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How to Help a Heroin Addict Receive Treatment

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 690,000 Americans have a heroin use disorder. That’s around 0.2% of the population. If someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, there are resources available to help them. However, motivating them to pursue and look into these resources is half the battle.

It can be difficult to lead someone to help, even if you know they desperately need it for their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. At Detox to Rehab, we’re here to help.

Today, we’re sharing our top tips on how to help a heroin addict get treatment. With the right approach, you can pave a way for them to have a brighter, happier, and healthier tomorrow.

Understand How Heroin Addiction Works

Before you can lead someone to heroin treatment, you need to understand how the substance interacts with their body. This is a very dangerous and addictive opioid made from morphine. Morphine is a natural substance found in the seed pod of opium poppy plants.

While heroin is usually sold and distributed as a white or brown powder, it can also look like a sticky, black substance. This is called black tar heroin. People can ingest heroin in a few different ways, including injecting, snorting, sniffing, or smoking.

Once it enters their brain, it binds to opioid receptors, especially those associated with pain and pleasure. It then alters the natural response of those receptors, affecting the individual’s perception. It can also catalyze changes in their heart rate and pulse.

At first, heroin users might report feeling a rush or a sense of general euphoria. However, those initial feelings quickly give way to other short-term side effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling of heaviness in extremities
  • Mental fog
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe itching

If a substantial amount of heroin is consumed, it can slow the person’s heart rate and breathing down to a dangerous or deadly rate.  Sustained over a long period of time, heroin use can also trigger more serious, long-term side effects including lung complications, skin infections, collapsed veins, liver or kidney disease, and more.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

While the effects of heroin are severe, the side effects of withdrawal can be even more painful. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Jitters
  • Bone or muscle pain
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

As such, it’s important to approach heroin treatment carefully and considerately. It isn’t as easy as simply expecting the person to quit. By adopting this attitude, you can put them at a disadvantage from the very beginning.

Keep a compassionate perspective and remember that it’s not just a habit. It’s a physical dependency and illness, and your non-judgmental support can play a major role in their recovery.

Expect Initial Resistance

When you first bring up the idea of heroin addiction treatment, you can expect some initial resistance. Even if they want to stop, the individual might continue to use heroin to ward off the painful feelings of withdrawal.

If they’re not ready to admit that they need help, they will likely rebuke any type of residential treatment program. Some of the emotions they may express include:

  • Denial
  • Hesitancy
  • Distrust
  • Anger
  • Avoidance

The person may even try to rationalize or explain their drug use. For instance, they may explain the negative side effects they feel when they go off the drug. Or, they may say that it helps them cope with excessive physical or mental pain.

If you anticipate these reactions beforehand, they won’t catch you off-guard. Instead of bristling against their response, give them space and time to express how they feel. Listen intently and offer support at every turn.

Especially during these early conversations, resist the urge to enter into negative dialogue. Don’t use biased or judgmental language, and avoid blaming them for their behavior. Instead, keep your tone gentle and calm.

Remind them that you have their best interest at heart, and you want what’s best for them. However, don’t push the topic at those first few meetings. Doing so could turn the person away for good and could even impair your relationship.

Addictions are already isolating and ostracizing, and insulting remarks can make an addict feel even more alone. Ask if they’d be willing to listen to your ideas and if they’re open to what you have to say. If they agree, then carefully launch into the next phase.

Explain Negative Consequences

It might be difficult to do without pointing out blame, but the next step is to help the person see how their heroin addiction is affecting their life, as well as the lives around them.

From their performance at work to their personal relationships, heroin can damage their connections and threaten every endeavor they pursue. However, it can be difficult for someone to see this when they’re in the throes of an addiction.

Rather, they can only see what’s immediately in front of them, and that usually means ingesting the substance to maintain the euphoric high they crave. When someone on the outside tenderly points out the havoc that the addiction is causing, it can encourage them to pause and think.

Often, this perspective alone is all that’s needed for them to pursue treatment. However, this isn’t always the case.

You might find that no matter how much you point out the problems with their addiction and the pain that it’s causing, the person still won’t reach out for help. When this happens, you may consider enlisting the support of a professional counselor or family mediator.

These experts are well-versed in challenging and sensitive topics like an addiction. They can bring your loved ones together to talk openly and candidly about what’s going on, the pain it’s causing, and what needs to happen moving forward.

Support Without Enabling

As you offer your support, remember that it is not the same thing as enablement. Often, well-meaning people who are close to an addict unknowingly facilitate their destructive behavior without even realizing it. This can be a spouse, partner, parent, child, or friend.

Be clear in your intentions and make sure the addict knows that you do not support their behavior. This may mean eliminating any activities that you’ve been participating in to help cover up or minimize the effects of their addiction, such as:

  • Loaning them money to pay bills
  • Bailing them out of jail
  • Intervening in relationship conflict
  • Calling their employer when they’re too sick to work

It can be hard to cut this type of help out, but it will work against your efforts to help the addict find treatment. By drawing the line, you’re benefitting them long-term, even if it might feel like a betrayal at first.

Understand Treatment Options

Convincing your loved one to pursue heroin addiction treatment is a major step in the right direction. However, you might be surprised to find that there are several different paths and programs to pursue.

One option is outpatient treatment. Under an outpatient program, individuals continue to live at home. They are able to complete their daily routines, including work, while they undergo treatment.

Another option is a residential treatment program. With this program, the person would live full-time at a designated treatment center. While this can be a more significant move, it allows them to focus solely on their recovery without the distractions of the outside world.

In addition to these two main types of programs, you can also find centers available to help individuals work on certain parts of their addictions. For instance, through cognitive behavioral therapy, they can address the destructive thought patterns that led them to abuse heroin in the first place. They can also learn healthier methods for coping with stress.

There are also dedicated drug rehabilitation centers, as well as partial hospitalization treatment programs, intensive outpatient programs, and more. You can even find sober living resources and transitional housing if the person’s living situation is contributing to their drug abuse.

Prepare Questions Beforehand

As you research the different treatment options available, it helps to be prepared with a list of questions for each center or facility. This way, you can narrow down your list and only focus on the programs that meet your needs.

A few potential questions to ask include:

  • What are the credentials of your staff members?
  • Can you explain how a day in the life of this program would look?
  • Is your facility licensed?
  • What are the rules at your facility?
  • Are private rooms available?
  • Do you provide medical detox services?
  • Do you take insurance? If so, which kind?
  • What are your visitation policies?

These are only a few of the inquiries you may want to pose. Write them down before you call or meet with any facility representative. As you compile your list, be sure to ask the heroin addict if they have any questions of their own.

You want to be as comfortable with your choice as possible, and clearing up any confusion beforehand can help you decide if a facility is a good fit for your loved one.

Find Treatment and Support For a Heroin Addict

It can be devastating to watch someone you know suffer through a heroin addiction. This is a painful and debilitating disease that can ruin relationships, professions, and lives.

When you’re ready to help a heroin addict take the first step on the path toward recovery, we’re here to help. At Detox to Rehab, we’re dedicated to providing you with all of the information and resources you need to navigate these next steps.

If you or someone you love needs help, call our treatment hotline today at (866) 578-7471.

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