Heroin use, along with the use of most other opioids, is very difficult to stop. Opioids cause poorly understood and probably as yet unknown changes in both brain structure and chemistry. Opioids also reinforce and encourage further use by their effect on the brain’s reward system. This reward system involves the release of a feel-good brain chemical called dopamine and traces its origin back millions of years to the times of ancestral humans. These humans, living in times of great danger and scarcity of food, had to have a reliable way to know which foods were safe to eat and which were not. These ancient humans discovered that sweet foods were safe to eat, while bitter and sour ones may not be. The sweet taste triggered the brain’s reward system and encouraged the consumption of sweet foods, thereby helping to ensure the survival of the species. Even now, tiny babies prefer sweet formula. Indeed, breast milk itself is sweet. This reward system also helps to explain the apparently addictive qualities of modern-day refined sugars and also explains why recovering opioid addicts often crave the sweet substance. This article will explore and answer this question: Does anyone ever really quit heroin?
If you’ve become addicted to opioids, especially heroin, you will have a hard time of it when trying to quit. Driven by drug cravings and defeated by withdrawal symptoms, it’s all but impossible to quit on your own. However, people have done it. A small percentage of former heroin users have managed to quit the drug and stay sober. However, they are not the norm. Most people will need help to stop, and there is nothing wrong with that. It really doesn’t matter how you quit, only that you do quit and stay sober in the long-term.
Recent Dangers of Heroin
Heroin use was never safe. It’s never safe to inject contaminated drug material into a vein. You can get a serious abscess, heart infections and blood poisoning. If you share needles, you can also contract blood-borne diseases like AIDS and hepatitis. However, heroin use in recent years has become even more dangerous. For one thing, it’s far more potent than ever before. Worse, much of the nation’s illicit heroin supply is adulterated or cut with fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic some 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, which is itself at least twice as strong as morphine. It takes as little as two milligrams to kill someone with no tolerance to opioids, and not a very large amount to kill even someone with a very high opioid tolerance. Tolerance means that the body has built up a type of resistance to a drug that has been taken in larger and larger doses over time.
There is no way to tell by looking if a batch of heroin is contaminated with fentanyl or not, but it’s safe these days to assume that it probably is. There are test kits available that will reveal the presence of fentanyl, but these tests cannot tell you how much is there or what other dangerous substances might be present. There is also no way, short of ingesting it, to determine how strong the heroin content itself is.
Heroin can be defeated with the use of MAT, which stands for medication-assisted treatment. Suboxone, a combination of a synthetic narcotic, buprenorphine and naloxone, can be prescribed by a physician authorized to do so and filled at any pharmacy. Suboxone stops withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings in a high percentage of former heroin users. When it fails, as it does in some individuals, methadone, another synthetic narcotic, will work for almost everyone. Neither drug typically causes euphoria in opioid-tolerant people. It just allows the former heroin user to feel normal, so they can go to work, go to school or take care of their family.
It’s absolutely possible to quit heroin and stay away from it. It may require the use of medications to do so, but there is nothing wrong with that. MAT is controversial, but it’s really no one’s business if you choose to use MAT and need it to stay away from heroin. MAT is infinitely better than shooting dirty drugs into your veins and courting disaster every time you use. If people don’t understand that, that’s their problem, not yours.
We Can Help
If you’d like to quit taking heroin, we applaud your decision, and we’re here to help. We can direct you to a good detox and a fantastic rehab near you or in another area, if you choose to travel for rehab. We also have information about MAT. Just call us anytime at (833) 922-2653, and a trained counselor will be happy to assist you.