Anyone who’s lived with heroin addiction for any length of time well knows how this drug wields control over the body and mind. Whether just entering drug treatment or working through recovery, the challenges for the most part remain the same.
Heroin addiction leaves an imprint on the brain, warping a person’s psychological make-up and changing his or her belief systems. For these reasons, the secrets behind overcoming heroin addiction have as much to do with confronting your outlook on daily life as it does abstaining from further drug use.
Depending on the severity of the problem, overcoming heroin addiction may or may not require medical treatment in terms of helping the body better adjust to the absence of the drug. Ultimately, you can overcome heroin addiction with the right supports in place.
Addiction: A State of Mind
Heroin addiction develops out of the damaging effects of the drug on the areas of the brain that determine a person’s interests, motivations and overall outlook on life, self and others. While the physical effects of the drug create the conditions that allow heroin addiction to develop, it’s the drug’s overarching effects on a person’s thinking and overall psychological make-up that drives the addiction cycle, according to Indiana University.
Frequent heroin abuse set the stage for brain and body functions to become physically dependent on heroin’s effects while continued drug use sets the stage for psychological dependency to take root. Herein lies the actual addiction mindset, a state of mind that can stay with a person long after he or she stops using the drug.
Mild vs Chronic Heroin Addiction
Frequency of heroin use and the length of time a person continues using most determines whether you’re dealing with a mild or chronic form of heroin addiction. With long-term use, heroin has a cumulative effect on brain chemical processes and brain function in general. In effect, heroin creates chemical imbalances that worsen over time, impairing overall brain function in the process.
Someone at the early stages of drug use may only exhibit signs of physical dependency, which can be overcome on one’s own with the right supports in place. Signs of physical dependency include:
- Mood swings
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of depression
People struggling with chronic heroin addiction have likely developed widespread brain chemical imbalances that will persist long after they stop using the drug. Chronic addiction also impacts a person’s lifestyle, making it difficult to cope with the demands of everyday life. Signs of chronic addiction typically take the form of:
- Decline in work/school performance
- Problems at work or loss of employment
- Relationship conflicts
- Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities and pursuits
- Loss of control over drug intake
- Intense drug cravings
The secrets to overcoming heroin addiction can go a long way towards helping you work through the underlying issues that drive drug-using behavior; however, these issues become more pronounced and more difficult to work through in cases of chronic heroin addiction.
5 Secrets to Overcome Heroin Addiction
1. Changing Your Lifestyle is Half the Battle
Heroin addiction essentially changes a person’s daily routines, habits and behaviors. As the drug’s effects take over the areas of the brain that shape your priorities and interests, drug-based choices and drug-using behaviors start to take priority over other life areas. These effects can persist long after you stop using the drug.
By changing your lifestyle you begin the process of undoing the addiction mindset that drives continued drug-use. This entails developing daily routines geared towards drug-free activities and pursuits, such as work, attending support group meetings and developing relationships with like-minded individuals.
2. Help the Healing Process Along
The brain chemical imbalances left behind from heroin addiction will take time to get back to normal. Until they do, you’ll likely experience ongoing feelings of depression, irritability and have trouble sleeping. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, helping the healing process along can help in relieving the physical aftereffects of addiction and make recovery more bearable.
Ways to support the body’s healing process include:
- Avoid stimulant-based substances, such as caffeine and nicotine
- Daily exercise, such as taking walks or even joining a gym
- Eat healthy
- Meditation and relaxation exercises
3. A Craving Only Lasts for 20 to 30 Minutes
Besides the residual withdrawal aftereffects of heroin addiction, drug cravings become the second biggest obstacle to maintaining continued abstinence from drug use. While drug cravings may feel like a physical aftereffect, they actually stem a psychological dependence on the drug’s effects.
The feelings of euphoria, calm and confidence heroin causes have become imprinted in the brain. In effect, the brain perceives heroin’s effects as the solution to all of life’s problems.
The good news is drug cravings only last for up to 30 minutes, so staying occupied with a task for this amount of time will allow cravings to pass. Structuring your daily routines and activities can go a long way towards overcoming drug cravings.
4. Identify Drug-Using Cues and Triggers
During the course of heroin use, the brain incorporates the places where a person uses the drug, the people he or she uses with and the activities taking place into the addiction mindset. Once a person stops using, these aspects of drug use act as cues that can trigger drug cravings and drug-using behaviors. Identifying drug-using cues can help you develop a plan on how to avoid people, places and situations that pose a threat to your recovery efforts.
5. Recovery is a Process, Not a Cure
It’s easy to expect much of the addiction problem to go away once you stop using heroin. The truth of the matter is stopping drug use is only the first step in the recovery process, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. In essence, overcoming heroin addiction is a process that takes time, focus and an ongoing desire to get and stay well. Keeping this in mind can help you stay engaged in the recovery process for the long-term.
When All Else Fails ….
While the five secrets for overcoming heroin addiction can go a long way towards working through the challenges that recovery brings, people struggling with severe or chronic forms of addiction will likely require professional drug treatment help. The brain chemical imbalances left behind by chronic heroin use require medical treatment or else a person will end up fighting a losing battle against withdrawal and drug cravings aftereffects.
Drug treatment programs can administer medication therapies specifically formulated to support damaged brain chemical processes. These programs also provide behavioral treatments that help you “undo” the addiction mindset and develop healthy ways of coping with the demands of everyday life.
If you have any further questions regarding addiction or need help locating heroin addiction treatment programs in your area, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-584-3274 Who Answers? to speak with one of our phone counselors.