Treatment of heroin addiction (and any other addiction) is better effective if heroin addiction is identified early and remedial measure taken early. If treatment started late, i.e. several years after the person became addicted; the outcome may not be favorable. There are numbers of methods available for treatment of heroin addiction. Treating physician is the ideal person to decide, which mode of treatment is best, and the decision should be individualized.
Methadone is a synthetic drug similar to heroin (opioid drug), but without any addictive effects of heroin. Methadone blocks the receptors (opioid receptors) which are used by heroin. Methadone has proven pharmacological benefits, if used for treatment of heroin addiction.
Various modalities used for treatment of heroin addiction include, detoxification, methadone therapy/program, behavioral therapy and use of LAAM and other medications.
Detoxification for treatment of heroin addiction:
Detoxification aims at managing withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction, while the addict is trying to adjust to heroin free life. Detoxification is not itself a modality of treatment of heroin addiction, but a mode used in all modalities of heroin addiction treatment. Because of severe withdrawal symptoms, a successful addiction treatment needs detoxification.
Methadone therapy/program for heroin addiction treatment:
Methadone program/therapy is the mainstay of treatment of heroin (and other opioid drug addictions) addiction for last few decades. Use of methadone for treatment of heroin addiction is safe and effective, as shown by several clinical trials/studies. Methadone is taken orally and effects lasts for 24-36 hours, during which patient do not feel craving for heroin, and patient can perceive pain and have emotional reactions. Methadone does not cause sedation or intoxication and patient can do his/her routine activities. Patients on methadone do not get the kick (euphoria) at normal doses used by addicts and craving slowly disappears, as patient does not enjoy taking heroin. Along with methadone, the patient/addict should be supported by family and friends as well as regular counseling should be arranged for successful outcome of treatment of heroin addiction. Ideally treatment of heroin addiction should be done at rehabilitation homes, designed for treatment of drug/alcohol de-addiction. A long (several years) follow up is also essential for preventing the patient from becoming addict again.
LAAM and other medications for treatment of heroin addiction:
LAAM (levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol) is also a synthetic opioid drug like methadone, and other medications such as buprenorphine are also used for treatment of heroin addiction. LAAM have a long effect lasting for three days (72 hours) and only three doses a week is sufficient. When given orally LAAM can block effects of heroin for up to three days, during these three days if the addict takes normal street dose of heroin, there is no euphoria and other effects of heroin and it helps in relieving from craving for the drug.
Behavioral therapy for treatment of heroin addiction:
Behavioral therapy should be always used in combination with medications and detoxification for best results. Only behavioral therapy may not produce desired results. Behavioral therapy can be institutional and outpatient basis.
For best outcome of treatment of heroin addiction a combined approach is essential, where not only doctors/physicians, but also people from other fields such as social workers, Govt. agencies, educational institutes should join hands along with family members and friends.
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