Heroin Addicts and Painkiller Addicts May Need Different Treatment

As more and more people became dependent upon opiate painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, law enforcement officials began to create stricter regulations to limit availability of prescriptions. Unfortunately, this did little to address the high rates of opiate dependence and many who could no longer get the pills to maintain their addiction turned to heroin, a drug of similar makeup and effect. Some became solely dependent upon heroin while others stayed true to the pills and still others combined their use of the two drugs.

It has always been assumed that heroin addicts and painkiller addicts would face the same obstacles in addiction and require similar therapeutic interventions during treatment. Similarly, many believe that those who are addicted to all substances of abuse would benefit from basic, step-by-step treatment with little attention paid to the specific drug of choice. A new study published in The Journal of Addiction Medicine, however, found that this is not the case. These findings may add to the enhancement of treatment for opiate addicts across the board and improve rates of recovery for those who seek help.

The Study

Those addicted to heroin only, opiates but not heroin, heroin and other opiates, and non-opiate drugs were separated into four groups for the purposes of the study. Researchers found that:

  • All-opiate addicts (those who were dependent upon heroin and painkillers) were more likely to struggle with dependence upon other drugs (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc.).
  • Heroin-only addicts were less likely to be dependent upon other substances though they may still use them occasionally.
  • Non-opiate addicts had lower rates of co-occurring substance abuse disorders and lower rates of co-occurring mental health disorders compared to the opiate users.

The differences between addicts found by the study further increased the growing body of evidence supporting personalized treatment in recovery. Not all addicts are the same in their experience and their day-to-day obstacles during active addiction; therefore, their directed treatment in rehab should be different as well. At Axis, this is an understanding that has informed our unique approach to treatment for years.

Opiate Addiction Treatment Options

Opiate dependence upon heroin or painkillers can be devastating and is life-threatening every day it is allowed to continue. The treatment options for this deadly disorder are many, and it is important for each patient to carefully consider the ramifications of each. No one path to recovery will work for everyone. Options include:

  • Long-term medicated detox. Through the use of addictive medications like Suboxone and methadone, patients can decrease the intensity of their withdrawal symptoms and take a longer approach to full detox. During this period, they can immediately attend to the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders and psychological wellness.
  • Shortterm medicated detox. By using non-addictive medications, patients can limit their experience of withdrawal symptoms during detox, but most will still need to wait for the bulk of symptoms to pass before moving forward in recovery.
  • “Cold turkey” detox. In this method, no medications are used. Patients will avoid putting any more toxins in their body as they move toward an overall recovery. All types of detox should always be supervised by medical professionals.

Which One Is Right for Your Loved One?

Before determining which style of detox and recovery is best, it is important for the addicted person to undergo a thorough evaluation by substance abuse treatment professionals. Contact us at Axis now to begin.