At least a million Americans use heroin, and the problem is getting worse. Many opiate addicts have turned to heroin as stricter laws make prescription drugs harder to obtain. At the same time, the recent popularity of fentanyl additives (extremely potent synthetic opioids) has greatly increased the risks of using unregulated drugs. Between 2010 and 2016, fatal heroin overdoses climbed, steadily but rapidly, from under 5,000 a year to nearly 15,500. There are hundreds of heroin detox centers in the United States; some, however, are poorly managed or use approaches that don’t suit everybody. So it pays to put some effort into finding the right place for you, rather than registering at the first center that pops up in a Google search.
1. Don’t be daunted. That mention of “effort” may scare you. The decision to enter heroin detox is frightening enough without facing up to extra work before you even get in. If you’ve not addicted yourself, but trying to convince a loved one to get treatment, use the following tips to have one or two heroin treatment centers ready to recommend when you broach the topic.
2. Check your insurance. Like most addictions, heroin dependence is classified as a “substance use disorder” and thus covered as a mental illness under many health insurance plans. If you have a job, you are entitled to the same medical-leave benefits as with a purely physical illness, and to any reasonable accommodations necessary for maintaining sobriety after detox (although, before or after detox, you can still be disciplined for irresponsible behavior related to the addiction).
3. Do some initial online research. If the consultation with your insurance company—or with whatever source of help you used in Step 1—doesn’t yield a list of detox centers, you may need to turn to an Internet search. Look under “best heroin detox centers [your area],” and when the results come up, look for a list of options published by an objective source.
4. Look closer. Once you have a good option for a heroin detox center (or a choice between two or three), go back to their websites and look for a “programs” or “services” page. Consider how they describe their treatment approaches. What clicks best with your preferred therapy style, psychological/spiritual focus and follow-up approach? Can they accommodate special dietary or other medical needs? If the website has images of the grounds and facilities (it should), how well do they appeal to your taste?
5. GO! With all this ground to cover in the preliminary stages, be careful not to fall into the research-plateau trap—forever gathering more and more information, but never taking final action. With heroin addiction, this isn’t only a waste of valuable time, it’s playing dangerous games with your health. Every day of delay can only mean another risky dose or the onset of withdrawal sickness.
No question, learning can quickly become a substitute for doing—after all, the theoretical stage can be pure fun, while actual detox promises major physical discomfort, plus long-term changes that may not come close to stopping at “your current life minus heroin.” So from the beginning, set yourself a firm time limit (no more than a week) for making the final decision or at least scheduling the first in-person interview. Then get someone to hold you to that decision (see the section on accountability in Step 1), and do whatever else you can do immediately (packing for the treatment-center stay, requesting medical leave, arranging for house- or pet-sitters) to nudge yourself past the point of “no return” to
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