Understanding Why Heroin Addicts Relapse

There is no doubt that heroin addiction is difficult to treat. It’s one of the most difficult addictions to recover from, but it is possible.

It’s important that people struggling with this addiction know why heroin addicts relapse most frequently and when heroin addicts relapse, to help them prepare for potential obstacles they’ll encounter in their own recovery experience.

Understanding Why Heroin Addicts Relapse
A big component of understanding why heroin addicts relapse requires a general understanding of how heroin works in the brain of the user. It’s an incredibly powerful drug, and even after using it only one time people may be addicted. When you take heroin, it binds to your brain’s opioid receptors, and as with prescription painkillers, it then pushes a flood of dopamine into your system that creates intense pleasure and even euphoria. Your brain is wired to want to continue doing activities that bring pleasure, and the effects of heroin are much more impactful than any natural pleasure-seeking activity could be. Your brain after you try heroin keeps compelling you to seek out this stimulus again and again. Over time with heroin abuse your brain essentially becomes rewired to the point where heroin is no longer abnormal. Your brain adjusts to its presence, and that’s when you develop a tolerance. Once you have a tolerance for heroin or other opioids, without them, you become ill and experience negative side effects. It’s all a dangerous cycle, but one of the biggest reasons why heroin addicts relapse, at least in the general sense is the incredibly addictive nature of this drug and the way it affects the brain of the user.
If you do successfully stop using heroin, you’re then at risk for a relapse. When heroin addicts relapse, it means they resume using the drug, after a period of stopping. Under the disease model of addiction, relapse is a part of recovery, and this follows the idea that relapse is part of a learning process that can hopefully eventually lead to full abstinence and a stronger recovery in the long-term. Many substance abuse experts believe that relapse with heroin and other substances is the result of a set of triggers and underlying problems that don’t go away just because someone stops using drugs. The relapse rate for all substance abuse disorders ranges from 40 to 60%, but the rate for heroin specifically is as high as 90%, or even greater. Heroin and alcohol are the two substances that have the highest relapse rates of any others.
Some of the warning signs when heroin addicts relapse or when they’re close to a relapse can include going through a stressful or troubling event, denying that they need help, or starting to exhibit other compulsive behaviors such as overeating. When heroin addicts relapse or are about to, they may become extremely emotional, they may be feeling out of control, or they might have negative thoughts about their recovery. Also when people stop participating in their aftercare program or their 12-step group, it’s a big red flag that a relapse could be coming or has already started.
Some of the reasons why heroin addicts relapse so often were touched on above, but to expand on that, one of the biggest is simply the physiological power of the drug. You alter the structure and pathways of your brain when you use it, and it makes it very hard to stop using it. You may also exhibit some deterioration of your brain’s white matter which can make it more difficult for you to respond to stress and make decisions, as well as regulate your own behavior. Also, what’s been seen as a trend in the past decade or so is that heroin isn’t often the first drug people abuse. Instead, their drug abuse stems from prescription painkiller abuse, and they then ultimately move to heroin because it’s cheaper and more available. That means they’ve probably been abusing drugs for a very long time, and it’s not only changed their brain, but it’s also become an engrained part of their lifestyle. Not addressing underlying issues is another reason why heroin addicts relapse. People who start using drugs often have a mental disorder that occurs along with their addiction. It’s essential that when you’re seeking a recovery program for heroin that you choose one that integrates dual diagnosis treatment. If you don’t treat the underlying issues or mental health disorders you suffer from, it’s going to be almost impossible to remain drug-free. These aren’t the only situations when heroin addicts relapse, although they are some of the most common. In some cases one of the reasons why heroin addicts relapse is because after a treatment program they go directly back into the same environments and social settings where they were using, and this triggers them to use again. It’s important the people avoid the triggers that led to their heroin dependency and addiction in the first place, while also maintaining the proper support network and participating in aftercare programs. For some addicts, they relapse simply because they can’t make it through the difficult withdrawal period and the discomfort they experience. Why heroin addicts relapse is a complicated scenario, much like the addiction itself. When heroin addicts relapse it’s important they stay calm and take the perspective that their recovery is a long-term journey. They should also take action right away.
Understanding Why Heroin Addicts Relapse
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