A substance use problem starts small but usually snowballs into a significant problem. It is why you must intervene if your loved one abuses heroin and is already addicted.
In cases like this, it is not a moment too soon. There are many substances of addiction like alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. While all of them carry an inherent danger, heroin is peculiar.
Every time your loved one shoots up, snorts, or smokes heroin, they risk a potential overdose and subsequent death. Therefore, when dealing with such a situation, time is of the essence.
Now, you may want to help, but it is not unusual to not know where to begin. You may have worries about how your loved one will perceive your intervention. Beyond this, you may simply not know how to help someone who abuses heroin.
That is fine. We will be discussing how to intervene if someone you love abuses heroin. We will start from knowing how to recognize signs of such dependency, all the way to the possible options for treatment.
Recognizing Heroin Addiction: What to Look Out For
Heroin is a substance that has wide-ranging effects on anyone who consumes it. You can expect to see mental, behavioural, and physical changes in someone who has become addicted to the drug. The mind-altering properties of heroin have long been established. This makes the mental and the behavioural changes the most obvious and the most disturbing effects.
Most of these behaviours are seen as erratic. Heroin addicts are under a compulsion to want to use the drugs at all times. This means that depending on the severity, most of their actions are intended to get drugs. Being evasive and secretive is also quite common among heroin addicts.
The critical signs to look out for include:
- Unwarranted change in behaviour
- Wide mood swings
- Abstaining from activities that were previously enjoyed
- Glassy eyes and pinpoint pupils
- Stuffy nose
- Problems concentrating at work or school
- Unpredictable bouts of anger
- Disinterest in proper grooming
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Impaired judgment and decision making
- Unusual change in spending habits
Of course, seeing these signs in someone you love is not sure-fire proof they are abs using heroin. However, you may get more concerned if the person has a high risk of developing an addiction.
To know if anyone is prone to developing such a problem, you should look out for any of these:
- A family member that has developed an addiction
- Previous traumatic experiences such as abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) or neglect
- Mental health problems like depression
- A history of using drugs
Anyone that fits into any of these categories is more likely to develop an addiction. A combination of these with the signs listed above may be a basis for a correct guess that heroin addiction is in play.
How to Intervene If Someone You Love Abuses Heroin
Upon realizing the problem, you have to talk to your loved one about the heroin addiction. This is usually the first option that is available to you.
However, you must not take such a discussion lightly. The outcome of the conversation may considerably colour any other effort you may make to provide help and support. So, you must proceed cautiously.
At this stage, a good idea is to consult an expert heroin addiction interventionist. This is a professional with experience and expertise in confronting people with addiction. Together with other loved ones, they can help addicts decide on getting treatment for their habit.
Confronting a drug addict can become a dicey situation, so it must be properly managed. Many times, close friends and family make costly mistakes if they decide to discuss the problems by themselves.
They may quickly resort to blame or get too emotional with the person, which leads to unwanted results. A professional can guide you on what to say and how to say it. They will also advise where and when the intervention will happen.
Whether you involve an interventionist or not, you must prepare to help your loved one get through their problem. You can do this in the following ways:
- Learn about addiction: Many times, it is difficult to understand heroin addiction. Without experiencing it, you will easily be baffled as to why your loved one continues in a habit they know is harmful. With such a mentality, you are more likely to throw the blame on them. If you confront them with criticism, you will most likely get the wrong results.
By learning about what addiction does to a person, you will better understand what they are going through. You also get to know about the different drugs and how they affect people differently. Educating yourself also involves appreciating what caused them to turn to drugs in the first place. Of course, you will also learn how to intervene in your loved one’s heroin abuse problem.
This information prepares you to help the person. It also makes you more confident to face the problem, which is always necessary as addiction recovery is not easy – for both the addict and their loved ones.
- Offer support and encouragement: When you have a conversation about the addiction, you must take a position of support. Heroin addiction often causes your loved one to withdraw from people they know. It can even strain their interpersonal relationships. This makes it easy for them to forget just how much you — and everyone else — cares for them.
When you talk to them, remind them you care for and support them, and wish them to be better. Encourage them to seek treatment. You may gently hint at how troubling the problem has become, using examples from previous events. Let them know you are there to support them throughout their journey to recovery
Your goal in the conversation is to help them realize the problem. On many occasions, they also know there is a problem but are unable to stop. You should then help them decide to get help. If the attempt to get them into heroin rehab is to be successful, they must decide themselves. But by offering your support and encouragement, they can go the long-haul.
Furthermore, the support does not stop once they check in to rehab. It is usually immensely beneficial for an addict to have their loved ones involved for the entirety of the process. Driving them to the center, participating in meetings and support groups are just a few ways to remain involved.
- Look after yourself: Without a doubt, addiction recovery takes a toll on both the addict and the caregiver. The emotional turbulence you experience with your loved one’s changing behaviour can leave you drained. Having to pick up after them while also figuring out how to intervene in their heroin abuse can be a burden on you too.
Therefore, you have to take care of yourself too. You may also sign up for therapy if you need it. Taking self-imposed breaks to relax and refresh will be much beneficial. Great food, adequate sleep, and exercise are wellness activities to try. You need to be in the best state to render as much assistance as you possibly can.
Related Article: Is There Hope for Someone Dealing With Heroin Abuse?
Barriers To Intervening In Heroin Addiction Of A Loved One
Many times, you know of your loved one’s problem, but you are hesitant to make a move. There are possible reasons for this hesitation. Some of these are:
Choosing to protect yourself
For you to notice heroin use by a loved one, it must either be someone close or someone deeply loved. This means the loved one battling heroin addiction has a level of influence over you.
As such, trying to help a loved one struggling with heroin addiction can expose you to using this substance. This is even more crucial for anyone with an addiction history. As much as you are trying to intervene if someone you love is abusing heroin, it is not safe to jeopardize your health in the process.
Avoiding ruining the relationship
Anyone on heroin or any other drug is usually in denial of their present condition. The use of these substances leads to a reconditioning of their brains into believing they are doing the right things.
As much as you intend to help your loved one deal with a heroin addiction, it may not sit well with them. An addict may, due to the influence of heroin, think you are judgmental. They may equally guess you are trying to separate them from the heroin. Their reaction to your steps of heroin intervention can come as a form of retaliation.
The heroin addict may choose to sever ties with you because you are intervening. This can be sad and hurtful. Thus, many people, especially people with low emotional stability, are usually torn on how to intervene if someone they love is abusing heroin.
Fear of saying the wrong things
Approaching a loved one struggling with heroin addiction is a crucial step to take. The bone of contention usually lies on how to talk about the heroin abuse with them.
The next thought revolves around the choice of words that will be best to utter. Most people withdraw from helping a loved one because they do not know what to say.
Most importantly, they are scared of saying the wrong things that can make the conversation go south. The severity of the situation necessitates picking the right words. If you can’t have this, you may as well opt-out of intervening with the loved one that abuses heroin.
Pushing the help to someone else
In situations where you are not the closest person to the loved one, you may choose to take some steps back. This is simply an acknowledgment that there are other persons with a better and more intimate relationship with the addict.
This is a costly assumption, especially when the other persons may also be thinking you would intervene in your loved one’s heroin abuse.
If there appears to be a history of being shunned on very personal matters, this can happen. The person may rely on the past and decide to not intervene in issues as private as the heroin addiction.
Thus, you could walk up to other persons with closer relationships with the addict to report the observations. If you are a friend, it could be safe to tell the spouse, parents, or siblings. This can help ensure something is done despite not being actively involved.
Remaining in a state of denial of the addiction
The realization that a loved one is a heroin addict can be shocking and hurtful. In situations like this, some people often choose denial over acknowledgment. Even though it is evident the loved one is abusing heroin, they decide not to see, talk, hear or react to it.
This is a traumatic experience for most persons that is triggered by the shock. Often, the love they have for their loved ones can catch them off-guard. For others, it is the expectations. The level of expectation they had for the addict made the observation a shocking realization. This makes them remain in denial.
You can only proffer a solution when you see, understand, and accept a problem. Thus, denying the presence of an issue means no solution. It means there will be no heroin intervention.
Heroin Rehab and Intervention
Once you accept to help your loved one struggling with heroin addiction, the next step is getting treatment. This often happens by convincing the person to sign up for heroin rehab and treatments.
There are several practical steps in heroin intervention. These include detoxifying the addict, placing them on medications, engaging in therapy, and joining communities or a rehab center.
This is the first step to advise while trying to intervene if someone you love is abusing heroin. This process requires the presence of professionals who are skilled in the process. Usually, detox happens under the supervision of these professionals. This ensures their experience helps to decipher the peculiarities of each addict and treat them accordingly.
Also, considering the level of effect heroin has on the body and brain, an addict can take wrong steps without proper supervision. Their inability to reason logically can warrant a situation where they contravene the rules of detoxification.
This is why inpatient heroin detox comes more highly recommended compared to outpatient detox. However, in instances where the duration of consumption and the quantity consumed are minimal, an addict can opt for outpatient addiction treatment.
Since detoxification means depriving the addict of the drug, there is usually a resultant deep craving. Heroin addicts under detoxification can exploit any manipulative option to get the substance into their body.
Withdrawal symptoms start surfacing when detoxification commences. Typically, the severity of these symptoms varies amongst addicts. These symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Uncontrollable and intense craving for the drug
- Cold flashes with chills
- Extreme restlessness, irritability, and instability
While these symptoms start from being mild to being debilitating for most persons, it is not a hard and fast rule. Some people have more uncomfortable symptoms from the beginning compared to others.
Also, the period for withdrawal is not the same for everyone. While some people stop having these symptoms after a week, it could be more or less for others. Thus, the addict needs to go through it with the help of professionals.
Medications During Heroin Intervention
Detox is the most crucial step in heroin intervention, and it is quite unpleasant. Drug Abuse.gov report that some medications can be administered to make it more bearable. These drugs are:
- Methadone: This drug has been in use for many years in the treatment of heroin addiction. It is also an opioid and works similarly on the same receptors as heroin. But it does not produce a high like heroin becomes its effects come on much slowly. It is used as a long-term treatment to reduce cravings for heroin and relieve withdrawal symptoms.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is fast coming up as the drug to use in medication-assisted heroin treatment. It is a partial agonist of the receptor on which heroin works. This means it produces a heroin-like effect, but at a much lesser intensity. Like methadone, it is also used to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms during detox. It is not as strong as methadone but can be habit-forming too.
- Naltrexone: This is a long-acting opioid antagonist. It is commonly used to reverse the effects of opioid poisoning. It does the same for heroin. By blocking the receptors, heroin is unable to act as it does, so no high. It does not cause physical dependence.
- Suboxone: This is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist (like naltrexone). The mix is also used to help with withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
You should know that after the detox, the addict will feel the urge to take heroin regularly. It takes perseverance, discipline, and self-control to not give in to the craving. This is what
therapy, rehab centers, and support groups teach an addict.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a frequent treatment option for heroin addicts. It helps to understand the behavior patterns that encourage the addiction. It also makes an addict come up with ways to avoid the urge to use the drug.
Other methods used in therapy include giving out incentives for sustaining their abstinence to motivate them to continue. Some therapy sessions may also involve family or close friends to make them recognize how they contribute to the problem. Suggestions are also made to remove triggers and generally prevent a relapse.
FAQs on Heroin Addiction
Here we will answer questions you may have about addiction and how to intervene if your loved one abuses heroin.
How do I know if they have heroin addiction?
Heroin addiction often manifests in a way you will notice if you pay attention to your loved ones. You will see physical signs of a drug problem such as reddish or glassy eyes, flushed skin, dry mouth, and short breaths. They also are not able to try to keep a good appearance, so that’s another sign.
Addicts may also have altered mental status, so you may notice they are mostly anxious and irritable. They often have trouble speaking correctly, and their judgment is impaired. These signs are not easy to hide and may help to identify that they have a problem.
Should I conduct an intervention for my loved one who is an addict?
An intervention is a useful method to get your loved one into recovery. However, they must be done carefully for the best results. You should try to include an interventionist as they can bring their experience to bear.
You should know that interventions should not be aggressive. Also, you should not be surprised if your loved ones do not respond positively to your suggestion of rehab. You may have to conduct multiple interventions before they finally agree.
The earlier they start to receive treatment, the greater the chances of a smooth recovery. So you should organize the intervention as early as possible.
What do I do if my loved one asks for help?
Knowing how to intervene in your loved one’s heroin abuse is essential so that you can immediately provide help if they ask for it. It is usually best to act fast in such a situation because they can easily change their mind.
Here, you should look up certified health professionals they can talk to. Alternatively, you may take them to rehab facilities and get them checked in to treatment.
You should praise them for their courage in opening up to you and seeking help. You may also prepare them as the journey to recovery isn’t an easy one. Finally, you should reassure your loved one of your support during their healing.
Related Article: How Do You Know If Someone You Love is Addicted to Heroin?
Help Your Loved One Get Off Opioids Today
Intervening if someone you love abuses heroin may be the only way to save their life. If you have an addict around you, you should make haste to get them help.
Here at 1000 Islands Rehab Centre, we understand the delicacy of talking to a loved one about heroin rehab and recovery. As such, we can draw up an intervention plan that works. Contact us today to get started!