How to Help a Heroin Addict

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Heroin is a highly addictive Schedule I drug and a heavily abused and extremely potent opiate. The drug is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine that causes severe addiction, high rates of overdose death, and major health problems for the individual who abuses it.

While many heroin users become addicted to the drug it has been estimated that 23 percent of individuals who use it in their lifetime will. This does not mean that an individual addicted to heroin cannot get help. If you know someone addicted to this devastating drug, it is important to know that there are ways to help. And even if you do not currently know someone in this state, being aware of these procedures is still necessary, an addiction to this drug is extremely prevalent.

Getting Treatment for a Heroin Addict

If someone is already addicted to heroin, it will be nearly impossible for them to stop without help and the right treatments. Having the person just go through withdrawal will not cause them to stop being addicted, and this type of withdrawal without treatment can actually result in the most dangerous types of relapses, leading often to overdose deaths.

Here are the steps you should follow when attempting to get formal heroin addiction treatment for someone:

  • Look for low-cost or free treatment options.
    • Tthe average heroin addict can spend up to $200 per day” on their habit, leading to financial problems, debt, and even homelessness. There are actually a number of free and low-income treatment options available and these are usually ideal for most heroin addicts.
  • Find a facility that meets the individual’s needs. 
    • If the person has a high psychiatric severity and suffers from multiple mental disorders, they will likely need inpatient treatment so they can be treated for all issues and have less of a chance of relapse. If they are more stable and have a strong social support system, they can often more easily attend outpatient treatment, which is usually less expensive as well.
    • Beyond this, the individual may need other types of specialized care, such as a multi-lingual clinic, a rehab center with specific treatment options, or one in a specific location. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just the needs specific to their abuse.
  • Try all available options to find the right treatment center. 
    • Some of your possible options for finding a treatment center are:
      • Using an online database that lists facilities by proximity, cost, and treatment options
      • Discussing treatment options with a local government official
      • Talking to your doctor or a doctor at a free clinic about treatment facilities nearby
      • Attending a Narcotics Anonymous or another kind of support group meeting to ask about formal treatment

There are many ways you can help someone get heroin addiction treatment that will help them immensely on their journey to recovery. While many individuals do not want to attend formal drug rehab, the treatments used there, including medication and behavioral therapies, are the most widely used and successful treatments for drug addiction available.

Talking to a Heroin Addict

Someone who is addicted to heroin may not want to discuss their issues with the drug, but talking to them can be extremely helpful and can allow them to see the impact that their abuse is making on themselves and on you. Here are some tips for talking to someone who is addicted to heroin about their drug abuse.

Heroin Addict

You can help your loved one get the treatment they need. Recovery is possible!

  • Do not lay blame or judgments on the individual. While they were originally able to make the choice to do heroin, they are now incapable of reversing that choice on their own because they are addicted.
  • Be supportive at all times. 
  • In many cases, “users continue abusing the drug even after they no longer experience the euphoric effects, simply to provide relief from the painful, flu-like withdrawal symptoms” If this is the case with the individual you are speaking to, suggesting rehab might help them realize that they actually derive no pleasure from the drug currently.
  • Try to remain as calm and even-tempered as possible. Yelling will not make the individual more receptive to what you have to say.

Remember the person you are talking to has a chronic relapsing disease so judgment or anger will not help them get better. You can discuss these feelings in family or relationship counseling, ideally while the individual is attending rehab.

How to Help Someone Overdosing on Heroin

Heroin overdose and death are extremely real dangers for an individual addicted to heroin. In 2011, 4,397 people died in the United States from a heroin overdose.” Here are ways to help someone overdosing on heroin.

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Do not leave the individual for any reason.
  • Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

A person overdosing on heroin may begin to breathe very shallowly or stop breathing completely. This is what normally causes death from heroin overdose. If you know someone who abuses heroin or you live in an area where abuse is prevalent, you may want to get a naloxone pre-filled auto-injection device. This medication works by blocking the effects of opiates to relieve dangerous symptoms caused by high levels of opiates in the blood. If you have one, follow the directions to administer it, but make sure to first call 911 in order to get the person medical treatment right away.

Other Ways You Can Help

There are other ways you can help an individual who is addicted to heroin.

  • Try to be supportive but fair about your feelings toward the individual’s drug abuse.
  • If you are close to the individual, offer to care for them during their treatment (especially if they are in outpatient rehab). It can be extremely difficult for an individual to deal with withdrawal, cravings, and recovery all while alone.
  • Always remind the individual that you love them and know that they can make it through treatment and recovery.