Rehab for Heroin Addiction and Opiate Dependency

The urgency of getting help for a heroin addiction

It is quite unusual for anyone of middle age plus to be admitted to residential rehab for a drug addiction.  It used to be very normal to see someone in their 50 to 60s with an alcohol addiction getting treatment but someone with, for example, a heroin addiction will often not reach an old age unless they get help for their addiction when they are much younger.

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Publicly funded help is available

Every county in the UK has a drug and alcohol team and, much the same as all NHS supported departments, they are short of funding. However, for a heroin addict they do offer a needle exchange, together with fresh bottled water plus the opportunity to be put on a prescription of Methadone.  Methadone is a man made opiate and is used to help stop taking heroin as it reduces withdrawal symptoms and it also helps to stop cravings.

Two types of help for heroin addiction

There are two approaches to stopping heroin use:

Maintenance therapy, where you switch from using heroin to taking a heroin substitute such as methadone, and then stay on a stable dose of the substitute.  The problem with this is that it is intended to be long term and although there is the potential to reduce the daily dose of Methadone the prescription is generally increased due to the body becoming tolerant to the lesser dose.  It is also quite common to be taking methadone plus heroin and it creates a situation where some heroin rehab clinics will not admit you for a medicated detox before the amount of methadone that you are taking daily has been reduced to a lower level. 

Detox: generally a detox will take place in a residential detox clinic or drug addictions rehab and will take two weeks to complete, under the care and guidance of the clinic’s GP. Usually, a drug such as Subutex is used as the detox medication.  When you have been admitted the detox will start at the point that you are commencing to show signs of withdrawal and you will be given a small test dose.  This dose will then be increased and gradually reduced down over the two week period.  However, because the local drug and alcohol team’s funding is restricted, it is almost impossible to get a funded detox  and, if you are unable to pay for private treatment, a maintenance regime will generally be the only available option. 

Getting clean and staying clean

There will be that time when someone knows they need to change the way their life is going and they want to genuinely stop using heroin.  At this time, there is usually a small window of opportunity before there is a change in mindset and the thought of getting well does not again come back into the thinking process for weeks or months.   There often really is only one option and that is to be admitted to a private drug residential rehab or addiction clinic and usually an admission can be arranged within 48 hours. For some clinics, such as The Haynes Clinic, they can usually arrange a weekend admission. It would be extremely rare for the local drug and alcohol team to sort out any funding for your residential detox and addiction treatment and that is not because of a time element it is just because of the lack of available resources.

Benefits of going into residential drug rehab

The key benefit of going into a private drug rehab is not just the speed that anyone can be admitted but that they will start to engage in a full daily structured therapy programme from, usually, day 1, directly in line with their medicated detox.  The recommended residential treatment period within an addictions rehab or drug detox clinic, for the chance of a successful outcome, is 28 days, but if finances do not permit, then the other option is for a residential time of 14 days which will also align with the time when a heroin detox will be completed.  

The longer period of time that treatment can be accessed the better for several reasons. Firstly, being away from the home environment and being in a place of safety will assist and reinforce in breaking the addictive cycle the longer we remain in treatment.   Secondly, a longer period will help us to gain an understanding of how to change our thinking and behaviour and to be working on the 12 Steps, which have been adopted from the wording of Alcoholics Anonymous to also help those with a drug addiction.  There are also support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous which do not charge for attendance and these groups are an essential part of the Recovery programme, which we will start to attend in treatment and should continue to do so when we have left. We can find a local NA meeting near to where we live by going onto the NA, Narcotics Anonymous, website and inputting our postcode and it will list all available meetings close to our home address. 

For anyone thinking they can just have a detox and then they can get their lives back on track will find out the hard way that this is not usually the case. There is almost always a lot more work to do around the reason for our addiction and how we need to change the way we see things and deal with events in our lives to prevent us wanting to use drugs to cope. We need to engage with the treatment programme.

Going into a drug rehab is often regarded as the “bridge to normal living” as it is the first step on a journey that can completely change our lives away from the spiralling destruction of our drug addiction.  It is the treatment package as a whole, which works, not any one single part of it. For those that have completed the full 28 days in residential, then there is also the added bonus of Aftercare and at no additional financial cost. At The Haynes Clinic, for example, this consists of one day a week, for up to 12 months, at the clinic and /or on Zoom meetings, in effect a lifeline of ongoing care and support. This can be critical as we have come to trust the therapists and staff so for any help for direction and advice then these are the people we can turn to without feeling judged. This again makes all the difference between a relapse or a Recovery from our drug addiction.