Heartbroken About Your Teen's Heroin Addiction? What Can You Do?

If you've recently been confronted with the heartbreaking news that your teen is struggling with a heroin addiction, you may feel hopeless and be wondering where you can turn. Unfortunately, the strength of this addiction and the wide availability of heroin (often mixed with carfentanil and other even more deadly substances) can make it difficult for anyone to kick this habit for good, especially those whose brains are still maturing. Read on to learn more about what makes a heroin addiction different from other types of substance abuse and addiction, as well as what you can do to support your teen on the road to recovery and a life free from opiate use. 

Why is heroin addiction so damaging? 

Heroin has long been heralded as one of the most, if not the most, addictive substances in the world. While pockets of American society have dealt with higher-than-average levels of heroin use, most notably Seattle during the "grunge" era, the recent revival of heroin has been due in large part to the opiate crisis. The overprescribing of prescription opiates to individuals dealing with chronic (and not-so-chronic) pain led to addiction for many, and when regulators began to crack down on "pill mills" and other sources of easy access to prescription painkillers, those who had grown dependent often turned to street heroin, which by then had become much more easy and less expensive to obtain.

Unfortunately, switching from regulated painkillers to unregulated street drugs has brought with it a much higher risk of inadvertent overdose and death. Much of the heroin available on today's black market is mixed with carfentanil, an anesthetic used to sedate extra-large animals like elephants for surgery. A lethal dose of carfentanil is barely even visible to the naked eye, so even the tiniest amount of carfentanil in a dose of heroin could be enough to make this dose the user's last. 

What are the best treatment options for a teen struggling with heroin addiction? 

Kicking a heroin addiction as quickly as possible provides the best protection against a lifelong struggle with relapse. 

For some, managing withdrawal symptoms through methadone can help stem the worst parts of withdrawal and allow your teen to continue to function and hold down a job (or attend school) while resisting the urge to use heroin. However, methadone programs are rarely available for those who are under age 18, so your teen may need to wait before he or she can be admitted into this type of program. 

In other cases, counseling and outpatient addiction treatment may hold the key. Unless your teen became addicted to heroin after suffering an injury or illness that created an addiction to prescription opiates, it's likely he or she is dealing with some unresolved trauma that led to picking up this highly addictive substance in the first place. Treating this trauma and providing your teen some alternative coping mechanisms through counseling can boost his or her self esteem and provide a sense of strength when struggling against the mental and emotional cravings that often go hand in hand with heroin addiction.

Meanwhile, the medical services portion of an outpatient treatment program can help your teen cope with withdrawal symptoms and identify and treat any cellular damage that has already occurred. Sharing needles with other heroin addicts can often spread blood-borne illnesses like Hepatitis C and HIV, so getting a full blood workup early in the rehabilitation process can help your teen manage and treat any illnesses he or she has contracted. In other cases, heavy heroin use may have caused damage to the liver, kidneys, or other filtration organs, rendering a special diet or exercise plan necessary to promote healing. For more information, contact companies like Evergreen Recovery Centers.