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Signs of Heroin Relapse and How to Help
The United States is undergoing an epidemic of heroin addiction, and while many users want to be free from the drug, recovery is often a long challenge. Unlike many addictions, heroin and opioid use changes brain chemistry to the point that in some people, it is never fully repaired. This means that a heroin addict’s brain is always wired for the drug. Due to the chemical changes that take place in an addict’s brain, the reality of relapse is always present. In fact, heroin relapse is so common that it is to be expected. It must be understood, however, that due to tolerance levels, when a heroin addict relapses, they are at great risk of overdosing, which may have fatal consequences. Knowing the signs of a heroin relapse can help family, friends, and loved ones assist those whom they care about during this time and help them get immediate help and hopefully back on the road to recovery.
Signs of Relapse
Recognizing the signs of a heroin relapse is the first step in helping an addict save their life and enter treatment. While stress often triggers a relapse, there doesn’t have to be any identifiable source. Relapse may happen at any time and for any reason. The pleasure and reward centers of a heroin addict’s brain have been chemically altered by heroin, and they will always crave the drug. Signs of a heroin relapse include straying from the treatment plan, not taking prescribed medications, losing weight, sleeping more, and withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities. Relapse is extremely dangerous and may have life-threatening consequences. Heroin and opioid addiction isn’t limited to inner cities but affects people from all occupations and walks of life. Due to the risk of overdose, those involved with recovering heroin addicts should always be vigilant that their friend or loved one is in danger of relapsing. Because heroin relapse and fatalities have reached staggering proportions, scientists are steadily working on ways to combat the issue. A heroin vaccine is currently being developed that would hopefully prevent relapse in addicts. Researchers continue to find ways to treat heroin addicts and ward off relapse as well as addiction.
How You Can Help
The best way you can help a loved one or friend who is struggling with heroin addiction is through your support and awareness. Beware of any behavioral changes in the addict, especially if they begin to speak about the times when they were on the drug as good times. Remind the addict about the truth of the situation. Point out how miserable they truly were, how their life was controlled by addiction, and how they had neglected everyone they love and care about. Be on the lookout for the addict connecting with old friends. While you can’t force an addict to change, you can let them know when they are making poor decisions. Addicts who relapse may become aggressive, defensive, and manipulative. Let them know that you love and care about them, and remind them that there is hope and help available. Tell them you will bring them to treatment at a detox or rehab facility. At the same time, make sure you are not giving the addict financial support. The addict may relapse and seek money or valuable items to exchange for drugs. Do not let an addict have access to your money, personal belongings, vehicle, or valuables.
While relapse is a reality that the addict must always deal with, there are ways to help. Science continues to seek methods that will help prevent heroin relapse, but until then, medication-assisted and behavioral therapy, rehab, and the support of friends and family members are the primary tools used to combat addiction. Ensuring that an addict remains in therapy after leaving rehab is one of the most important strategies for preventing relapse.
Opium is one of the world’s oldest drugs, and heroin addiction has been present in society since the late 19th century. Science has made vast improvements in understanding heroin’s role in the body and has identified naturally occurring opioid receptors in the brain. These advancements have helped professionals understand the nature of heroin addiction and will hopefully lead to cures that will prevent addicts from feeling effects from heroin as well as prevent relapse. The heroin addict must recognize they are dealing with a brain disease and not suffer guilt when dealing with relapse. Those who love and support heroin addicts must also recognize that addiction is a disease and not view the person as simply being selfish or irresponsible or as someone who makes bad choices willingly. With therapy and medication-assisted treatment as well as unconditional love and support from loved ones (without enabling their addiction), all addicts have a viable chance at successful recovery. Knowing how to handle a relapse quickly and effectively can mean the difference between life and death. If an addict feels that they may relapse, do not delay: Seek help immediately.