The term “heroin addict” has a certain connotation, and not a good one. People struggling with heroin are often thought of as individuals who are homeless or live in dirty places with no job and do not have the ability to stop. Although this may be the case for some people who don’t receive help and end up very deep in addiction and mental health issues, a great deal start off as productive members of our society who were taking opioids prescribed by their physician for pain relief. They eventually developed a physical dependence and turned to the cheaper and easier to find alternative: heroin. Or, they may be someone who tried heroin once in a weak moment and ended up getting sucked in by this highly addictive substance. What is true for many heroin addicts is that their life is fragile. Recovering from this affliction will not be easy, but it is necessary to save their life. The support they receive from their loved ones, caregivers, and community play a significant role in their ability to regain control over their life.
Heroin Relapse Rates
Although it is difficult to measure relapse rates due to a lack of access to information and varied definitions of relapse, there are numbers to reference that provides some insight into the heroin relapse rates. For instance, a graphic published by JAMA in 2000 displays a graph with a 40-60% relapse rate for individuals with a substance use disorder. This rate is in line with a study conducted at NYU where a particular medication was tested for its effects on opioid relapse rates. This study showed 64% of participants in the control group relapsed, while only 43% relapsed in the treatment group.
In addition to high relapse rates, overdose rates for heroin and other opioids are one of the leading causes of accidental death in America over the past century. In fact, in 2018, opioid overdose surpassed car accidents and became the #1 cause of accidental deaths. According to the CDC, 70% of all overdose deaths in the United States are connected with opioid use. In 2018, 46,806 overdose deaths were associated with opioid use. Without treatment, it is not a matter of if, but when an overdose will happen.
As mentioned previously, a large number of people who become heroin addicts start as people who are prescribed opioid medication for pain relief. For these individuals, detoxing from heroin doesn’t just mean overcoming withdrawal and cravings, but also possibly facing the return of chronic pain. This is just one more way in which their life is fragile.
Long term recovery seems unreasonable without also addressing any underlying causes of chronic pain. Although medication is a reasonable method of managing pain in the short term, overcoming heroin addiction means seeking long term solutions to pain. Surgery is an option that may be available for certain causes of pain, but there are also numerous less invasive methods to consider. Chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, and diet changes are all options that can contribute to addressing the underlying causes of pain and managing the symptoms.
Addiction treatment programs include access to medical professionals and alternative care providers who can identify solutions to address each individual’s unique needs and get them access to the appropriate therapies.
Although heroin addicts have an uphill battle to fight if they are going to escape drugs, there are plenty of success stories that provide hope. Times Union published an article in 2014 about a then 33-year old former heroin addict, drug dealer, and ex-convict named Emmanuel Donato. Mr. Donato overcame his addiction and has dedicated his life to inspiring “recovering heroin addicts to combine psychological counseling with a rigorous regimen of eating raw, organic foods and intense physical workouts as therapy.” Brian Pennie is now a public speaker who shares his journey and how he went from a heroin addict to a PhD with 15 years clean.
In short, recovery is possible and heroin does not have to mark the beginning of the end. Don’t do it alone, get help today from a heroin addiction treatment program near you.