Why Do Heroin Addicts Get Treatment?

Not all heroin users are street junkies, and not everyone who seeks treatment hits some kind of "rock bottom." Although these popular myths continue to be propagated, heroin use is much more complex -- and unfortunately more widespread -- than most films and television shows would lead one to believe.

The realities of heroin abuse and treatment -- including the myriad reasons that compel opiate addicts into treatment -- are as diverse as the people who use heroin on a daily basis, from the business executive to the nurse to the person living on the street.

Some common reasons to seek treatment for heroin addiction:

  • Court order – Newly instigated drug courts and probation requirements compel many heroin addicts into addiction treatment. Although these drug court offenders may not have sought help on their own, studies show that court mandated treatment works about as well as self-motivated treatment. Additionally, the longer the participation in addiction treatment, the better the odds of success, and since court mandated treatment tends to be lengthy, it also tends to work well.
  • Pressure from a loved one – The compulsive nature of addiction makes it tough to stop using, but sometimes well-intentioned pressure from a friend or family member can act as a catalyst for change.
  • Medical problems – Using heroin harms the health, and intravenous (IV) heroin users are at particular risk of medical problems. Sometimes a heart infection, an infection-caused abscess, or an almost fatal overdose will be enough to convince a heroin abuser that it's time to get professional help.
  • Lifestyle fatigue – Sometimes people just get tired of the "heroin lifestyle." Obsessing every day about getting enough money for a fix, doing risky things to get enough money for heroin, and associating with potentially dangerous criminals on a daily basis can wear a person out.
  • Job sanction or job loss – Not many people can maintain a career while using heroin. The desperate need to get high every few hours makes heroin addicts unreliable and vacant workers, but some people do manage to hold it together, for a while. Employers hold great influence over people, men in particular (research has shown that the threat of employment sanction is one of the greatest motivators to addiction treatment for men, but less so for women) and the threat of job loss or job sanction can be the wake-up call some people need to get help.
  • Pregnancy - Few women would knowingly put their unborn child at risk, and using heroin while pregnant puts incredible stress on the fetus, greatly increasing the likelihood of miscarriage and a wide range of prenatal damage.

It's not all about rock bottom, and the reasons that people seek change are as many and diverse as the people who use the drug.

Ultimately, though, the motivation toward treatment doesn't matter nearly as much as the act of getting treatment -- and no matter why the decision to get help was made, heroin addiction treatment changes lives for the better.

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