Heroin is one of the most addictive and dangerous narcotics available on the black market. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a dramatic spike in the number of individuals suffering from heroin addiction, and medical professionals and counselors at drug treatment facilities have made a major effort to search for more efficient and permanent means of treating heroin addiction in order to lower instances of individuals who have sought treatment suffering relapses.
Medication has long been a go-to method for treating heroin addiction, in part because heroin withdrawals are often so severe that medication is indeed required to help ease some of withdrawal’s more uncomfortable symptoms. One of the most popular medications currently being used by substance abuse doctors to treat dependency is a drug called Naltrexone.
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is a medication that effects the brain’s reward center by essentially keeping it from reaping any of the benefits or rewards from heroin or opiates. Many addicts find that this is extremely helpful, as the reward generated from use and the reward center’s subsequent compulsion with said reward are essentially what constitutes addiction. When the brain’s reward center no longer receives the sensation from the drug it craves that it once did, an addict may be far less likely to use or to face the temptation to use.
In this way, Naltrexone works slightly differently than other drugs that are commonly prescribed to addicts: methadone and buprenorphine, which work on the brain by simulating the experience of being under the influence of heroin or opiates without inducing many of the severe effects or dangers. These drugs can help diminish the severity of withdrawal symptoms but some drug therapists worry that drugs like methadone may carry too many risks to be an adequate treatment for addiction. It is possible to become addicted methadone, and it it also possible to overdose on it. This is one reason Naltrexone has become the drug of choice at many treatment centers.
Withdrawal Drugs Are Not a Permanent Solution
Drugs like Naltrexone are not intended to be a lifelong treatment for recovering addicts. Rather, they are intended only for use during the initial stages of sobriety when withdrawal symptoms are still occurring and when a recovering addict may be at the highest risk for relapse. It can be very dangerous to withdraw from heroin without professional help, since heroin withdrawal symptoms can be so uncomfortable and can include things like seizures, extreme nausea, and vomiting.
While drugs like Naltrexone can help ease the withdrawal process, they should generally be administered under the care of a doctor who can supervise a patient’s progress and ensure that the drug is being taken correctly. Any person who is ready to detox from heroin should enter a treatment center immediately, as being under the care of a medial staff means that a recovering addict will have adequate support and that they will not be in a position where it is possible to find more heroin and thus relapse.
The Future Of Medication Assisted Withdrawal
As Naltrexone continues to grow in popularity as a way of helping an addict work through the initial stages of sobriety and it seems likely that similar drugs, which focus on eliminating the reward associated with heroin use, may continue to set the standard for what is desired in a withdrawal assistance drug.
Drugs like Naltrexone are certainly viewed by many in the addiction community as an integral part of helping addicts to find healthfulness in a way that is as safe as it is long lasting. With the proper tools, it is possible for any addict to find sobriety.