Life After Heroin Detox

Life After a Heroin Detox Facilities Program

In December 2015, New York Magazine published an article describing one man’s life on the heroin detox drug, VIVITROL®. It is an incredibly powerful depiction of addiction. Particularly, the power that heroin has over people who abuse it. Also, it is a realistic portrait of what life can look like in recovery.

Gabriel (name changed to respect privacy) is one of many patients who is recovering from heroin addiction. He is recovering with the help of pharmacological treatment. He receives a monthly injection of the drug VIVITROL® as part of his treatment. VIVITROL® contains the active ingredient naltrexone. Naltrxone effectively blocks the effects of opioids, including the addictive feelings of well-being that can lead to opioid abuse.

Doctors sometimes prescribe VIVITROL® as part of a treatment program for drug dependence. The article explains that patients receive an injection from a qualified clinician once a month. The author then provides the helpful analogy of VIVITROL® as a key: it effectively fits into the neuroreceptor keyhole that heroin fits into, without turning the knob. This block in heroin’s path effectively cuts off our patient’s option of relapsing.


However, there are factors that make doctors reluctant to prescribe VIVITROL®, including:

  • It requires a high level of clinical management
  • You must keep VIVITROL® refrigerated
  • A doctor must administer it in their office
  • Insurance rarely approves the drug, and without insurance, it costs up to $1,500 for a monthly dose.

And perhaps the largest stumbling block is that our patient must be completely clean—must have already endured the heroin detox process—before VIVITROL® can be administered.

Heroin Detox Is Just The Beginning

Janet Brannen, a group and personal addiction therapist, explains the real hurdle that patients must overcome as they face opiate detox and the possibility of receiving VIVITROL®. She describes how the VIVITROL® shot “catapults the person into the possibility of being able to get to who you are really and what you want, because it literally stops you from thinking I can go do heroin.” Gabriel agrees. From our patient’s perspective, what heroin provides is an utter release from pain. That is not a sensation from which any person can easily walk away.

Unfortunately, the story of life after a program at one of the many heroin detox facilities is not often reported on because it is not sensational. The return to normalcy (which is the goal of recovery) is not romantic, not exciting, and not free of pain. Gabriel comments, “You gotta put in your time to earn a living, to pay your bills, to take care of all your responsibilities. It’s almost like I was in a bad accident, and I had to relearn how to talk and walk and stuff.”

In Conclusion

Thankfully, there are hopeful reminders that families can take away from Gabriel’s story. Regarding access to VIVITROL®, the article points out that President Obama has made access to opioid addiction treatments like VIVITROL® a cornerstone of a new federal program to combat heroin use. Additionally, Gabriel makes it clear just how frustrating ordinary life can be for a recovering heroin patient. He provides valuable insight to supportive family and friends. Gabriel’s story also highlights how families play a major role in recovery.

Statistic associate family support with increased success in treatment and lasting recovery. Recovery Centers of America strongly encourages and supports family involvement in the healing process. If you have additional questions about our heroin detox facilities or life after heroin detox, RCA care consultants are available to educate you and your loved ones about what to expect. Contact RCA today at 1-800-RECOVERY.

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