5 Tips for Climbing the Hill to Recovery
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately two million people in the US are addicted to prescription opiates. Many of these people suffer from shame, because they believe that addiction is a sign of moral and mental weakness; as a result, they think that willpower alone can get them sober. Unfortunately, willpower cannot release people from the grip of addiction. In fact, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a chronic, progressive disease, just like hypertension and diabetes. Recovery rarely occurs spontaneously, because, once someone develops dependence upon a narcotic, professional help is needed to break the cycle of abuse. However, even with help, opiate addiction is incredibly difficult to beat, so you are more likely to get and stay clean the more you understand the recovery process.
Tip #1: Know the Warning Signs of Addiction
Heroin is highly addictive, yet not all people who abuse it become addicts. To safeguard your health, you must look out for the warning signs of dependence—symptoms that your body cannot function normally without heroin. Telltale signs of heroin addiction are obvious to outsiders, but sometimes hard to see for the addict, especially if she is in denial and thinks she can manage her drug abuse on her own. Healthcare practitioners diagnose substance abuse problems based on the following problems:
- Increasing dosage in order to get high
- Using other drugs to manage heroin side effects
- Taking larger amounts of the drug than one intended
- Using drugs in spite of vows to quit
- Repeat attempts to quit drugs
- Spending significant time maintaining a drug supply and using and recovering from binges
- Continued drug use despite negative consequences to one’s career, relationship and finances
- Growing isolation from friends and family
The sooner an addict takes action to stop using drugs, the better her chances are for long-term recovery.
Tip #2: Enlist Professionals
Writers at Psychology Today name heroin as one drug that addicts should never quit cold turkey. Cutting off your heroin supply abruptly can produce debilitating pain, which is why many people cannot get sober from this powerful drug. Long after the allure of the high has gone, addicts keep using the drug simply to ward of withdrawal symptoms: when they want to get sober, excruciating pain causes them to use again, simply because they cannot tolerate the experience. In response, the best way to wean off of opiates is for medical professionals to oversee the entire process. At professional facilities, healthcare providers can monitor you throughout the beginning of recovery while guarding your health and minimizing pain. Detox can take anywhere from one week to one month with symptoms such as aches, pains, nausea and vomiting. In addition, anxiety and insomnia often worsen noticeably before they begin to improve. In that regard, professional treatment centers can address each of these symptoms, which maximizes your chance of getting through the tough days of early sobriety.
Tip #3: Keep Realistic Expectations of Rehab
Expect to question treatment and even feel some disappointment in rehab. Entering treatment means putting your care in the hands of people you barely know, so you are bound to question their decisions. At the same time, realize that you are likely to target therapists and members of your recovery with negative emotions. Many addicts lash out at those who are closest to them when they suffer the through detox. Remember that reconciling disappointing situations takes determination and clear thinking, which addicts need to improve, as they tend to use drugs instead of facing challenges head on. In that regard, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to achieve full recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, drug users must learn skills to overcome internal and external challenges3. Good treatment centers address this need and aim to equip patients with necessary skills so they can handle setbacks, regain a realistic sense of hope and envision a sober future.
Tip #4: Never Fly Solo
Because overcoming opiate dependence is notoriously difficult, it is important for newly sober people to make sure they keep a good plan in place for avoiding relapse. Joining a 12-Step support group is one way many people stay motivated to maintain their recovery and rebuild their lives, but you will need community to stay clean for the long haul.
Tip #5: Reframe Your View of Relapse
While the stigma of failure once surrounded addicts who relapse, a more informed and compassionate understanding of relapse accompanies today’s addiction professionals. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction relapse rates resemble relapse from other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Addicts who relapse should remember this fact, as it frames relapse as an expected part of the addiction cycle, not a failure or a sign that treatment failed. Just as certain diseases require multiple treatments, substance abuse disorders also require extended treatment before going into remission. Sometimes, this idea means entering rehab more than once, which can transform relapse into an instructive and positive experience for people who learn from their mistakes.
Help for Heroin Addiction
If you or someone you love struggles with heroin addiction, then know that help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. Do not go it alone; please call now to learn how you can find the road to recovery.
 ASAM Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.asam.org
 Alcohol, Benzos, and Opiates—Withdrawal That Might Kill You | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201001/alcohol-benzos-and-opiates-withdrawal-might-kill-you