Heroin Spreads Through Lincoln, California
Heroin in Lincoln, California is quickly becoming the drug of choice. Though law enforcement and social services battled meth-related crimes and addiction for the past four years, the shift to heroin is becoming an alarming new statistic in the Lincoln area. This is due to heroin becoming less expensive than meth and the drug has becoming easier to obtain, according the Lincoln, California law enforcement officials. The increase in heroin use has also been tied to prescription drug abuse. The California Department of Health has identified the link between prescription OxyContin and other painkillers and a migration to heroin for its reduced cost. The scenario is common across the US and the state of California. Individuals start taking prescribed pain medications for legitimate medical conditions. Because of the highly addictive nature of these drugs, a psychological and physical dependency evolves quickly. When physicians refuse to renew prescriptions, individuals are left with a powerful craving. In no time, they turn to the cheaper alternative on the street: heroin.
Along with the abuse of prescription pills that begin in doctor’s offices, there is also the theft of medications from households. As the demand for prescription drugs grows, teens are looking to their parent’s medicine chests for a product they can easily sell on the street. Oxycontin can fetch $40 to $80 a pill. OxyContin addiction currently claims victims between the ages of 12 and 24. When prescription pain killer supplies run dry, heroin becomes the next viable option to produce the same euphoric effect.
Recent studies reveal more than 2,500 people are addicted to opioids in the area. When a new version of OxyContin was introduced that made it more difficult to inhale or inject the drug, it only fueled the demand for heroin.
Because nearly 8, 200 Americans die every year from heroin overdose, law enforcement across the country and in epidemic hotspots like Lincoln are turning to new drug technologies to help prevent heroin deaths.
As Lincoln law officers and paramedics are often the first on the scene of an addiction, they have been trained and are now equipped with naloxone to stop heroin overdoses. The drug blocks the effects of opioids and has become beneficial in the prevention of overdoses. Officers and paramedics can inject to produce positive results within two minutes. Naloxone can also be sprayed in the nose. Depending on the severity of the addiction, numerous doses may be administered to stop an overdose in progress.
Reversing the impact heroin has had on the community has also become a key issue with educators and local government. Efforts to stop the spread of heroin in Lincoln have included intensive public service campaigns and more engaged classroom activities directly addressing heroin and its hazards. There are also efforts to prevent prescription pills from reaching the streets by providing drop boxes for unused and expired medications.
Heroin and Overdose
Along with its powerful euphoric high, heroin also has sedative effects on the body. Respiration slows down and heart rate decreases. At the height of a heroin overdose the heart slows down so much, it simply stops beating.
Even if an addict can avoid the catastrophe of an overdose, there is still a long-term impact on the body. Heroin use over time destroys kidneys and the liver. The drug cripples the immune system making many heroin addicts highly susceptible to respiratory infections and pneumonia.
Behavioral risk factors from heroin addiction may include infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis if the user relies on hypodermic needles to administer the drug. HIV and hepatitis infections rank high among heroin addicts using shared needles.
Helping an Addict toward Recovery
When a loved one becomes addicted to heroin, the tough choices family members need to make include convincing the addicted they are suffering from a debilitating disease and that recovery and hope is possible. Identifying drug use and the seriousness of the addiction becomes the first step in rehabilitation.
What are the signs of heroin addiction?
Knowing the signs of addiction can help make it easier to move toward intervention. An educated family member can approach a heroin addict with information even when they are in denial.
- A perpetual state of euphoria, always appearing somewhat sleepy
- Periods of depression, sometimes severe where the addict remains isolated
- Severe chills and fever that they might blame on the flu
- A lack of interest in activities that once were important
- Lies about their whereabouts and actions
- Social isolation and separation from friend that are not drug addicts
- Actions that can be deemed suspicious to cover up behaviors related to acquiring and using drugs
- Things go missing. Theft becomes common to obtain money for drugs
- What appears as needle marks on arms and legs. Addicts will make up lies about accidents to account for the wounds
When an Overdose Results in Hospitalization
If a loved one overdoses and ends up in the ER, it presents an opportunity to confront the individual about their addiction. It is extremely difficult to explain away the incident and with a combination of gentle conversation and expressions of love, the possibility of help may begin in a hospital emergency room. Ideally, the hospital stay also can offer an easy transition into treatment. Hospitals may offer the pre-intake tests that can qualify an individual for long-term treatment.
What Pre-Intake Tests Determine
Physical Examination- a professional medical evaluation by a physician determines if there are any other medical issues other than addiction that may interfere or complicate drug addiction treatment.
Psychological Testing-the impact of drugs on the mind can be severe and if other mental illness issues are present, this can also complicate drug treatment. Identifying any mental disorders is essential for pre-intake success.
Drug Testing- There is no diagnosis of addiction. A drug test determines the amount of drugs being consumed and what drugs are being used. This test will help refine the treatment program for the user.
Personal Background- Knowing the addicted and what has gone on in their life to bring about addiction is the objective of the intensive interview conducted by a pre-intake specialist. Family life, abuse or a history of undiagnosed mental disorders may all act as a backdrop to addiction.
Making an Intervention Work
If a loved one is still resistant to treatment, a hospital may have no other choice be to release the person once they have recovered from the overdose. At that point, many families will implement an intervention to help further convince the loved one that rehabilitation is the only solution. The steps for intervention may include:
- Defining a Clear Plan- using a professional intervention specialist is ideal, however advice and counseling from social workers and organizations that help with drug addiction can give planning strategies to families. They can help prepare a family for what to expect, what to say and how to move forward.
- Form an Intervention Group-deciding who will participate in the intervention is key. Many may not wish to join in because of the stressfulness of the situation. There are also those who may not be emotionally strong enough to handle the event. A group leader will designate those who are ready to help.
- Doing the Homework-an intervention is made up of a group of loved ones committed to helping the addicted individual. Each participant must understand the depth of the addicted person’s dependency, as well as understand the value and process of treatment so they can speak truthfully during the intervention process.
- Know What Must Happen-If an addicted person refuses treatment, then the group must agree on consequences. An addicted person may be excluded from the household, refused money or support. As painful as this step is, there cannot be any contradiction among group members.
- Be Prepared- Collecting one’s thoughts and preparing what to say to the addicted is what makes up the substance of intervention. Express love, explain how their actions have caused pain and how necessary treatment for them will be healing for all.
- Conduct the Intervention- the addicted is confronted by the group and the thoughts and expressions of love are revealed one by one to them. It is important that consequences to their actions not become a threat, rather a result of their refusal. Calmness is the optimal emotion.
- Following up-being prepared with a treatment option is the final step in the intervention process. Whether it be inpatient residential treatment or an outpatient plan, having a recovery center ready to go makes the process smooth and stress-free for an addicted person who is embracing help.
Detoxing from Heroin
Detoxing is the process of purging heroine from the body. In this process, however, the body reacts physically to the absence of the drug and symptoms of withdrawal can be dramatic. Because of the potential for serious medical consequences, no one should ever attempt detox on their own. Under the supervision of recovery specialists, the detox process, though difficult and often painful, can be kept safe. Recovery specialists may administer drugs to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal. They will closely monitor the process for medical emergencies and provide the moral support to help the addicted through this stage of treatment.
After the last dose of heroin is taken, the detox process begins.
The addicted will experience severe cramping and nausea. Trembling and difficulty breathing will persist. Diarrhea and vomiting will occur. Agitation and anxiety may become the emotional state and periods of depression will follow. Many addicts describe the experience as a “tearing up” of the body.
Within a period of days, the cravings for the drug will occur. The body will continue its rebellion with nausea and vomiting continuing. Cramping, especially stomach cramps, will be prevalent. Feelings of depression will linger. The risk of suicide is common as is the risk of abandoning treatment and lapsing back into drug use. The recovery center specialists are there to monitor these events and protect the recovering through the process.
1 Week and Beyond
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
The withdrawal process can continue for weeks or months in a milder version for many recovery patients. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome describes the symptoms that occur long after detox. During this period, the recovering is at greatest risk for relapse, turning back to heroin not to get high, but simply to feel better. Heroin recovery over the long haul may be burdened with excessive exhaustion and constant drug cravings. Deep depression and difficulty thinking clearly make every day a struggle. A common phenomenon is a condition called anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Without the drug, the recovering cannot enjoy any other aspect of life, whether it be food, sex or even a joke. It is through extensive treatment, that the recovering can overcome the lasting effects of heroin and see the light of a sober life.
Customizing Treatment for the Recovering
One recovery treatment does not fit all. The value of recovery centers is their ability to evaluate each individual thoroughly to determine the best course of treatment. During pre-intake and even during the detox process, recovery specialists are outlining a course of action that will suit the patient best. The options include residential inpatient treatment and partial hospitalization programs. Also, outpatient programs may include intensive outpatient therapy. The recovery specialists will decide on the length of stay at a residential facility, the frequency of outpatient sessions and what medications may be prescribed to assist the recovering through the process.
How Residential Treatment Works
Residential treatment centers offer a secure sanctuary where recovering addicts can slowly wean themselves off their dependency to heroin. The goal of any residential treatment center is to isolate the recovering in order to improve the odds of complete abstinence from drugs, both physically and psychologically. A combination of therapies may be used over the course of the treatment period.
Medical support- Monitoring and evaluating each patient ensures medical issues do not arise during the recovery process.
A support system of fellow recovering individuals-receiving the support from other addicts means sharing experiences, understanding from those who have followed the same path of addiction, and receiving personal support when the risk of relapse arises.
-Healthy alternatives to drugs-new to many residential treatment programs are health and fitness education. Refocusing the mind and body on other aspects of life other than drugs begins with diet, exercise and meditation.
The Outpatient Option for Addiction Recovery
When an addiction is not severe or when the recovering has reached a stage where residential facilities are no longer needed, outpatient programs become a step in the right direction. In outpatient treatment, patients attend therapy sessions and group sessions during the day and go home at night. They conduct a normal, functioning life while undergoing treatment. This approach is a preferred option for many who continue to maintain responsibilities including school and work while still struggling with a milder dependency. Drug treatments such as methadone may also be part of the therapy regiment, slowly weaning addicts away from the more powerful and more dangerous effects of heroin.
The Power of 12 Step Programs in Aftercare
Regardless of the treatment program selected, they will both include a twelve-step program. This type of therapy has become a standard method in drug addiction treatment for long-term recovery. The programs focus on a combination of spiritual and psychological healing to help enforce the mind and psyche from the temptations that continue to exist for any recovering addict. Most importantly, the program establishes a series of achievable goals. Each step in the process brings a recovering addict closer to the pinnacle of long-term sobriety.
Seventy-four percent of drug treatment programs rely on some sort of twelve step program. The effectiveness has been proven for sobriety and the application is flexible enough that it can be used for almost any kind of addiction with any type of substance.
Heroin Recovery in Twelve Steps
- Accepting powerlessness over heroin addiction. By relinquishing your attempts to master the drug, you can begin mastering your life
- Step outside self-centeredness
- Rely on spirituality for guidance
- Self-examine without fear or dread to uncover causes of addiction and overcome them
- Accept the blame for your actions and move forward
- Choose spiritual healing for recovery and accept that as part of the process
- Turn to God to remove your weaknesses that may lead to relapse
- Return to those that you have wronged and make amends for those wrongs
- Always be ready to make amends as you will continue to make mistakes that hurt others
- Seek forgiveness
- Use prayer and meditation as tools for healing
- Seek a point of spiritual awakening
How Family Impacts Recovery: A Critical Part of the Twelve Steps
Usually the ones closest to a recovering person can cause the most harm. Family, whether it be siblings or parents, remind the recovering of their missteps, relive painful experiences and seem to be holding back the recovering process with old resentments. They do so unknowingly, as they may still be wounded from the addicted person’s behavior and are themselves in a state of recovery.
Making family part of the recovery process is critical for most addicts. Throughout the twelve-step program, reconnecting with family at each step brings about the most benefit. A recovering person needs to help heal those festering wounds of resentment, guilt and fear. A recovering person must accept the damage they have done to the ones they love the most. They need to communicate to family to better understand what their needs are for their recovery. In step two of any twelve step program, the recovering person is stepping outside their shell of selfishness and finding empathy and understanding for what they have put their family through. Family therapy may be recommended by a recovery specialist who will be the first to detect issues at home that may jeopardize recovery.
Taking on a Sober Life
Anyone recovering from drugs must make a sober life a mission. It does not come easy and there are numerous temptations that can lead the recovering down the path of relapse. Building and maintaining a strong relationship with counselors and continuing with support groups can help fortify the commitment to sobriety.
The first thing any recovering person will learn to identify is the triggers that tempt them to drugs. These bits and pieces of memory linger in the subconscious and are remnants of an addicted life. Outside influences can cause these memories to rise in the present and elicit a craving. The triggers can be:
A place where drugs used to be purchased, such as a street corner or park. Even the name of the park or the street corner mentioned in passing can become an instant trigger.
An old friend who may still be using drugs can show up and cause temptation.
The feelings of stress, depression or shame that lie at the foundation of a person’s addiction can be a source for relapse.
Bad memories that drove addiction in the first place can still occur and may even be unintentionally brought up by family or friends, not knowing the harm it is causing.
Talking Through Temptation
The power of recovery groups is that these temptations and triggers can be unashamedly laid out on the table. There is no judgement in group therapy and talking through an episode that almost caused relapse or a trigger that keeps haunting the recovering person can held it become more of an annoyance and less of a demon.
Because normal life stresses can be more difficult for a recovering addict, it is important that they address these issues in group sessions as well. When family and work or school become too stressful, it is important that the recovering not let that become an excuse for relapse.
Relapse prevention therapy is dealt with by using tools and plans used to help individuals with drug, alcohol or process addictions. The recovering addict will learn how to efficiently handle and conquer any stress factors in their environment that might trigger them to fall back into active addiction.
Maintain Sobriety with a New Awareness
The most common error recovering addicts make is not identifying the risk of relapse early on. Sobriety is a work in progress that requires exceptional awareness to avoid slipping back down the spiral of addiction. Here is what every recovering addict needs to be aware of.
Normal Life is not Instantaneous
Every addict wants to be the normal person they once were before addiction. But normal life is full of stressful and overwhelming events. Any one of these episodes can make a recovering person feel the need to escape back to drugs. They must instead ease into normal life, taking one day at a time and understanding that too much all at once can be harmful.
New Friends Change Life
Drug users have drug user friends. Their continuing presence in the life of one recovering is a constant pull toward relapse. Ending harmful relationships, no matter how painful, may be necessary to continue down the path of sobriety.
Seeing the Absolute Value of Sobriety
Experiencing a life sober must be fully appreciated. If that appreciation begins to lapse, it is only a matter of time before slipping back into drug use becomes a risk. The impact of many of the twelve steps continues the recovering along spiritual paths that reinforce the beauty and meaning of life no matter how harsh life can be.
Sober Living Mainstays
Once sober, there are many key factors that can help bolster that sober life. These simple changes in lifestyle can make a difference in outlook and personal well-being and makes drug abuse a thing of the past.
Now that drug friends have be removed from a life, there is a void of boredom and loneliness. New friends need to be made, but this time with those who embrace sobriety. Look to church for friends who are supportive and share a common interest. Even relationships developed in group session can be meaningful as those individuals are in same boat and can be like-minded partners in every aspect of life.
A Change in Activities
When drugs controlled the day, addiction and sleeping off a high were the essential activities. Now without drugs, boredom can make any recovering person realize they really have nothing to do sober. Looking for new activities from participating in church events, to new hobbies all transform that boredom into inspiration.
A combination of exercise and diet can renew and rejuvenate the recovering person’s mind and body. Replacing the junk life learned through drugs with physical fitness and a healthy diet can increase energy levels, improve mood and may even improve overall appearance
Relearning How to Learn
Drug addiction ends education. Recovery is the opportunity to begin learning again. A fresh and alert mind is the new normal for the recovering and knowledge now has value.
A Fresh Outlook
A sober life leaves the future open to endless possibilities. This can be exciting and scary to someone in recovery. Focusing on dreams deferred and plans laid aside because of addiction can now be resurrected. There is nothing as exhilarating as a recovering person making a To-Do list.