Heroin is an extremely addictive drug. As well as the physical consequences of sustained heroin use, such as collapsed veins, it can also detrimentally affect other areas of life. Psychologically, the dependence on heroin as a means of coping has the potential to decrease emotional maturity. From a social perspective, the tendency for heroin addicts to revolve their lives around the drug can result in a withdrawal from important social ties. Heroin also impacts at a spiritual level as, fundamentally, the drug becomes the focal point of worship.
Nonetheless, once an addiction to heroin has been established, there are various methods by which people can attempt long-term abstinence. Initially, detoxification from heroin is required. Because of heroin withdrawal symptoms, if an addict were to do this without any medical or social support the chances of success are low. On the other hand, detoxification can be effectively achieved when medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, are involved. These medications can relieve cravings and block the effect heroin has on the body.
Residential treatments are generally considered the most effective means of promoting long-term heroin abstinence, particularly if drugs are not used as part of the initial detox. A study by Darke, Ross, Mills, Williamson, Havard, and Teesson (2007) showed that residential rehabilitation was the most effective treatment in promoting heroin abstinence after 36 months. After 3 years, heroin rehab success rates reached 15%; this was a significantly higher success rate than methadone or buprenorphine maintenance (10%), detox (4%) and no treatment (0%).
Similarly, the National Treatment Outcome Research Study (Gossop, Marsden, & Stewart, 2001) conveyed that both residential rehabilitation and methadone reduction treatment programmes tended to be equally effective. However, those in rehabilitation centres tended to have more severe and longer patterns of heroin use. This suggests residential rehabilitation is an effective means of helping severely dependent heroin users maintain long-term heroin abstinence.
In sum, heroin rehabilitation centres appear to be more effective than other treatments (Darke et al., 2007), and can also be a successful means of treating people who fall at the more severe end of the heroin addiction spectrum (Gossop et al., 2001).
Darke, S., Ross, J., Mills, K., Williamson, A., Havard, A. & Teesson, M. (2007). Patterns of sustained heroin abstinence amongst long-term, dependent heroin users: 36 months findings from the Australian Treatment Outcome Study (ATOS). Retrieved from http://www.addictiontoday.org/addictiontoday/2008/11/rehabs-work-research-on-success.html
Gossop, M., Marsden, J., & Stewart, D. (2001). The National Treatment Outcome Research Study. Retrieved from http://www.addictiontoday.org/addictiontoday/2008/11/rehabs-work-research-on-success.html