Heroin Anonymous (HA) is a support group started in 2004 in Phoenix, Arizona. HA’s mission is to offer support for ex-heroin users in their ongoing commitment to sobriety. HA holds meetings where members get together to discuss their struggles, insights and triumphs since breaking free of their heroin habit.
HA is not a detox or recovery program. It’s a support group for people who’ve been through rehab and are now putting their lives back together. HA respects the anonymity of its members and doesn’t reveal the identities of its attendees. To that end, members are only addressed by their forenames during meetings.
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Is Heroin Anonymous Linked to Alcoholics Anonymous?
HA has no ties to Alcoholics Anonymous. However, HA’s program is based on AA’s and uses a similar twelve-step program model. HA operates in 19 states and the United Kingdom.
HA is a non-profit that accepts member donations but doesn’t charge membership fees. They don’t accept outside donations. They are not aligned with any political party, civic groups, churches or religious denominations.
Heroin Addiction: Why Is Heroin Addictive?
Heroin is an opioid drug that people use recreationally for its depressant effects. It creates feelings of euphoria by triggering the brain’s reward centers. People get hooked on the feelings and reuse the drug to experience the same effects time and again. In some cases, people get hooked after one use.
Heroin addiction takes hold when the user becomes tolerant of the drug and needs higher doses to recreate the desired effects. At this point, the user increases his/her dosage to dangerous levels.
Heroin became a popular recreational drug in the 1960s rock culture and has since proliferated as a party drug. The reasons people take heroin include:
- Euphoria – Users experience euphoric sensations during heroin highs. It triggers the brain’s reward centers and causes a physical sensation that first-time users find blissful.
- Pain relief – Heroin binds to mu-opioid receptors in the brain that regulate pain. During heroin highs, people who struggle with bodily pain feel alleviated of agony and discomfort due to the drug’s euphoric effects.
- Escapism – The euphoric sensations of heroin put users on a mind and body trip that allows them to escape reality. For people coping with cramped living environments, unemployment, poverty, abusive working conditions and unhealthy relationships, heroin offers an escape from real-life unhappiness.
- Depression – People use heroin to escape feelings of despair, grief and heartbreak. The euphoria makes users momentarily forget the reasons why they’re depressed.
Heroin was popular in the ’60s/’70s rock scene because its euphoric effects acted as a stress reliever for overworked touring musicians. Today, the drug is used for similar reasons by over-booked professionals and impoverished ghetto dwellers alike.
Can Heroin Addicts be Cured?
As with people who abuse alcohol, heroin addicts are never truly “cured.” People who struggle with heroin addiction can break free of their dependency and commit to abstinence from the drug. However, the chemical dependency remains.
That’s where HA comes in. In HA meetings, members offer mutual support among like-minded individuals who’ve committed to a life of heroin abstinence and sobriety.
Treatment Programs for Drug Abuse
For people suffering from heroin addiction, recovery treatment is vital. The treatment process follows a sequence of detox and inpatient (or outpatient) care. These programs are not covered in HA, which focuses on ongoing group support for sober ex-heroin users.
- Heroin detox – The first step toward recovery is heroin detox, where the user stops taking the drug and commits to abstinence. The first three days of detox are typically hard because cravings and withdrawal symptoms peak. To relieve the symptoms (anxiety, sweats, shakes, cramps), doctors may administer anti-opioid medications.
- Residential rehab – This usually follows detox. Residential inpatient treatment consists of 30-90 days at a rehab facility, typically located on a country estate. Here, the patient gets used to the drug-free life while living structured days of health, wellness, meditation and counseling. In rehab, patients learn positive-thinking models and healthy habits.
- Outpatient treatment – For people with less-severe levels of heroin addiction, treatment centers also offer outpatient programs. Inpatient and outpatient programs cover the same ground with one key difference: outpatients live at home and come to the center in the daytime. Outpatient treatment ranges from part-time (9-19 weekly hours) to full-time (20+ hours).
- Experiential therapy – This involves activities where people get to experience creativity, athleticism and nature. The purpose is to engage the mind, body and spirit. Examples include art therapy, music therapy, animal care, equine therapy, yoga, hiking and exercise. Experiential therapy is a fixture of modern-day rehab programs.
- Dual diagnosis therapy – This gets to the root of addictive behavior by diagnosing a patient’s co-occurring mental health issues. In many cases, substance abuse (including heroin addiction) is rooted in childhood issues like abandonment or trauma. By treating the underlying issues in each patient, it’s easier to help them overcome the addiction.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – This helps patients reverse subconscious thoughts and hard-wired beliefs that cause negative behavior, such as heroin addiction. It’s hard to quit heroin when the subconscious believes it’s the only salvation. CBT helps patients turn thoughts of “give in, there’s no hope” to “recover and triumph, there’s always hope.”
People seeking treatment for drugs and alcohol should research local rehab centers to find programs with the best reviews and payment options.
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Is HA Necessary After Heroin Rehab?
If someone you know is suffering from heroin addiction, get that person into chemical dependency treatment. After he/she completes inpatient or outpatient treatment, consider HA as an ongoing form of treatment.
Heroin addiction is too dangerous to tolerate indefinitely. It’s time for your loved one to stop suffering from heroin and enter a treatment program. Once he/she completes rehab, guide that person to a nearby HA chapter for discussion and support from other heroin addicts who’ve beaten the problem.
In HA, each member undergoes a spiritual awakening and engages in fearless moral inventory. HA helps the person seeking long-term recovery find a power greater than him/herself.