we’re here: To give hope and help. Many people have recovered from heroin abuse, and you can, too. Just call us anytime at 844-639-8371. Our experienced, compassionate counselors will handle your call in confidence and refer you to the best treatment options available in your area.