If you are using heroin or other opioids to cope with emotional pain and are ready to live a life free of addiction, the Coleman Institute can help. Explore the best way to get off heroin with The Coleman Method, why it's important to experience our emotions, and how to live a life free of addiction.

Opioids or Heroin as a Painkiller

We've known that opioids are fantastic pain killers for physical pain for a long time. We use them in medicine all the time. Opioids relieve the pain of terminal cancer, general surgery, and broken bones.

But, it is more apparent to me that opioids are even more potent in relieving emotional pain. I think this is why the relapse rate is so high for people with opioid or heroin addiction. I believe that so many people go back to using opioids even after they are fully detoxed. They have such strong memories of how good they felt on opioids and they want to get those good feelings back.

More like this: When Pain Medication Becomes a Dependency

Opioid Relapse Rate

For a long time, I have been wondering why so many people get off heroin or opioids and then relapse somewhere down the road. Studies show that between 40-60% of people suffering from a substance abuse order relapse. Frequently, people will be in jail for years and then use opioids as soon as they get released. Patients often go into a 28-day treatment program but are back using opioids again within a week of discharge. The success rates for patients with opioid or heroin addiction to stay completely drug-free are very low.

More like this: How to Detox Off Heroin: What It Takes & Getting Help

Heroin Detox With Naltrexone Therapy

This is why we recommend Naltrexone therapy to all of our patients. With naltrexone, we can block cravings, prevent relapses, and give people a fighting chance to make the changes necessary for long-term recovery.

It has become more and more evident to me that a considerable part of the reason for this high relapse rate is the fact that opioids relieve emotional pain so well. Of course, the drugs come with many side effects and, of course, are highly addictive. Still, they are potent painkillers for the emotional system.

For more information, check out these helpful posts on relapse: How to Avoid Opioid Use Relapse.


Using Opioids or Heroin to Numb Emotional Pain

All of us live with some emotional pain. However, our emotions operate unconsciously, so we are not aware of them. Our emotional system is very powerful. It is designed to keep us functioning in healthy and in safe ways. Regularly, our brains are vigilantly keeping track of threats and dangers. Usually, we are not really aware of it, but our brains have low anxiety, fear, and worry levels.

Sometimes, these emotions rise to the conscious level, and we become aware of these feelings. Many of our feelings feel negative, so we don’t like experiencing them. They are there to help us avoid making mistakes and allow us to make better decisions, but they are uncomfortable. From time to time, all of us are aware of feelings like anxiety, regret, loneliness, boredom, low self-esteem, fear, sadness, and anger.

The problem with opioids or heroin is that they are very potent painkillers, and they numb out these negative emotions. When people use opioids, they feel “comfortably numb." They no longer have to handle their anxiety, their stress, their anger, their loneliness, or boredom. It is a very powerful effect. Opioid users like this feeling, and even years after they quit, they can still remember how good that felt. This is because the memory circuits in the brain last a long time, especially the ones associated with these emotions. So it is no wonder that patients will return to opioid use in times of stress, even after long years of abstinence.

More like this: The Connection Between Mental and Physical Pain

Why It's Important to Learn From Our Emotions

The secret to recovery then is to sit through whatever emotional discomfort comes along and learn other ways to deal with it. If we change our attitude about emotions and see them for what they really are, then we can learn from them and change. Our emotions are our teachers. Our emotions are there to provide feedback that something needs to change.

If we feel bored, we need to find something fun to do. If we feel lonely, we should call friends, find new hobbies, or go to meetings. In many cases, behavior therapy can help undo the bad habits your brain is accustomed to, or reverse the bad situations one might put themselves in that would encourage relapse. If we feel sad, we can share those feelings with a therapist or friends and grow from the experience. If we feel sad, we can share those feelings with a therapist or friends and grow from the experience. The last thing we should be doing is using drugs to numb or trying to escape those feelings. When in recovery, it’s important to change your behaviors for a happy, healthy life in recovery

The Buddha said that life is suffering but that we need to transcend suffering.

That means we need to stop perceiving our painful emotions as suffering and instead see any emotional pain we have as a helpful guide. Our emotions are our best feedback loop to help us know when to change things and how to become happy regularly. This is the path to achieving true bliss - not some drug-induced shadow of true happiness.