Heroin Addiction Treatment: Medication Assisted Treatment

By now, there should be no question that heroin addiction is a serious issue facing the United States. It is often described as one of the hardest addictions to overcome with one of the worst withdrawal periods possible. Some people have even likened it to quitting nicotine or quitting sugar complete, only sugar and nicotine are far less dangerous than heroin is. Heroin addiction comes with a number of problems such as overdose, heroin related crime, and heroin related diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV.

Fortunately, heroin also has a few of the best treatment protocols available. Medication assisted treatment is by far the most popular and most effective form of heroin addiction treatment. There are essentially two types of medication assisted treatment available in both inpatient and outpatient settings. These two types are medication assisted treatment and medication maintenance treatment.

Medication Assisted Treatment

Since heroin addiction became a serious problem in the 1940s, doctors have been using medication to treat the devastating withdrawal symptoms. During medication assisted treatment you could receive medications such as:

  • Suboxone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Subutex
  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone

All but one of these medications is specifically designed to reduce or eliminate the withdrawal symptoms. After the withdrawal period you taper off the medication.

During medication assisted treatment, you also work with a counselor in both a group and individual setting. This helps you to identify and correct the thoughts and behaviors that caused you to become addicted to heroin in the first place. Without this counseling, there is a high probability of returning to your addiction even with the medication. It is extremely important to discover and treat the cause of any addiction.

Medication Maintenance Heroin Addiction Treatment

Medication maintenance is the second type of heroin addiction treatment. Medication maintenance is very similar to medication assisted treatment. Medication maintenance takes place when you suffer from a pain condition that still exists even after you are off the heroin. Heroin is made from the opiate poppy and is a very strong pain suppressant. Some addicts become addicted because they are self medicating for a chronic condition.

During medication maintenance, you stay on the same medication used to treat the withdrawal. Medications like methadone and Suboxone can be used in regulated levels indefinitely without causing major harm. These medications also treat painful chronic conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and chronic back pain.

During medication maintenance, you still go through the counseling necessary to discover and treat the cause of your addiction. The only true difference between medication maintenance treatment and medication assisted treatment is that during medication assisted treatment you taper off the medication and during medication maintenance treatment you do not.

Each type of treatment is highly effective for treating heroin addiction with little or no risk of relapse or overdose. If you are considering a medication assisted form of treatment it is important to remember to only take the medications as prescribed and remain in a doctor’s care for the duration of treatment.