Heroin is a highly addictive, morphine-derived opiate that is processed from certain types of poppy plants. Originally created for medicinal purposes, its harmful effects did not receive recognition until the 1920s, at which point its distribution was limited and it found its way to the black market, becoming one of the most abused drugs in existence.
The treatment of heroin addiction can be difficult and lengthy because of the drug’s intensely addictive properties, which require daily use to prevent the effects of withdrawal. Combined with the tolerance that the user builds toward the drug – requiring larger and larger doses to achieve its effects – this creates a dependence that can be very hard to treat, although with the right plan and support system, it is possible.
In general, heroin addiction treatment is a process of detoxification combined with long-term inpatient rehabilitation (usually lasting at least ninety days and possibly up to a year). Detox consists of a gradual tapering off of the patient’s usual dosage of heroin, while also shifting dependence from heroin to a drug with similar, but less severe and addictive effects. The patient can then be weaned off the new drug, often avoiding the harmful results of prolonged heroin withdrawal. After detox is complete, the patient enters inpatient rehab for an extended period of time based on how severe the addiction was.
A significant problem with heroin addiction is that after the physical effects of addiction are gone, many psychological problems may likely remain. Ongoing medical treatment is coupled with behavioral therapy designed to eliminate psychological dependence on the drug, and to help ensure that relapse will not happen once the patient is released.