Like other chronic diseases, enough high-risk behaviors and causes can lead anyone to addiction. Katilyn M. started using drugs as a teen, to escape the trauma of rape. Arthur A. began taking his wife’s painkillers to help raise newborn twins. Brianna W. picked up her sister’s drug and alcohol use at age 13.

Finding a path to detox

They are different stories, and yet similar. Use escalates to more and different types of drugs. They may or may not seek treatment. Perhaps no one tries to intervene. Once criminal justice gets involved, they go to jail and maybe get treatment or monitored on probation.

“Kaitlyn M. faced her own mortality when her best friend died of an overdose.”

Treatment varies from person to person, but often starts with detox (possibly mandated by court) followed by inpatient or outpatient care that includes individual and group counseling sessions. Most programs will test individuals for drugs in their system. Some people use medication to assist with their treatment. Over time, the frequency of sessions lessens and the person moves to an after care plan that may include attending support groups like Narcotics Anonymous.

Finding help is a challenge

Like other chronic diseases, heroin addiction treatment isn’t easy and recovery isn’t quick. Many people refer to their treatment as a fight. What makes the difference in getting to recovery? For Vanessa in Florida, it was feeling ready to accept treatment. For Jessica C. in New Hampshire, it is being able to be honest with her counselor and keep a daily routine. Shon T. in Missouri credits a strong support network. Kaitlyn M. faced her own mortality when her best friend died of an overdose. Brianna needed structure. Arthur A. noted a strong desire to get better, driven by his kids taking notice of problems related to his addiction.

Many credit the option of having medication as part of their treatment to help reduce cravings. The problem? A limited number of prescribers have been willing or able to step up and help community-based providers with this important service. Medication isn’t for everyone, but how many more people could be in recovery if they had access to this additional treatment tool?