Does Medicated Assisted Treatment Work?

doctor with arms crossed holding a stethoscope

Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT has been a part of drug and alcohol treatment for decades. In simple terms, it consists of the use of medications in concert with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat addiction. One of the first medications used in MAT beginning in the 1960s was methadone for heroin addiction. While methadone continues to be used in certain circumstances, pharmacological research over the past 30 years or so has made new, more targeted medicines available, including buprenorphine and naltrexone, that have far fewer compromises.

Understanding MAT

The goal with MAT is not to simply treat symptoms. A common misunderstanding about MAT is that it is simply some sort of long-term detox process. The reality is that modern MAT is an evidence-based treatment methodology with proven results. Medication is used in parallel with therapy to establish new behaviors. The outcome targeted by MAT is lifetime abstinence. Numerous studies have shown that MAT:

• Increases the likelihood of patients remaining in treatment.
• Decreases opiate abuse and criminal activity in patients prone to those behaviors.
• Decreased alcohol abuse and criminal activity, e.g. DUI arrests among treated alcoholics.
• Improves the ability of the patient to attain and retain gainful employment

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are engaged a long-term study of over 1,188 patients at 65 sites across the U.S. to research outcomes for patients receiving MAT for opioid use disorders.(1) This historic study is scheduled to conclude in Summer 2021 with final analysis. It is widely anticipated to answer lingering questions about this form of treatment and to fuel the growing acceptance of MAT in the treatment and recovery communities.

The Evolution In Addiction Treatment

The field of addiction medicine is continuously evolving and innovation in recent years has largely been driven by America’s exploding opioid crisis. The demand for lasting solutions has grown geometrically over the past decade. It is become more evident than ever that to simply triage addicts with week-long detox stays is woefully insufficient. Major cities and small towns across the country are being impacted in a very real way. Emergency services stretched to the breaking point managing overdose calls, increases in property crime, and overdose fatalities. All of this has driven the federal government to bring unprecedented resources to bear on the problem. The previously mentioned CDC study is just one example of the work being done.

The efficacy of MAT is easier to understand than most might imagine. Simply put, medications can mitigate withdrawal symptoms and cravings and even block the effects of illicit opiates. By removing much of the physical cravings and treating residual effects like depression, anxiety, and lethargy, patients are empowered. There is a synergistic effect in action. The patient is at less of a disadvantage. This makes them better able to participate in therapy and to benefit from it. The more time patients can remain abstinent, while simultaneously practicing positive new behaviors, the better their odds of success at long-term recovery.

Medication-Assisted Treatment is a tool that when used appropriately, improves the chances for successful recovery over the years and lifetimes.

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/Medication-Assisted-Treatment-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Study.html

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System? Withdrawal and Detox

Heroin Withdrawal Time

One of the most addictive drugs on the planet, heroin is a very scary substance. The drug takes over addicts’ lives, as they need to constantly re-up their supply to avoid withdrawing. Typically withdrawal begins within 12 hours of the addict’s last heroin fix. But that’s only the beginning. How long does it take for heroin to fully leave your system? 

 

Heroin Source 

Because heroin is an illicit, illegal substance there is no oversight when it comes to quality, purity, potency, as well as what it may be mixed with. This is one of the reasons heroin is so incredibly dangerous, particularly as it is commonly used intravenously. A user has no way of knowing what they are getting, aside from the word of their dealer who often has no idea how the drug was made or by whom. 

In recent years, the United States has seen a significant spike in heroin overdoses due to the drug being laced with Fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opiate that is 50 to 100 times stronger than Morphine and users (and even dealers) typically have no idea it is in their drug supply until it is too late. 

 

How Long Does Heroin Stay In Your System?

Heroin has a short half-life of around 30 minutes. This means in roughly 30 minutes, half the drug is removed from the system.

The exact time it takes depends on the individual and a number of factors such as: 

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body Mass Index
  • Metabolism Rate
  • Amount of heroin taken
  • Quality of heroin taken
  • Liver and kidney health
  • Hydration levels
  • Tolerance
  • Medical conditions

 

Drug Testing for Heroin

Depending on the method of testing, heroin will show up anywhere from a few days to several months later.

Saliva Test: up to 1 hour

Blood Test: up to 6 hours

Urine Test: up to 3 days

Hair Test: up to 90 days

 

Withdrawal Period 

The exact time it takes to fully withdraw depends on the person. Factors such as how long they have been using, the way they use, their typical dose, and body chemistry will all affect how a person detoxes heroin. 

For most people, the worst withdrawal symptoms will occur during the first week after the last dose. However, heavy and long-term users’ symptoms may extend longer. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can include: 

  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Runny nose
  • Sweats
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Severe cravings
  • Difficulty breathing

Withdrawal from heroin can be dangerous. It is best done in an addiction treatment center under the care of medical professionals. Furthermore, symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be managed through medication, making the process safer and more comfortable. 

 

Getting Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, please do not hesitate to seek the help you need. Detoxing in a professional clinical environment can give you the support you need in order to come off the drug safely and effectively. Treatment can also provide the tools, education, and support to achieve long-term recovery. Call us today and see how we can help you live the life you deserve. 

Avoiding Summer Triggers to Protect your Sobriety

Summer Triggers and Protecting Your Sobriety

Last weekend was July 4th which means we are well into the summer season. As the weather heats up and lockdown restrictions lift, temptation and triggers are everywhere. For those in recovery, this can be an especially challenging time. Read on for how to avoid classic summer triggers and protect your sobriety. 

 

Identify: What Are Your Biggest Triggers? 

Triggers can be a person, place, event, or even memory that causes cravings and potentially lead you to relapse. Is it difficult to be at a social event without a beer? Hard to be around old friends without wanting to use? Or is feeling lonely a big issue for you? Identifying triggers is an important part of recovery. 

Summertime tends to bring us face-to-face with our triggers more often. Why? Because the warmer weather means people are out and about. There are backyard barbecues, sporting events, beach days, and more. So, take some time to picture yourself in various situations. Can you say with confidence that you can attend a party without drinking? Is it harder to be alone? Decide what your biggest triggers are and how you might remedy them. Maybe it’s skipping events where you know people will be using. Or maybe it’s making sure you have someone you can talk to when you’re feeling low. 

 

How to Enjoy your Summer in Sobriety

1. Limit Social Media 

A 2012 study found that social media has a clear link to relapse. And it’s pretty easy to understand why. Watching everyone we know posting pictures of themselves partying and imbibing can be very triggering. And summer tends to be an even more popular time to post these types of things because people are generally more active. Not only can these images be triggering, but social media is commonly said to cause feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, jealousy, loneliness, and depression. All of which can be strong triggers for using.

So, try to limit your exposure. Do a social media detox, limit the time you spend on it, and definitely unfollow or mute any accounts that trigger you or make you feel bad about yourself. No one needs that negativity in their life! 

 

2. Give Back To Your Community

Volunteering is good for the soul. It has been proven to make people feel happier, less stressed, and less anxious. It combats feelings of anger and depression. Not only that, but giving back gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. If you are feeling lost or lonely this summer, consider volunteering. Not only are you helping others, but you are helping yourself and building a sense of community. By keeping yourself busy and giving back, you reduce all the common triggers of loneliness, depression, isolation, and stress. It’s a win win for everyone involved. 

 

3. Make Sober Friends 

Sometimes, feeling lonely can be our biggest trigger. But often the friends we had before our sobriety are only going to lead us down the path of relapse. Making friends who are also in recovery is great way to connect with like-minded people who know what you’re going through. Meetings are a great place to meet people, or try searching online for sober events or meetups near you. 

 

4. Get Outdoors

What better way to enjoy the great summer weather than a run through the park, a hike, or an outdoor yoga session? Finding a way to get some fresh air each day is connected to multiple mental health benefits including fighting depression, reducing anxiety, and combating stress. Plus it has an added benefit of keeping you busy. So wake up early and go for that jog or morning swim. Your brain will thank you. 

 

5. Have a Plan in Place for Unexpected Cravings or Triggers

Do you know what to do if cravings strike? Is there someone you can call, perhaps a sober friend or sponsor? If you are planning to go to a party where people will be drinking, make sure you have plans in place for the various triggers you may encounter. These tips for navigating parties or gatherings in sobriety can help. 

 

Getting Help

We hope this list helps you avoid triggers and protect your sobriety this summer. However, sometimes despite our best efforts, we find ourselves in trouble. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction this summer, or find yourself in a relapse, don’t wait to seek help. Contact us anytime. Our kind and supportive staff can talk to you about your options for help and treatment.

We are here for you.

The United States is Facing a Meth Crisis: Here’s How it Happened

Crystal Meth Use in the United States is on the Rise and Reaching Crisis Point

Back in the early 2000’s, authorities thought they had a handle on meth use in the United States. The government had created task forces to crack down on clandestine meth labs and simultaneously limited the amount of cold medicine that can be purchased at once. This effectively wiped out a major source of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in Crystal Meth production.

The legislative efforts worked and for the next couple years, as production slowed, so did meth use. However, those quiet years were just the calm before the storm. Production was being outsourced and meth use would soon come back stronger than ever. Now the United States faces a meth crisis. Here’s how it happened: 

 

Cartel Production and Distribution

When the US cracked down on all the factors involved in producing meth, production was outsourced over the border to Mexico. In the hands of Mexican cartels, production scaled up significantly in what are often called “superlabs”. As a result, the product is purer, more potent, less expensive, and more abundant than ever. 

Drug runners transport the product in liquid form, which is more difficult to detect. States across the US are being flooded with liquid meth, which is then brought to small-scale conversion labs across the country. In these labs, found in residential neighborhoods, office buildings, and even apartment buildings, they turn the liquid product into the crystal form that is popular on the street. These conversion labs are extremely dangerous. Meth is a highly combustible substance and accidents are prevalent. These are not trained chemists converting the substance but drug runners. Explosions are common and in residential areas they often can take innocent lives with them. 

 

Cheap and Plentiful

The sheer volume of meth coming in from Mexico has put pressure on local dealers, who are often selling the drug to users on credit. Steven Bell, a DEA spokesperson, has said “I have been involved with meth for the last 25 years. A wholesale plummet of price per pound, combined with a huge increase of purity, tells me they have perfected the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine. They have figured out the chemical reactions to get the best bang for their bucks.”

Meth can be found for around $5 per hit which is highly cheap as far as illicit substances are concerned. It is so cheap that police officers are finding that long-term addicts who were addicted to crack are switching to meth, citing that it’s half the price.

 

Public Health and Safety Crisis

Methamphetamine is associated with a host of public health concerns including increased risk of STDs and MRSA. It is also associated with serious long-term health consequences for users including heart failure, Parkinson’s and early onset Dementia. Furthermore, meth creates erratic behavior. One user shared with an Atlanta news outlet that as time went on, the consequences of her meth use worsened. She said, “I felt rage. I had too much energy. I screamed often.” Angry outbursts and violent behaviors can be side effects of meth use, called “ice rage”. Users can become highly agitated and unstable for seemingly no reason, creating significant public safety risks. 

Emergency room visits due to Crystal Meth are on the rise across the country. In San Francisco, meth related ER visits increased 600% in 2016 with 1965 visits. At San Francisco General Hospital, 47% of psychiatric ER visits were due to people who were high on meth rather than mentally ill. In Oklahoma, one of the hardest hit states in the Meth Epidemic, crystal meth is the leading cause of drug-related deaths, by a long way. 

Related: How Meth Use Increases Disease Risk

 

Getting Help

Crystal Meth is ravaging the United States and taking thousands of lives with it. But these deaths are preventable. Professional addiction treatment in a clinical environment like those at Harmony Recovery Group can make all the difference. Don’t let you or someone you love be next. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with Meth Use or addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out for the help you need.

Call us today.

Signs of Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Adderall is a powerful amphetamine stimulant which helps people focus. It is typically prescribed to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help them focus their attention in order to function in daily life, school, and work. However, Adderall will make anyone focused. This makes it a prime target for abuse in settings such as college study sessions and stressful workplaces. Adderall use, abuse, and addiction has exploded over the past two decades.

Prescriptions for the medication increased fivefold between 2002 and 2012. From 2006 and 2016, manufacturing of prescription stimulants increased a staggering nine million percent. This widespread use has also led to increased availability through friends, colleagues and even on the street. 

 

Adderall Abuse 

Abuse as a “Study Drug” 

One of the main reasons for Adderall abuse is as a “study drug”. Students claim that they use it to stay up late and study before a big exam or write big papers on a deadline.

In fact, it is so prevalent among college students that one study at a small university in Maine found that one in three students had abused Adderall at some point.

 

Abuse as a Party Drug 

Further abuse comes when Adderall is used as a stimulant for energy purposes. Often for people with ADHD, which has a hyperactive component, Adderall (and other stimulants like Ritalin) can actually calm them down and the focus it provides helps them remain in the present moment. However, this is not the case for people who abuse the drug without medical need for it. The stimulant properties of Adderall can therefore make some people feel energized, upbeat, and outgoing. This is often why it is found on the party scene. Some college students claim it makes them more talkative, better company, and able to stay up later. 

Another big risk of Adderall abuse comes in when it is mixed with alcohol. Mixing depressants (alcohol) and stimulants can be very dangerous, masking the effects of both and leading to overconsumption.

Abuse for Weight Loss 

Lastly, Adderall’s appetite suppressant qualities mean many people use it as an unhealthy weight loss tool. A study among college student users found one in five women who take Adderall do so to lose weight. Unnatural and ongoing appetite suppression can cause multiple health problems such as malnutrition and can lead to eating disorders. Furthermore, eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa often co-occur with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Addiction to drugs like Adderall. 

 

Adderall Side Effects, Abuse Warning Signs and Overdose

Side Effects of Adderall 
  • Dry Mouth
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling wired
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Severe anxiety or Panic Attacks
Warning Signs of Abuse 
  • Excessive Weight loss
  • Secretive behavior
  • Overworking
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Twitching
  • False sense of well-being
  • Restlessness
Adderall Overdose

Adderall is a potent amphetamine and abuse in high amounts can lead to dangerous complications such as heart attack, stroke, and liver failure. When combined with other substances like alcohol, the risk of overdose increases. Signs of Adderall overdose can include symptoms such as: 

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Convulsions
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrolled shaking
  • Dark red or brown urine

Adderall overdose can be fatal. Therefore, if someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. 

 

Adderall Withdrawal 

Dependence and tolerance can develop relatively quickly if Adderall is taken every day. Subsequently, withdrawal symptoms can occur when the drug is not taken after a long period of regular use. Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, irritability, difficulty sleeping, nausea, vomiting, and/or unusual fatigue. Sometimes stimulant withdrawal can make a user feel hungover. Depending on duration of use and dosages taken, symptoms can last a few days or a couple weeks.  

 

Understanding the difference between abuse and addiction

Taking Adderall recreationally or to study for an exam is a form of abuse, but not necessarily addiction. However, regular abuse is a dangerous road that can lead to full blown addiction. People who are addicted to Adderall will prioritize the drug above all else and need it to function. 

Signs of Adderall addiction may include: 
  • Missing social events or important obligations in order to use Adderall 
  • Unable to do work without it
  • Requiring larger and larger doses in order to feel the effect of Adderall 
  • Spending significant time and money obtaining, using, and recovering from use
  • Unable to feel alert without it
  • Wanting to quit but feeling unable to do so
  • Experiencing withdrawal when not using Adderall

 

Treatment

If you or a loved one are showing signs of Adderall addiction, it is recommended that you attend a treatment program. Treatment can help you work through not only the physical dependence but the emotional and psychological reasons for using. Further, working a treatment program offers the best outcome for long-term recovery and a better life.

If you think you may have a problem with Adderall, call us today. We’re here to help and we’re here to listen.  

Sources

http://www.center4research.org/study-drug-abuse-college-students/

https://www.jhsph.edu/

Teter CJ, McCabe SE, et al. “Illicit Use of Specific Prescription Stimulants Among College Students: Prevalence, Motives, and Routes of Administration.” Pharmacotherapy 2006. 26(10):1501-1510.

Women’s Healthcare Month: Substance Abuse Effect on Female Fertility

Substance Abuse Effects on Female Fertility

June is Women’s Healthcare Month and we will be talking about the intersection of addiction and substance abuse on women’s health all month long. Addiction and substance abuse have been found to negatively impact both male and female fertility but research has shown that women are more susceptible to the long-term physical health effects than men. 

 

Effect of Substance Abuse on Female Reproductive Health 

Increased STD Risk

Lowered inhibitions and impaired judgement caused by alcohol and drug abuse increase the chance of engaging in risky sexual behaviors. These include unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners which both increase the risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases. There is also a greater risk that someone in active addiction will not be receiving regular medical care and therefore will not be screened for STDs. Certain STDs such as Syphilis and Chlamydia can cause reproductive damage and infertility if left untreated. 

 

Hormonal Disruption

Drug and alcohol use can cause hormonal disruption and dysfunction which can lead to menstrual cycle changes, including Amenorrhea (absence of period). Over time these hormonal issues can cause reproductive health problems. 

 

Cancer Risk 

Certain STDs such as Human Papilloma Virus correlate to higher risk of certain cancers such as cervical cancer. Because drug and alcohol users are at higher risk of STDs, this is cause for concern. Furthermore, women who use drugs and alcohol are at higher risk overall for numerous forms of cancer, including those that affect reproduction. 

 

Sexual Dysfunction

Drug and alcohol abuse can impact sexual performance, drive, pleasure and arousal. For example, studies have found that heroin use can cause long-term loss of sexual desire and inability to achieve orgasm.

 

Effect of Substance Abuse on Fertility

Each of the above health effects has their own impact on female fertility. Further effects depend on the substances used.

 

Tobacco Use and Fertility

Tobacco use correlates to infertility. One study shows that just a half-pack per day is linked to reduced fecundity (ability to produce multiple offspring). Another study shows that smoking is associated with increased failure to conceive in both a 6-month and 12-month duration of study. Smoking also correlates to shorter menstrual cycle length. 

 

Alcohol Use and Fertility

Research has shown that women with alcohol use disorders are more likely to have problems with fertility than women who are low to moderate alcohol users. Studies have found that women’s alcohol intake was associated with a decreased chance of conception, particularly when participants consumed five or more drinks per week. 

 

Drug Use and Fertility

Drug use and infertility connect in multiple ways depending on the substance. In a study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), women who reported using Marijuana were found to have higher rates of infertility than non-users. Further, female cocaine use can cause fallopian tube damage which can result in permanent infertility. As well as irregular periods and hormonal imbalances which make fertility tracking impossible for months after last cocaine use was reported. 

 

Getting Help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we can help. Contact us today, we’re here for you. 

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1523510/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31241750/

https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-020-0567-7

https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2011/03/methamphetamine-abuse-in-women-of-reproductive-age

https://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/optimizing_natural_fertility.pdf

Global Parents Day: Support for Parents of Addicted Children

Help for Parents of Addicted Children

Today, June 1st, is Global Day of Parents, a holiday created by the UN to recognize and appreciate the parents in our lives and society. To all parents of addicted children: we see you, we appreciate you, and we support you. 

We know that holidays can be particularly painful for parents of addicted children, we’ve listed some coping strategies for dealing with this crisis.

 

Learn all you can about Addiction 

Addiction is a chronic disease that takes over the lives of those it affects and their loved ones. There are many misconceptions around addiction and substance abuse. Learning about how addiction happens, how it affects your child and how it affects you and your family are all important steps to understanding and healing. Educating yourself on the subject can also help you spot signs and symptoms as well as help manage expectations before and during the recovery process. 

 

Understand the Difference Between Helping and Enabling

As parents, we love our children. We have spent our lives as parents keeping them safe from harm, teaching them, helping them grow. To watch them in crisis is unnerving. Our protection instincts kick in and all we want to do is help. Unfortunately this helping instinct can lead to enabling. Addicted children will take advantage of this to keep the flow of their addiction running. 

It’s important to ask yourself, “Will this action enable my child’s addiction?” To get your child through addiction means you must ask yourself this at every turn. Every action you take, every boundary you establish needs to be working towards getting them into sobriety. 

Enabling comes in when the actions you take make it easier for your child to continue using drugs. Sometimes it’s pretty clear: Giving food or gas money that may be used to buy drugs, paying their rent so they still have a place to live, or bailing them out of trouble their drug use has caused are all overt acts of enabling.

But enabling can also be more subtle. Do you minimize their drug use to family members? Have you ever lied for them to cover their addiction? Do you avoid it altogether, so that when your child comes home for dinner one week things can just “be normal for once”? Staying quiet to keep the peace or minimizing the scope of the situation are both dangerous acts of enabling. Addiction thrives in the dark. 

 

Understand that their choices are not reflections of your parenting 

Addicts lie, cheat, and steal. They are consumed by finding their next fix. It is not because you did not teach them right from wrong, it is not because you failed them as a parent. There is a phrase in addiction circles called the “3 C’s”: You did not cause their addiction, you cannot control their addiction. All you can do is change yourself and your reaction. Do not blame yourself. Find support groups, seek therapy, and find ways to care for yourself. In truth, all we can ever truly have control over in life is ourselves and our emotional response. Learning to change the natural, impulsive reactions we have to situations like this can go a long way in weathering the storm. 

 

Create boundaries to protect yourself and your family 

Boundaries are the anti-enabling. It is important to set clear rules and boundaries with addicted children to protect yourself, your loved ones, and ultimately your addicted child. Not letting them come to the house while high, if they’re still living at home not allowing them to have drug-using friends over, not allowing them to abuse, insult, or manipulate you. These are all healthy boundaries that can protect your family physically and emotionally from addictive behaviors. 

 

Practice Self-Care 

This journey you are on is a painful, stressful, exhausting one. Living in crisis can cause serious mental and physical health issues which is why it is so important to take time to prioritize your wellbeing. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating right, and taking time for yourself. 

 

Establish an Open Dialogue

Learn to communicate with honesty, vulnerability, and acceptance. Anger, yelling, and/or blaming do not create safe spaces in which to discuss problems and can push the addict further away. Once you have stopped enabling and have firm boundaries set, having this open channel of communication will be helpful when your addicted child does decide to discuss their situation. A safe space is one in which help can be asked for, and treatment can be suggested. 

 

Treatment is the answer, but they need to want it for themselves 

Getting your addicted child into treatment is the best possible option for getting them into a life of sobriety and health. However, it is important to know that treatment works best when the addict truly wants to change. Sometimes an addict needs to hit rock bottom to make this change but not always. Learn all you can about treatment options and continue encouraging it until they decide they want to get help. When the time comes, professional treatment can change their life. 

 

Seeking Help

Being the parent of an addicted child is one of the biggest and most painful challenges a parent can face, we hope this article was able to offer some support and coping strategies. If you are struggling with an addicted child and don’t know what to do, please reach out. 

Our expert team at Harmony Recovery Group are here to help, both as a supportive ear and a strategy for change. Call us at (866) 461-4474

Health Effects of Heroin Addiction

Health Effects of Heroin Addiction

 

It’s no secret that heroin use is bad for your health, but just how bad is it? From mild symptoms to severe and permanent health problems, the health effects of heroin addiction run a spectrum that can become progressively worse the longer it is abused. Furthermore, depending on how it is used, some organs and systems are damaged worse than others. 

 

What is Heroin? 

Heroin is an opioid drug derived from the Opium Poppy plant. It can be found as a brown or white powder or as a black sticky substance known as Black Tar Heroin. It can be injected, snorted, or smoked. 

Because opioid receptors are located in the brain, brain stem, spinal cord, lungs and intestines the effects of heroin use can be far reaching within the body. It depresses the Central Nervous System, slowing the heart rate, lung and brain function. 

Heroin is extremely addictive and causes physical dependency. A heroin user will go into withdrawal within 6-12 hours of their last use so the constant chase of their next fix can become all consuming. For most heroin users, the drug is the only thing that matters in their life. 

 

Health Effects of Heroin Addiction

Heroin’s depressive function on the circulatory system puts users at greater risk of lung complications like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Even in the short term, there have been cases of respiratory failure following heroin use. 

Heroin affects all organ systems in the body and can cause liver and kidney diseases. Furthermore, many of the additives in street heroin do not readily dissolve and can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. Allergic or immune reactions to these or other contaminants can cause autoimmune issues such as arthritis or rheumatologic problems. 

Heroin can also cause long-term impotence in men, loss of sexual desire in women, and an inability to orgasm in all sexes. 

 

Injection (Intravenous Use) Risks

Further health effects can result from intravenous usage. For example: 

Vein Collapse

Heroin causes vein collapse which inhibits the body’s ability to circulate blood. Sometimes the veins can be repaired but other times the collapse is permanent. 

Blood, Tissue, Skin Infections

Bacterial infections, abscesses (boils) and other soft tissue infections at or around injection sites can be caused by intravenous use. Wound from intense itching, a common side effect of heroin use can also cause also increase risk of infections. 

Increased risk for HIV, Hepatitis, and other communicable diseases

Shared needles can increase the spread of communicable diseases. For example, drug injection accounts for 1 in 10 cases of HIV and is a major cause in the spread of Hepatitis C.

 

Overdoses from Heroin

Perhaps the most serious health complication and major cause of death among heroin users is overdosing. In 2018, nearly 15,000 people in America died from heroin overdose and cases have been rising sharply in the US over the past few years. There are multiple causes for overdose but a factor of major concern at present is the prevalence of Fentanyl in street heroin. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and many times more potent than heroin. It is a major contributor to overdoses across the country because heroin users do not know it is there and take their normal amount, but the dose is far more potent than it would normally be. Often even dealers do not know that the heroin they are selling contains Fentanyl. The dangers associated with heroin are only increasing. 

 

Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can be particularly painful. The severity of symptoms depends on the average amount, frequency and potency of heroin a person uses. Avoidance of withdrawal symptoms often causes addicts to return to heroin use even when they’ve resolved to quit. 

These symptoms include: 

  • Muscle Aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Cold Flashes
  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Bone Pain

*Note: Quitting heroin cold turkey can be dangerous to your health and should be done with medical supervision wherein withdrawal symptoms can be properly managed.

 

Detoxing from Heroin in a Professional Treatment Environment

Professional addiction treatment centers, like Harmony Recovery Group, can help mitigate the health risks associated with heroin withdrawal and reduce symptoms and cravings through medication. At Harmony, we use prescription medication Suboxone which can help patients through the detox process or even be used in the long-term to prevent relapse. Learn more about Medication Assisted Treatment on our recent blog.

We hope this has helped to clarify the health effects of heroin addiction and the risks associated with its use. The sooner you seek help for your addiction, the more able to recover your body and mind will be.  If you or a loved one are struggling with Opioid or Heroin Addiction, contact us today. We are here to help. 

 

Sources 

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html

 

Why is BPD Often Tied to Addiction?

Why is BPD often tied to addiction

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by instability in relationships, self image, and emotions. Among the symptoms for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are: 

  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Inappropriate or extreme emotional reactions
  • Impulsive or risky behavior
  • History of unstable relationships
  • Unstable or dysfunctional self image 
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Explosive anger
  • Intense and highly changeable moods 
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

 

Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder 

Addiction and BPD are strongly linked. While BPD affects only 2.7% of adults, 78% of those will also develop a substance-abuse related disorder at some time in their lives. Feelings of emptiness, distorted self image, and a high propensity for impulsive, risky, or self-destructive behaviors are thought to be key drivers in a BPD sufferer’s tendency toward substance abuse. 

A patient with BPD from Harmony Recovery Group, who asked to remain anonymous, described life with the disorder as having your self image distorted because you are different and you know it. Feeling like an outsider or “alien” as she called it makes a BPD sufferer more likely to mask their feelings of self-loathing and insecurity through drugs and alcohol. 

 

Treating Addiction and BPD Together 

It is important that BPD be addressed in the treatment plan because studies have shown that these persons are less likely to to complete treatment and have shorter abstinence phases. Thus this combination requires a comprehensive therapeutic approach. 

 

Treating both issues concurrently ensures the best chance for long-term success, as treating one without the other creates a vicious cycle in which the BPD fuels the desire to use and the substance abuse exacerbates the BPD symptoms. 

 

Borderline Personality Disorder has been historically difficult to treat. Studies have shown significant progress can be made using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses a philosophical concept called “Dialectics,” based on the idea that everything is composed of opposites. Then, change can occur when there is discussion between the two opposing forces. It teaches mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation to help patients function better in everyday life. 

 

Is Treatment Right For Me? 

At Midwood Addiction Treatment, we aim for dual diagnosis patients to have the best chance at long-term recovery. If you or a loved one are in need of support for BPD, please contact us today. 

 

Risks of Using Imodium for Opioid Withdrawal

Imodium for Opioid Withdrawal | Midwood Addiction Treatment

Imodium (loperamide) is an over-the-counter medication treatment for acute and chronic diarrhea. When used in large quantities, however, Imodium can induce effects similar to opioids, such as euphoria. For this reason, some individuals suffering from opioid addiction abuse Imodium to get high or help manage withdrawal symptoms.

Loperamide works by reducing the flow of fluids and electrolytes into the bowel, effectively decreasing the frequency of bowel movements. The medication can be found in tablet, capsule, or liquid solution for oral consumption.

Imodium Side Effects

Using Imodium can help regulate bowel movements and reduce dehydration in people who are experiencing severe, acute, or chronic diarrhea. However, in addition to these desirable results, abuse of this medication has been associated with a variety of adverse and potentially harmful effects as well. These side effects can vary from mild to severe and may include any of the following:


  • Dry mouth
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Problems urinating


Why Abuse Has Become Prevalent

Like many drugs, the risk that adverse effects will occur is increased when the drug is abused, and an excessive amount is ingested. Abuse of the medication has risen sharply within the past decade, and health officials are blaming the opioid epidemic as the primary catalyst for this problem.

People have discovered that when used in very high doses, Imodium can cause effects similar to those of opioids. The medication is, indeed, believed to be an opioid agonist, and therefore, has the potential to induce euphoric feelings. Due to the drug’s chemical structure, it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier in low doses. Moreover, it will not produce a high unless used in excessive amounts or in conjunction with other drugs.

Also, the drug is widely available OTC at pharmacies and, when compared to both illicit and prescription opioids, it is very affordable. In fact, the cost of 200 capsules of generic loperamide can be as low as $10. People who abuse the drug may take anywhere from 50-400 pills in a single day to experience euphoria comparable to that of opioids like oxycodone and heroin.

Overall, Imodium’s accessibility, low cost, and legal status all contribute to its high potential for abuse. Additionally, many people use loperamide to relieve withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use. Rather than utilizing loperamide to mimic the euphoric high of opioids, people use the drug to treat physical dependence on opioids. For this reason, loperamide abuse has been referred to as “poor man’s methadone.”

Unfortunately, using Imodium as replacement therapy for opioids also requires the user to take very high doses of the medication, which can result in an overdose. Consuming large and frequent amounts of loperamide places a person at a high risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias and profound central respiratory depression, which can lead to death.

Imodium for Opioid Withdrawal | Midwood Addiction Treatment

Signs of Imodium Abuse and Addiction

There is a popular misconception that because loperamide is available without a prescription, it’s safe to use or abuse. However, this belief is not true and can be dangerous. High doses of any drug that has psychoactive effects can lead to the development of chemical dependence if chronically abused. Even a person who has taken higher-than-recommended doses of loperamide due to gastrointestinal issues or diarrhea can become accustomed to the drug’s effects on his or her system and develop a dependence.

After a chemical dependence has developed, users will encounter unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit using the drug. These symptoms are similar to those related to opioid withdrawal and may include nausea, vomiting, depression, irritability, anxiety, cramps, diarrhea, profuse sweating, and muscle aches and pains.

Addiction is characterized by both dependence and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. People who become addicted will continue using Imodium despite encountering adverse consequences. They may also use it in combination with other substances to achieve a more intense high. Alcohol is often abused with Imodium because each substance amplifies the effects of the other.

Unfortunately, engaging in polydrug use significantly increases the chance of a life-threatening overdose due to the possibility of cardiac problems or profound central nervous system depression.

NOTE: When compared to Morphine, Imodium has been shown to be 40-50 times more effective at producing antidiarrheal and central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects.

Help for Imodium Abuse or Opioid Addiction

All drugs, even those that are OTC, can be hazardous when not used as directed. Using Imodium to get high or to relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms other than diarrhea is a form of drug misuse.

If you are abusing loperamide or are using the drug to treat opioid dependence, we urge you to call Midwood Addiction Treatment as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. We employ a comprehensive approach for the treatment of substance abuse and addiction that can help you get on the path to a clean, drug-free life.

Are you ready to take that first step? If so, we are here to help!

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