Last updated: 04/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
There is no easy answer to can heroin addicts ever really recover. Some people believe that they can and others believe that once you are an addict you are always an addict. While it might seem like a simple question, it is considerably more complex than it appears.
Although an addict can recover, they will always have an affinity to heroin addiction. To understand this you need to know the definition of heroin addiction, recovery, and relapse.
What is Heroin Addiction?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an addiction is a relapsing disease of the mind. A heroin addiction is characterized by:
- Uncontrollable compulsive use of heroin
- Using heroin despite the consequences
- Changes in the brain structure and function due to heroin use
Under this definition, heroin is a chronic reoccurring disease. Although this seems to state that a heroin addict cannot really recover, you also have to look at what recovery is.
What is Recovery?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the definition of recovery is:
- The process of becoming healthy after an illness
- Returning to a normal state after a difficult time
In substance abuse treatment, to recover from heroin addiction is to stop using heroin and conquer both the withdrawal and cravings that the drug produces. Someone who is in recovery is in the process of returning to a healthy state after the disease of heroin addiction is treated.
Recovery and Addiction Together
When someone asks the question of whether or not a heroin addict ever really recovers, the answer is yes, with treatment it is possible to recover from an addiction to heroin. It is not possible to cure an addiction to heroin. This is where relapse comes in.
A relapse happens when a person goes back to using heroin after they have intentionally stopped using it. This does not mean they stopped because they accidently ran out and are seeking more heroin. They quit heroin cold turkey or by using a treatment method such as medication assisted treatment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addicts have the same relapse rate as many other diseases. Like many other diseases heroin addiction can be managed with treatment. Some people relapse and others do not. In some cases, people will go through cycles of treatment and relapse and in others they will not relapse at all.
The keys to minimizing the chance of relapsing and really recovering from a heroin addiction are treatment and managing the addiction.
Finding Treatment and Management for a Heroin Addict
When asking the question, can heroin addicts ever really recover, the answer is yes, they can recover but they need treatment and addiction management in order to do so.