Heroin is extremely addictive and difficult to overcome, but recovery is possible. Cumberland Heights offers heroin addiction treatment methods for both physiological and psychological aspects of heroin addiction and withdrawal. While physical withdrawal symptoms may abate after about a week of discontinuing heroin use, psychological cravings aren’t as easy to conquer. That’s why it’s important to seek help through an accredited drug addiction treatment center.
To determine if you or a loved one needs heroin addiction treatment or has an opiate addiction problem, we encourage you to learn more below.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the seeds of the poppy plant. It was first developed in 1874 as a pain reliever. In 1914, heroin became a controlled substance under the Harrison Narcotic Act. Heroin is illegal and highly addictive and is considered the most abused opiate.
Heroin comes in many forms. In its pure form, heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste. Heroin bought on the street may range from white to dark brown or black, depending on manufacturing impurities or presence of additives. Most street heroin is “cut” by dealers with other drugs or substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk or quinine. People buying street heroin risk overdose or death because they don’t know the actual strength of the drug they buy – street heroin has been known to be cut with strychnine or other poisons.
What is Safe Start?
Safe Start is medication-assisted treatment and recommended to anyone diagnosed with a moderate to severe opioid abuse disorder. We created Safe Start, as a response to the ongoing opioid crisis we are experiencing in America.
Essentially, Safe Start is the administration and physician-assisted monitoring of extended release Naltrexone, a long-acting opioid antagonist used to reduce cravings. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids if they are used. Unlike other medications used to treat opioid addiction like methadone, there is no chance of dependency with Naltrexone. Naltrexone can also be an effective treatment for alcohol addiction.
Dr. Chapman Sledge, Chief Medical Officer at Cumberland Heights says as a stand-alone treatment Naltrexone is not effective. “The basis of a strong spiritual foundation in the recovery process is essential. Medication is only part of the solution,” said Sledge.
How is Heroin Taken?
Heroin is snorted, smoked or injected intravenously. Injecting heroin with a needle causes the fastest action – seven or eight seconds – and produces the greatest intensity. Heroin that is smoked or snorted takes effect in 10 to 15 minutes. The fear of catching disease from shared needles has made it more common for people to smoke or snort heroin rather than injecting it.
What are Heroin’s Effects?
Heroin causes a feeling or “rush” of euphoria. This feeling is often accompanied by dry mouth, flushed skin and a heavy feeling in the arms and legs. Heroin users may also experience nausea, vomiting and severe itching. When the initial effects wear off, heroin commonly causes the user to become drowsy for several hours. Mental function, cardiac function and breathing slow down, sometimes to the point of death.
Heroin can create a strong physical dependence – it’s easy to become addicted to the drug. Addiction to heroin is powerful, often taking over the user’s life so an addict’s primary focus becomes obtaining more heroin.
Prolonged heroin use is also associated with many serious health problems, including:
Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C (a risk that comes from sharing needles)
Scarred and/or collapsed veins
Bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves
Abscesses (or boils) and other soft tissue infections
Lung complications, including types of pneumonia and tuberculosis
Infection of cells in vital organs
Arthritis or other rheumatologic problems
Deaths from opioid overdose are at an all-time high. Naloxone is a lifesaving medication and should be available to anyone who is likely to witness a heroin overdose.
Women who use heroin during pregnancy are at risk for miscarriage or premature delivery. Using heroin during pregnancy also increases a child’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
How is Heroin Addiction Treated?
Stopping heroin use abruptly causes a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Drug withdrawal, especially from heroin, can cause the user great discomfort. Few people can stop using heroin without going through a heroin recovery and addiction treatment program, which often includes heroin detoxification or detox. Detox is the first step in treating heroin addiction, but detox alone doesn’t cure heroin addiction. Both residential and outpatient programs provide a broad base of support for people with heroin addiction.
In addition to medically supervised detox, these programs may include:
12-Step program meetings
relapse prevention and
Because heroin interferes with self-care, a heroin addict may be very unlikely to seek treatment. For this reason, intervention is often necessary for a person with heroin addiction.
What is the Process of Recovery from Heroin?
Withdrawal and recovery from heroin addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of a medical professional at an addiction treatment center. Staff at heroin rehab centers can assist with physical withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings for the drug, along with associated restlessness, disturbed sleep patterns, abnormal blood pressure and pulse rate, dilated pupils and irritability. Naltrexone is a medication with FDA approval used as an adjudicative treatment for opioid addiction. A long acting form of Naltrexone, Vivitrol, can improve outcomes in treatment of heroin addiction.
After successful detox and treatment, it’s imperative to continue the lifelong heroin recovery process by attending 12-Step meetings and aftercare programs. Cumberland Heights can help you or a loved one begin heroin recovery through our intensive heroin addiction treatment and addiction relapse prevention programs.
Original By: AMY ESKIND
Posted On: September 25, 2017
The combining of powerful drugs — both purposeful and unintentional — is making Tennessee’s opioid epidemic even more deadly. The latest figures out this month show 2016 was another record year for overdoses in the state — more than 1,600 people died. And experts say risky drug cocktails are compounding the problem.
Emergency responders have answered hundreds of 9-1-1 calls from friends and family members of people who have overdosed. Last year Davidson County lost 261 people to overdose, almost all of them from opiates. On the street, heroin is a cheaper opiate than pills. Many users are looking for whatever will give them the highest high, says recovering addict Mary Barton Lea.
“When I was buying my heroin I said, ‘who’s got the heroin with the fentanyl?’” she says. “That’s the heroin I want.”
Fentanyl is a very strong opiate that magnifies the experience and lasts longer. Experts expect to see more of it coming into Middle Tennessee.
“It’s a sleep-like state, it’s a state that you feel secure,” Lea says. “I’ve read — and I tend to agree with this — it’s almost like kissing God, because it takes you to a place you’ve never been before.”
But that incredible high comes with a physical and mental addiction, Lea says.
“When you come down from that state, all your body says is I want to get back there…You get up there quick, but then there’s a crash and the crash is horrible. The crash is you will do anything within your power to get more.”
Serious addicts like Lea may be willing to flirt with death. Others are simply unaware, says Sam MacMaster. He’s the chief clinical officer at JourneyPure, an addiction treatment provider. He warns that no one can be sure what they’re buying in the illegal market.
“You would not be able to tell [by] how it looks at all, and that’s the issue,” MacMaster says. “They believe that they’re purchasing typically heroin or sometimes even a pilled opiate but it’s been cut with fentanyl.”
But some users are buying the laced drugs unknowingly. They may erroneously think it’s stronger because it’s more pure. The next thing they know, they can’t breathe. Then their heart stops.
“If I believe I’m shooting x-amount of heroin, I may in fact be shooting something that is much more potent. And while I may have a sense of what my body can handle, I’ll have no idea what my body can handle in terms of the fentanyl,” MacMaster says.
Some dealers are even lacing their supplies with carfentanil, a veterinary opiate that can knock out a rhino.
But lethal combinations go beyond various opioids. Users have also been adding prescription anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Valium or Klonopin. Not only is that a doubling up on medications that depress the central nervous system, experts worn there can be a multiplier effect. And it’s hitting teens and young adults hard, especially since many of them already have anti-anxiety prescriptions. Others have painkillers, maybe prescribed for an injury.
Cole Szabo, adolescent specialist at Cumberland Heights, says the days when kids stuck to beer and marijuana are gone.
“The benzos and opioids are the new gateway drug,” he says. And it’s in the schools. “You’re seeing Xanax, you’re seeing benzos, you’re seeing hydrocodones, oxycodones, Vicodin – you’re seeing that more. The problem with that is, you’re going to die quickly. It’s a quick death, you’re going down fast.”
If administered in time a nasal spray called Narcan that reverses the effects of opiates can save a life. Emergency responders in Nashville have used it on more than 500 people already this year.
But Narcan has no effect on other drugs like anti-anxiety pills, cocaine, or alcohol, so combination overdoses can still prove lethal. That was unfortunately the case for Max Barry, the son of Nashville’s mayor, who could not be revived with Narcan, and died over the summer in Colorado with much more than opiates in his system.
State Health Department officials say more Tennesseans died from drug overdoses last year than ever before in recorded history. The more than 1,600 deaths marked a 12 percent increase over the previous year.
The recent data show a rise in fatal overdoses from a combination of drugs. For example, deaths involving opioids and stimulants nearly doubled in that time period. And those involving the opioid pain killer fentanyl rose by nearly 75 percent.
But now, says Freeman, “We see people who mix alcohol with opiates of some sort and then the benzodiazepines on top of them. Unfortunately sometimes what people are getting is not what they think, so if it’s laced with fentanyl, which is a really high-powered opiate, it becomes even more deadly.”
Tennessee’s Substance Abuse Services Commissioner, Marie Williams, says the rise in overdose deaths proves the importance of additional funding allocated by Gov. Bill Haslam and the legislature this year.
Other officials say while fatalities are rising, it’s hard to determine what percentage of the spike is due to an increase in toxicology exams. The opioid epidemic has significantly increased awareness of the need to conduct more post-mortem drug tests.
By: MELANIE KILGORE-HILL
Published: September 14, 2017
Specialists Address Disturbing Trends, Skyrocketing Death Rates
More than 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder, which contributed to more than 33,000 overdose deaths in 2015, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, a growing number of treatment options are helping to break the addiction cycle and bring healing to families in Middle Tennessee and beyond.
The New Face of Addiction
“Once upon a time, opioid addiction was limited to healthcare professionals with access,” said Chapman Sledge, MD, FASAM, chief medical officer at Cumberland Heights.
An addiction specialist for more than 20 years, Sledge said programs like Cumberland’s primarily treated those suffering from alcoholism a decade ago. Fast-forward to 2017, and the 50-year-old program regularly sees housewives, teenagers and executives – all patients addicted to prescription opioids and, more recently, heroin.
“Eight years ago you rarely saw heroin in Nashville,” Sledge said. “When Tennessee became more aggressive with the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database Program, it cut down on multiple prescriptions from multiple prescribers, which tightened up the illegal supply and drove cost up.”
To help prevent abuse, pharmaceutical companies also made the drugs less dissolvable. That shift opened doors for mom-and-pop heroin dealers to set up shop, offering an alternative that’s cheaper, easier to get, and more potent than prescription opioids. Today, heroin is often the most popular opioid for first-time users, leading to more overdose-related deaths than ever.
“The thing that’s a game-change is the rate at which people are dying and the desperation among families,” Sledge said. “It’s so incredibly dangerous because the potency has changed. With prescription opioids, we knew what to expect from a single dose … but with heroin, it’s difficult to judge potency.”
Enter medication-assisted therapy (MAT) including fast-acting opioid antagonist drugs, now a standard in pharmacies and emergency departments nationwide. In fact, certain antagonist therapies are available without a prescription in many states, including Tennessee.
While inpatient treatment programs traditionally last 30-60 days, those with substance abuse disorders typically face a lifetime struggle with addiction. “We understand that this is a potentially lifelong disease, and we provide medications for that.”
Breaking the Cycle
Like Sledge and Lee, Russo-Appel said the stigma around addiction is changing. “Many believe addiction is found in the lower socioeconomic class or the homeless, but it’s startling to see the number of high functioning, well educated people battling this,” she said. That’s because addiction so often starts with a valid prescription for chronic pain. “PCPs and other providers are all coming into an understanding that this has gotten out of control,” she said. “We now have task forces and doctors signing pledges on how to prescribe opioids moving forward.”
Russo-Appel said stopping the addiction cycle begins with prevention efforts as early as grammar school. “We need more awareness programs and access to care,” she said. “The heart of our mission is access. How do we get treatment to as many people as we can?”
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