Heroin Treatment and Rehab

Understanding Heroin Treatment Options

Heroin is a substance that is a member of the opiate family. It is both illegal and highly addictive. Heroin addiction is one of the most grievous addictions there is. Heroin activates the reward system in the brain by interacting with opiate receptors located throughout the brain, producing pain relief and pleasure (feelings of joy and euphoria). In order to eradicate the dependence, you need to know what lies underneath. Heroin treatment and rehab can not only help you heal, but also help you understand addiction.

People have become addicted to heroin after a single dose, but unfortunately, there are no ways to predict who could become addicted to heroin or how many doses it could take before experimenting. A heroin addiction can be difficult to overcome, but with the right treatment, therapies and support, you can regain control of your life and stay drug-free.

There are several heroin treatment options available. The right referral service also includes experts, professionals and counsellors that can help you with resources and referrals to facilities where you can get treatment for your heroin addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with a heroin addiction, they need treatment, support and care. Seek help today.

Heroin is a dangerous substance of abuse. Its potential for becoming habit-forming is high – as is the risk of overdosing – every time an addict uses it. Due to the nature of heroin addiction, you might be wondering if it’s possible to successfully kick a habit or whether treatment is effective.

While it’s true that heroin is dangerous and incredibly habit-forming, it’s also true that treatments exist that can help an addict successfully quit. You’ll need to find a qualified heroin addiction centre to provide the required treatment that will help you through withdrawal and re-wire your brain functions and behavioural patterns.

When you stop using heroin, the withdrawal symptoms you experience can be overwhelming. A treatment centre provides you with medications and other treatments to minimise and manage these extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. However, this is during the detox period and recovering from a heroin addiction is about more than just detoxing.

Heroin treatment involves providing you with a safe place, where you can sober up and expunge the drug and toxins from your system. Treatment for heroin addiction involves giving you the tools to enable you to return to living a normal life. There should be a focus on helping you to generate emotions that were previously triggered by the drug alone, as well as exploring the reason you turned to heroin in the first place.

You should also be equipped with skills and strategies to ward off a relapse. Heroin addiction treatment takes time, especially for long-term users. While you can possibly finish detoxing in a few weeks, the rest of your recovery is a slightly longer journey. Your treatment for heroin addiction will consist of medications used to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and other therapies along with counselling to help you fully recover from addiction.

Medications Used for Heroin Treatment

Research has confirmed that the use of the pharmacological treatment in heroin addiction is beneficial to the addict. The positive outcomes experienced include a significant reduction in drug use (relapse), criminal behaviour and transmission of infectious diseases. There was also an increased rate of retention and adherence to treatment programmes.

The medications used for the treatment of heroin addiction interact with the same opioid receptors in the brain (through which heroin acts), but are known to be safer and less addictive than heroin. They belong to three classes: opioid agonists, partial agonists and antagonists. Experienced health professionals decide on the best drugs to use to meet the patients’ needs, as well as any other pre-existing conditions and factors. The medications used in heroin addiction treatment include:

  • Methadone (which goes by the trade-names Dolophine® or Methadose®) is an opioid agonist that is slow-acting. It is taken orally and reaches the brain slowly as a result. It interacts with opioid receptors to reduce withdrawal symptoms without producing the same ‘high’ that other opioid agonists are known for. Methadone has been used in the treatment of heroin addiction since the 1960s and is the preferred choice for patients who have not shown anoptimal response to other medications. Methadone is usually available in outpatient programmes, where it is given to patients daily.
  • Buprenorphine (also known under the trade-name Subutrex®) is a partial agonist of opioid receptors. Buprenorphine is useful for relieving drug cravings without producing the feeling of being high and free from most of the dangerous side effects that heroin is known for. It also relieves the withdrawal symptoms experienced. Buprenorphine is a popular alternative to methadone in the treatment of heroin addiction, due to the fact that it was shown to have less abuse potential. The FDA recently approved a six-month subdermal implant of buprenorphine and a depo-injection of buprenorphine that only needs to be administered once a month.
  • Naltrexone (Depade® or Revia®) acts by antagonising opioid receptors. Its benefit is in preventing relapse in heroin addicts, but it has no effect on alleviating the withdrawal symptoms. As a result of this, compliance in the use of this drug is not very high. It antagonises opioid receptors and blocks any effect the use of heroin might have, thus discouraging the addict from trying to use heroin. It is a safeguard against relapse. The use of naltrexone can only begin after the detoxification period has ended.
  • Clonidine is an anti-hypertensive medication that has been shown to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms experienced in recovering heroin addicts. It is also a sedative and helps with insomnia.

It’s important for you to know that medications in themselves are not a complete treatment for heroin addiction. Medication should be used together with therapy and other recovery tools to successfully attain sobriety and enable the recovering addict to stay drug-free in the long run.

Heroin Rehabilitation: How Long?

Heroin is a short-acting drug. This means that it has a rapid onset of action, as well as a short duration.  Withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest soon after the last dose of heroin.

Heroin rehabilitation typically begins with the detox period. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that heroin withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest in as little as six hours after the last dose. The symptoms get progressively worse and peak between the second and third day and typically lasts for five to ten days.  The detox period is usually when drugs are administered and therapy is applied to help the body and brain recover from the myriad of effects heroin has.

During detox, a patient is closely monitored. The heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and respiration are supervised to make sure that the patient stays safe throughout the detox period. Heroin rehabilitation still continues after the detox period, helping you to develop the necessary skills to maintain your new-found sobriety.

Data published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that a rehabilitation period of fewer than 90 days might have limited effectiveness. Some programmes offer a rehabilitation period of 28 days, while others offer longer. The heroin rehabilitation period is different for everyone and depends on the individual, the duration of heroin use, and whether you choose an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility.                                     

Advantages of Inpatient Heroin Treatment Centres

An inpatient heroin treatment centre can afford the recovering addict certain advantages over other forms of rehabilitation. However, the choice of a heroin treatment centre is not a ‘one size fits all’. Every person has unique needs and circumstances. The specific benefits of inpatient heroin treatment centres are numerous.

An inpatient heroin treatment centre offers round-the-clock supervision, care and support. The withdrawal period can be rough and poses certain dangers and risks. So, having the right support – psychologically, as well as medically – can be the difference between relapsing and not relapsing. 

Another benefit of an inpatient centre is a specific structure and restricted access to drugs. Being in an environment with little or no free time – as well as not being able to get your usual supply of heroin -preoccupies you enough to distract from craving heroin, whilst also making sure you have no chance of relapsing.

Many inpatient centres limit phone calls and visits, making it easier for you to dissociate yourself from the circle of friends that represent a negative influence on your life. It also gives you the chance to focus on yourself and your feelings without any interference from the outside world.

Inpatient centres often provide support for you, even after you’ve finished your rehabilitation. Apart from providing tools to help you cope with everyday living and handle any drug cravings, they also provide a place for you to return if you start to become overwhelmed after your rehabilitation.

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Heroin Addiction – Rehab Success Rate

Recovering from a heroin addiction can be challenging, especially because of the difficult withdrawal period and the fact that heroin changes the way you think and feel about certain things.  Data from Drug Treatment in England shows that between 2016 and 2017, 26% of people with heroin addiction were discharged and recorded as treatment completion. Heroin addiction has the lowest rates of recovery when compared to other groups with substance addictions.

12-Step Programme for Heroin Addiction Treatment: Pros and Cons

The 12-step programme was first used in the 1930s and has since remained an important part of alcohol and drug addiction recovery. It was the first approach to addiction that acknowledged addiction was about more than a choice. It approached staying drug-free through a series of 12 graduated steps and meetings. Some research has shown that 12-step programmes have some degree of efficacy, but it is widely agreed that they should not be used as a stand-alone treatment for addiction.

The benefits of the 12-step programme for heroin addiction include the following:

  • The 12-step programme is an organisation that is sustained by donations and as a result, a person who seeks to obtain treatment at no cost can do so in the 12-step programme. For some addicts, the cost of treatment is the primary barrier and the 12-step programme effectively eliminates this barrier. It can provide them with a lifeline and support at no cost.
  • One of the unique features of the programme is sponsorship by someone else who has successfully completed the programme. Being mentored by someone who has been there and remained drug-free for at least five years has a unique advantage.
  • The 12-step programme is an immediate network of support within an existing community and as a result, provides easy integration for the recovering addict. The fact that it already exists within the community makes it easier for the recovering addict to attend meetings regularly and continue to participate at any level, including sponsorship.
  • Evidence from the NIAAA supports the fact that the 12-step programme has a long-term impact on the recovering addict.

The 12-step programme also has the following flaws:

  • The 12-step programme fails to address withdrawal symptoms or to provide a means to alleviate them. The recovery that is addressed by the 12-step programme is mostly psychological and not physical. The deleterious effects of the drug – as well as the dangers of the detox period – are not taken into consideration.
  • Being a part of the 12-step programme requires that you admit your addiction in a roomful of people and some addicts might not be entirely comfortable with that.
  • The 12-step programme also professes a belief in a higher power and proposes that the addict is powerless to do anything about their addiction.

Many rehabilitation facilities adopt some form of the 12-step programme and still incorporate it into their therapy and treatment approach.

Detoxification: The First Step of Heroin Addiction Treatment

The treatment for heroin addiction or any other substance abuse starts with the detoxification process. Detoxification is important because it is the period in which your body rids itself of any remnants of heroin and toxins. In this period, your body adjusts to being without heroin. You will experience withdrawal symptoms which vary in intensity, depending on your heroin usage history.

The withdrawal symptoms are simply your body’s way of asking for more heroin. The withdrawal symptoms can be really uncomfortable, but they are hardly fatal. They can also be managed with the use of medication. There are different approaches to detoxification and they include:

  • Inpatient detoxification. You will undergo detoxification in a facility where you will be monitored and supervised. Drugs may be administered to alleviate any withdrawal symptoms you experience. This method is usually recommended for long-term heroin users.
  • Outpatient detoxification. You don’t need to be admitted to a facility in the outpatient detox. You stay at home and will be given some drugs to help decrease withdrawal symptoms. You will be required to check in with your facility at specific intervals. People who choose this option are those who are newly addicted to heroin.
  • Rapid detoxification. Detoxification is rapid and usually completed within four to eight hours, with the use of an infusion of anopioid antagonist (naloxone or naltrexone). It places the patient at the risk of pulmonary oedema and cardiac arrhythmias. It can precipitate really unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
  • Anaesthesia-assisted rapid detoxification. This is the same as rapid detoxification, except,in this case, you will be placed under general anaesthesia. It requires professional monitoring and can be extremely risky. It is not recommended. Data from one study showed that up to 8.6% of people who tried anaesthesia-assisted rapid detoxification either died or developed a cardiac arrest.

Detoxification is an important step, but it is only the beginning of your journey to recovery, which itself is a life-long process.

Medication Replacement: Programmes for Heroin Treatment Options

If you seem to be struggling due to a long and problematic history of drug use and repeated rehabilitation, then the medication replacement programme might be what you need to recover successfully. In the drug replacement programme, you will be given legal and safer drugs to take in place of heroin. The aim is to reduce the need to turn to crime to ‘get high’, reduce the risk of overdosing and death associated with heroin use and also keep you safe from diseases.

The two drugs most commonly used as a replacement for heroin are methadone and buprenorphine. They are not generally available in hospitals and pharmacies, but in special centres and can be prescribed by physicians with special training.

Another option for medication replacement is the Heroin Assisted Treatment. Here, you will be given injectable doses of heroin in a safe and controlled environment. When synthetic heroin is used responsibly, it has been shown to not be as toxic as heroin found on the streets. The danger of overdosing is also eliminated because of the control.

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 A look at Ibogaine treatment for heroin addiction

The Ibogaine treatment for heroin addiction relies on the use of Iboga from a plant with psychedelic properties, found mainly in West Africa. It is a stimulant in small doses, but in large doses can produce severe psychedelic effects. The large doses have also been found to reduce cravings for opioids and eliminate withdrawal symptoms in recovering heroin addicts.

A study carried out in Mexico showed promising results for the recovery of opioid addicts. Four out of 30 participants did not relapse for a year after the Ibogaine treatment. Another Brazilian study showed even better results when the Ibogaine treatment was combined with psychotherapy. 61% of participants remained abstinent for an average of 8.4 months after a single Ibogaine treatment. Both studies were small but show promise. Ibogaine has been combined with rapid detox and the results have also been positive.

In a journal published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews, an Ibogaine detoxification generally features the following phases:

  • Acute phase: This involves visions and hallucinations that people have referred to as a “waking dream”. It can be emotionally intense and starts within one to two hours of taking Ibogaine. This phase lasts four to eight hours.
  • Evaluative phase: Usually begins after the acute phase in four to eight hours and could last for as long as 8-20 hours. It is characterised by personal reflection, contemplation of your life, and your behaviours with a general attitude of looking inwards.
  • The third phase is known as the residual stimulation phase and lasts for at least 24-72 hours. It has been known to remain for longer. In this phase, a lot of the reflections stop being internal and become external instead. This phase can linger for quite a while.
  • The final phase is the recovery phase. Many drug users in this phase find it easy to become abstinent. Drug cravings are eliminated and there are no withdrawal symptoms to contend with. Any self-destructive patterns will still need to be taken care of with the use of therapy, counselling and other components of rehabilitation treatment.

While Ibogaine has not yet been proven to be a magic cure, it definitely has a muchpotential, especially if treatment is carried out in a location with 24-hour medical care and supervision. Ibogaine has been known to keep people awake for a few days during treatment. If this happens, you will need extra sleep after the treatment. The follow-up care, therapy, counselling and teaching new coping skills is essential to maintain the Ibogaine induced abstinence.

Other Pharmacological Approaches to Heroin Addiction Treatment

After the detoxification period for heroin treatment, you could be left with other symptoms that require management. These symptoms include anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), intense drug cravings, and dyssomnia (issues with sleep). Drugs may be administered to manage these symptoms.

Anti-depressants are used to address anhedonia and have been shown to be effective in helping you feel pleasure.

Suboxone is a combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine. The naltrexone antagonises opioid receptors and as such, you will be unable to get high even when you use heroin. This can be the motivation you need to stay clean.

Paired Dual Diagnosis-Heroin Addiction Treatment

Many people with a heroin addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Sometimes, the disorder came before the heroin addiction and at other times, it’s the other way around. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis.

A dual diagnosis is very common in heroin addiction and finding a centre that can address both diagnoses is a critical factor for a successful recovery. More than 50% of people living with a dual diagnosis were able to get treatment that helped them recover in both areas. The common mental health conditions that are found to pair with heroin addiction include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Eating disorders

A successful heroin addiction treatment should incorporate a personalised treatment plan that includes both diagnoses and addresses them with the use of medications, psychotherapy and appropriate aftercare.

 Pros and cons of using medication in heroin treatment

If you or someone you know is considering treatment for a heroin addiction treatment, you might be wondering about the medication that is used and if it’s the better option. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to replace the use of one drug with the use of another in theory.

As you probably already know, when used in heroin addiction treatment, medications have been proven to show some benefits, such as reduced crime, reduced risk of overdosing and help with managing withdrawal symptoms, to name a few.  As with many things in life, there are arguments for and against the use of medication in treating heroin addiction. Here are a few arguments in favour of medication in heroin treatment.

  • Reduced withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduced cravings for the drug
  • Better social functioning
  • Better chances of adherence to rehabilitation
  • It stabilises the patient from an earlier period in detox so that more attention can be paid to therapies and counselling

The arguments against the use of medication to manage Heroin addiction are as follows:

  • It can be easy to replace one addiction with another
  • You will be exposed to more adverse effects from the administration of drugs
  • You might begin to think that the drug ‘cured’ you of your addiction, when in fact it only begins the process of recovery

The decision on whether you should use a medication approach in your treatment should be personal, as decided by you and your doctor.

Behavioural Therapy for Heroin Addiction Treatment

Behavioural therapies are a part of your heroin addiction treatment that helps you change your drug use-related attitude and behaviours. You will be trained to handle emotional situations that could trigger a relapse and given skills to help you cope with cravings. The most commonly used behavioural therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Contingency management interventions
  • 12-step programme therapy
  • The matrix model

Inpatient Addiction Treatment Programme

An inpatient addiction treatment model places you under 24-hour supervision, with medical support and care. Many programmes will provide you with medication to ease withdrawal symptoms during the detox period. Then, after the detox period is over you, will continue with other therapies and counselling until you are discharged as being recovered.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programme

While inpatient programmes are more suitable for a long-term addiction, an outpatient programme is more for people who have not been in the habit of using heroin for long. In an outpatient addiction treatment programme, you’ get the chance to continue working and staying at home, whilst getting treatment for your addiction. It is more flexible and still provides you with treatment sessions. You’ll be required to check-in frequently for counselling and medication.

Heroin Addiction and Health Insurance

You can access treatment for free on the NHS, but if you’d prefer private rehab treatment, you might be able to use your health insurance to pay for it.

You have to understand that coverage is ultimately decided by your insurers and determined by the policy you hold. Some policies or insurers will cover rehab treatment for a specified period, while others will only cover certain aspects of your treatment.

The Role of Counselling in Heroin Addiction Treatment

Counselling can help your recovery process by making use of modern therapeutic techniques that will not only teach you to talk, but also teach other essential skills to help you through the recovery period. An experienced counsellor will help you successfully change old patterns of behaviour that led to addiction and create new and more productive ones. Counselling is essential towards helping you turn your life around.

Heroin Rehabilitation: Average Time

Rehabilitation programmes are designed to last between 30 and 90 days. You can even spend longer in such a programme if need be.

The early recovery is considered a critical period, where you are very vulnerable, but the ultimate decision should be about what recovery period is right for you.

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If you or someone you love has a heroin addiction, you might start to feel isolated. This doesn’t have to be the case though, as you are not alone. People have found treatments for their addiction and gone on to live a normal and successful life.

What Makes the Available Heroin Dependence Treatment Plans Successful?

  • An assessment by qualified professionals to determine the nature of your heroin dependence and create a customised treatment plan.
  • Access to a wide range of rehabilitation and use knowledge from the assessment to find the one that best suits you.
  • Information about your treatment plans, how they work and the expected outcomes.
  • BACP-qualified experts, a significant part of your treatment
  • Aftercare services to help you maintain sobriety

What Will You Experience at the Treatment Centre?

The available treatment centres cater to both inpatients and outpatients. You will have access to a wide range of rehabilitation facilities, so you will definitely find something that can accommodate you, regardless of your addiction.

You’ll find support through the detox period, together with therapy and counselling services to help you get rid of your old behaviour patterns and gain skills to prevent relapse.

Benefit from continued support forthe aftercare and extended care programmes to reinforce your new drug-free persona and aid a smooth transition back to your everyday life.

What Is the Correct Approach to Detoxification and Withdrawal from Heroin Addiction?

The right approach to detoxification and withdrawal from heroin addiction is based on you and your drug use history. Based on the assessment, you will be advised on what an optimal detoxification process will involve and whether or not you should use medication to assist you through this process. After the assessment, you will also learn whether or not you’re suited to an inpatient or outpatient treatment. The decision will ultimately lie with you.

How Do Clinics Treat Co-Occurring Disorders and Heroin Abuse?

If you have a co-occurring disorder, you will have access to information about the centres that have experience managing your specific disorder. You’ll receive treatment for your co-occurring disorder simultaneously.

Your Programme Is Uniquely Yours

The aim is to provide the appropriate resources and information to enable you to make the best decision. The choice begins and ends with you. Make an informed choice. Seek help today.


A number of the available rehab clinics make use of cognitive neuroscience to explore complicated or resistant cases of addiction treatment and use the knowledge obtained to ensure a proper management of withdrawal symptoms and optimise recovery in such cases.

Rehab and Treatment Statistics

If you’re looking for rehabilitation for yourself or a loved one, you might find yourself asking a really important question: “Is rehab effective?” According to data released by the Department of Health’s national addiction centre, the best performing private clinics across the UK achieve success rates of between 60-80%.

Choosing a Treatment Centre for Heroin Rehab

Your chances of a successful recovery are dependent on being able to choose the right centre. There are lots of decisions to be made – inpatient or outpatient, your history of heroin usage, to name but two. You are not alone and don’t have to do this by yourself.

Residential Treatment Centres vs. Outpatient Services

Not everybody who is a heroin user will need residential treatment. Depending on your history of usage – and other factors, such as a dual diagnosis – you might be able to kick the heroin habit in an outpatient treatment centre. Residential treatment centres are often more sought after because of the severity of heroin abuse and how hard it is to kick the habit.

Private Heroin Rehabs and Confidentiality

If you are seeking rehab treatment, you might be worried about confidentiality. An addiction is deeply personal and you’ll want to be able to decide who knows about your heroin use. The available rehabilitation centres have developed specific confidentiality and privacy guidelines for the patients and a huge focus is on maintaining your privacy. You will duly receive a copy of this privacy guideline.

Treatment Near Home vs. Different City or State

You might be considering getting treatment in a different state or city. This has the advantages of increased confidentiality, as well as removing you from the negative environment and influences where you were a heroin user. If you have family, then going away from your home city or state could rob you of seeing them for a long time. Only you can make the ultimate decision, but remember to carefully weigh up the pros and cons.

Questions to Ask Treatment Centres

If you’re looking for a treatment centre, you might be wondering how to analyse which would be best for you. Here are a few questions you can ask when you’re searching. If they align with your own expected outcomes, then it’s an indicator that the centre is a good match.

  • What are the expected outcomes of my treatment?
  • Are your programmes short-term or long-term?
  • Do you have drug substitution programmes?
  • Do you use medication to manage the detox period?
  • What counselling and therapy services do you provide?
  • Do you provide aftercare services?

Staying Clean and Sober

Getting clean and sober is only the beginning of your journey. Staying that way involves a lifelong commitment. The following tips can help you:

  • Avoid your old haunts and old friends
  • Find a support group where you can talk if you need to
  • Forget about the past, focus instead on the present
  • Don’t put too much pressure on your rehab, as it is only the beginning of the recovery journey

 Helping the Heroin Addict

When someone you know and love is addicted to heroin, it is important that you help them as best you can and be careful about it. You might be confused about the best way to handle the situation. You need to try to talk to them, without talking down to them.

Sometimes, they might need an intervention to realise the damage their addiction is doing to them. The important thing is, you can find help for your friend or loved one who is an addict

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need an Inpatient Heroin Rehab Facility?

You might need one if you are a long-term user of heroin, or if you want to give your recovery the best chance. If you’ve only just begun to use heroin, then an outpatient rehab facility will suffice.

How Long Does Inpatient Heroin Rehabilitation Take?

The short-term programmes usually last between 30-90 days. Extended care facilities offer rehab stays of up to 12 weeks and more.

What Happens During Treatment?

Treatment begins with detoxification. After that, you will need counselling and therapy and other aftercare services to help you stay sober.

What Happens When Someone Uses Heroin?

Heroin interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain to activate the reward system. A person then feels joy and other positive alterations in mood, perception and consciousness.

Why Is Heroin Dangerous?

Heroin is dangerous because you can become addicted after just a single dose. Every time a user takes heroin, they are at great risk of overdosing. An overdose of heroin can be fatal.

What Happens When Someone Uses Heroin for the First Time?

Even first-time users of heroin are at risk of overdosing. When injected, snorted, smoked or ingested, the user will experience an intense high.

Can Heroin Addicts Recover?

With treatment and support, a heroin addict can recover fully from addiction.

What Percentage of Heroin Addicts Recover?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that between 40 and 60% of heroin addicts relapse. This places the recovery rate at 40-60%.

Does My Insurance Cover Heroin Treatment?

Many major health insurers cover some aspects of rehabilitation, but this also depends on the specific insurance policy that you hold.

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