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Heroin is an opioid, like morphine, only its effects are many times stronger and more addictive.

The drug interferes with the body’s normal control of life-sustaining responses such as breathing and blood pressure regulation.

The effects don’t stop there-studies have demonstrated a deterioration of white matter in the brains of chronic users. This diminishes the user’s ability to make safe decisions. Likewise, it limits their ability to control their own behaviors and accentuates abnormal responses in times of stress.

Medications currently used for heroin addiction treatment offer users a gradual withdrawal from opiates with minimal symptoms. These medications, like Buprenorphine or suboxone, will reduce cravings and gradually reduce the physical dependency on heroin. When taken as prescribed, they are quite safe. While addicts may be tempted to include other medications for their own comfort, they should discuss this with their physician to avoid untoward results. These medications are also credited with reducing withdrawal syndromes in unborn babies.

The side effects of the medications for heroin addiction treatment are mild in intensity and risk when compared to continued addiction. Another great benefit of these medications is the ability to return to work or normal life after one or two initial treatments. This makes outpatient therapy not only possible, but successful.

Regular users of illicit drugs are routinely exposed to infectious diseases, increased incidents of serious pneumonia, convulsions, and death. Common medical complications include spontaneous abortions, endocarditis (a crippling heart infection), and toxicity due to impurities in the drug itself.

Medication is only one step toward sobriety. Heroin addiction treatment considers all factors associated with addiction, and each of those will be addressed to acquire long-term abstinence. Some people require counseling and meetings with support groups. Nearly all heroin users have to stop any association with many of their old friends; the temptation is just too great.

Family relationships can normally be mended, but those who suffered throughout the addict’s drug use may require an extended period of time to believe that there has been a change. They may also need to attend counseling sessions.

The user, however, often claims a “return to normal” feeling after one week. This is the danger point when clients are tempted to miss dosages or stop taking it all together.

The best result, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is long-term pharmacological treatment and a slow tapering from the medication used in treatment.

Recent research performed by NIDA included patients on long-term medications used in heroin addiction treatment. The results were encouraging, as up to 80 percent remained abstinent for over three years. These outcomes breathe new life into outpatient treatment centers and allow more addicts to achieve sobriety. Those who complete treatment may finally be able to return to a normal way of life.

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