Heroin addiction can be an extremely difficult disorder for any individual to recover from. However, with the right treatment, recovering from a heroin addiction can be more manageable than many assume. Fortunately, in the United States, there are a variety of treatments and therapies available for those living with heroin addiction. One of these many treatments is MAT or medication-assisted treatment, which like any other form of substance abuse treatment, comes with its own list of pros and cons.  

Understanding Heroin

To understand how to treat a person living with a heroin addiction, one must first understand what heroin is, what addiction is, and how they both affect a person.   

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive and incredibly potent depressant drug. The main ingredient in it is opium, which is found naturally in some varieties of poppy plants or made synthetically in a lab. Most often, heroin is a white or off-white powder, but it may also take the form of a sticky, black tar. Individuals who consume heroin will typically inject it into their veins. However, heroin can also be snorted or smoked as well.  

Once consumed, heroin has a calming effect on a person. This is why the drug belongs in the depressant classification. Depressant drugs slow bodily functions and interactions, typically inducing calming effects or numbness. The opium in heroin not only provides a calming effect but also significant pain relief.   

What are the Side Effects of Heroin Use and Addiction?

Heroin use and addiction can have a number of adverse side effects and unintended consequences. Whether consumed once or repeatedly, heroin can negatively impact a person’s health and general well-being, causing problems with their relationships, finances, occupation, and more.

In the short-term, the side effects of heroin use include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Clouded mental functioning and judgment 
  • Going in and out of consciousness

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In the long-term, the side effects of heroin addiction include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Collapsed veins
  • Infections of the heart
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Long-term heroin use can also alter the brain’s structure. When consumed repeatedly over prolonged periods of time, the brain adapts to the consistent presence of heroin in the body. Soon, it begins to rely on the substance. Because of this, the brain restructures itself to reinforce addictive behavior in order to receive the substance it believes it needs. While this change in the brain can be difficult to overcome, it is possible with professional addiction treatment.   

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Fortunately, there are dozens of treatments and therapies available to those living with heroin addiction. Of these, one of the most popular is medication-assisted treatment – often referred to by the abbreviation MAT.  

What is MAT?

MAT or medication-assisted treatment is a form of substance abuse treatment that utilizes medications alongside counseling or other forms of behavioral therapy in order to provide more comprehensive treatment. Medications used in MAT help restore a patient’s normal brain chemistry, block the effects of opioids like heroin, relieve cravings, and normalize bodily functions without the use of previously abused substances. Any and all medications used in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and tailored to each patient’s unique needs.  

Pros of MAT for Heroin Addiction 

MAT is one of the most popular and widely utilized forms of addiction treatment, especially for heroin addiction. It’s popularity among rehabs in the United States and abroad can be attributed to its list of pros. 

The pros of using MAT for heroin addiction include: 

  • Eliminating cravings 
  • Easing withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduced risk of death by overdose
  • Higher likelihood of continuing addiction treatment 
  • Decreases heroin use (since opioids become ineffective)
  • Helps to prevent relapse   

The medications used in MAT make drugs like heroin useless. If a person consumes heroin while receiving MAT, they will find that heroin has become ineffective for them. This is because the medications will block the ability for the opioids to attach to receptors and deliver pain relief and euphoria. For many, blocking the ability to receive any sort of pleasure from heroin makes staying away from and off the substance much easier. 

Cons of MAT for Heroin Addiction 

While MAT is a beneficial form of treatment for many individuals living with heroin addiction. This type of treatment does have its fair share of drawbacks as well, largely dependent on the needs of patients.

The cons of using MAT for heroin addiction include:

  • Ingesting potent medications that can have side effects
  • Consistent medical supervision 
  • Potential for misuse or abuse of medications
  • Potential to trade one addiction for another. 

MAT may work for many of the people living with a heroin addiction, but that does not mean it will work for everyone. A person should not seek MAT if they are uncomfortable taking medications that may have unwanted side effects. They should also not seek MAT if they do not want to be under constant medical supervision. 

Always Do What is Best for You

Medication-assisted treatment is an undeniably popular form of addiction treatment. However, that does not mean MAT is right for everyone. Every person is unique. Therefore, every person requires their own form of specialized addiction treatment – no matter who they are or what needs they have. If a person wishes to successfully overcome addiction and maintain a lifestyle of sobriety, they must commit to a treatment plan that meets their needs. Otherwise, they are more likely to relapse. Fortunately, there are a variety of addiction treatments available in the United States in order to meet everyone’s needs.   

Searching for Local Heroin Treatment? 

If you or a loved one is living with a heroin addiction, help is available locally! At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of addiction specialists provides our patients with a variety of substance abuse treatments, including medication-assisted treatment. Our MAT is always paired with counseling in order to ensure comprehensive care for our patients. With our help, recovery is possible! Contact us today for more information!

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