Heroin Effects and Treatment: Methadone Suboxone and Vivitrol


Heroin is a derivative of opium which affects the reward centers in the brain initially producing a rush of euphoria and providing pain relief those effects are short lived, however, and a tolerance to the drug soon develops so people take it again and again in greater and greater doses hoping to find that same rush. With continued use a heroin user can expect a host of health issues including a high risk for hepatitis C and HIV, dental problems, chronic respiratory illness, sexual impotence, skin issues, and depression. There are treatment options for heroin addicts buy it should be properly diagnosed.

Heroin use is also associated with higher risks of being incarcerated, being the victim of a violent crime and early death But the powerfully addictive nature of heroin makes an addicted person carry on using the drug despite these effects and consequences it’s important to understand that this addiction becomes a medical condition by changing the wiring of the brain. But help is available.


The first step is detoxification- this can mean completely stopping all opiates or taking decreasing dosages of long-acting prescriptions to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Medically supervised detox is more effective as well as less uncomfortable than going it alone. Doctors can prescribe medicines to help ease the discomfort associated with withdrawal from both heroin and other substances often taken by heroin users this is usually done on an inpatient basis ongoing medical maintenance is a tried-and-true approach to staying off heroin.

Since the 1960s countless people have found success through methadone which activates opioid receptors in the brain but has a milder longer acting effect. This enables people to avoid withdrawal symptoms without heroin’s many negative effects due to the potential for abuse methadone is only available by daily visiting a specialized clinic but newer medications that are formulated to reduce abuse potential are now available. These include Suboxone, which not only reduces withdrawal symptoms but also blocks the effects of injected opioids; and Vivitrol, which is given once a month by injection, is non-addictive and non sedating and blocks the effects of opioids making heroin ineffective and unappealing.

Medical Therapies

But medical therapies alone are rarely enough the best approach includes behavioral treatment to address underlying emotional and psychological issues that may have led to heroin use in the first place, along with issues that have developed due to heroin use. A support system of recovering people, family, friends and treatment professionals is also essential to a lasting gratifying recovery.

It’s that same primitive drive that gets commandeered by the addiction, it’s the same brain receptors that respond to opioids that respond to a lot of the internal molecules that our brain makes, their called endogenous opioids and those pathways are being commandeered by the addiction when it’s being flooded with heroin or with prescription opioids and so that same primitive drive to do what it takes to survive gets directed towards finding and using drugs. So it’s not this conscious choice that people are making to go out and find drugs, it’s an inherent drive that they often will describe watching themselves do all the destructive behaviors that got them into the addiction in the first place but feeling helpless to stop themselves.

Very body needs a different plan for treatment, there’s some people who their addiction is more mild, they’re using pills they’re not using every day, they’ve got more of a behavioral dependence or a psychological dependence or addiction, then they do the physical, and they don’t necessarily experience withdraw, those people are perfect for an outpatient program where they can still live at home, still be imbedded in their community, still have the direct support of their family members they just need this extra assistance to get some counseling to help understand the behavioral patterns that feed into their addiction.


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