Heroin can be snorted or smoked, but is most often injected. When people who don’t understand treatment—especially MAT—need propaganda to spread about “the scourge of drug addiction,” heroin is an easy go-to because it is perceived as more dangerous to a community. Fears about needles, the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, and accidental overdose are often cited to dehumanize heroin addicts. These are also often used as arguments against harm-reduction programs like MAT because people simply don’t understand them. Despite its well-known risks and inconsistent quality, heroin gained popularity because it is affordable and available.
Treatment for heroin addiction is, in many ways, the same as treatment to other opiate addiction. Heroin users may however have some unique experiences to be considered in treatment. Because it can be so easily injected, those using intravenously are at a higher risk for medical complications—abscesses, hepatitis, collapsed veins, etc. This is why it is so important for treatment programs to offer not just medication to treat the physical effects of addiction, but also counseling services and referrals to community services to meet all of each patient’s needs.