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Life After Heroin Detox

What Does Life After Heroin Treatment Centers Look Like?

In December 2015, New York Magazine published an article describing one man’s life on the heroin detox drug, Vivitrol. It is a powerful depiction of addiction and also 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 with the help of pharmacological treatment from one of many heroin treatment centers. He receives a monthly injection of the drug Vivitrol as part of his treatment. Vivitrol contains the active ingredient naltrexone, which effectively blocks the effects of opioids. Doctors prescribe patients with Vivitrol as a part of a heroin treatment center 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
  • Users must refrigerate Vivitrol
  • A doctor must administer Vivitrol in a doctors office
  • The drug costs up to $1,500 for a monthly dose, and insurance companies rarely approve it

And perhaps the largest stumbling block is that our patient must be completely clean 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. Therefore, it is not a sensation from which any person can easily walk away.

Unfortunately, the story of life after heroin detox 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, pay your bills, take care of your responsibilities. It’s almost like I was in a bad accident, and I had to relearn how to talk and walk and stuff.”

Thankfully, there are hopeful reminders that families can take away from Gabriel’s story. Gabriel makes it clear just how frustrating ordinary life can be for a recovering heroin patient. Also, the story provides valuable insight to supportive family and friends. Gabriel’s story also highlights how families play a major role in recovery. Recovery Centers of America strongly encourages and supports family involvement in the healing process. If you have additional questions about heroin treatment centers, RCA is here to educate you and your loved ones. Contact RCA today at 1-800-RECOVERY.

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