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Heroin to treat heroin addicts

25th August 2009

A new study on heroin addiction favours treatment that uses heroin itself to treat the disease rather than synthetic methadone.


The study, which focused on addicts who took heroin for any time span greater than five years, reached the conclusion that some addicts should be prescribed heroin.

All of the subjects who took part in the study had previously failed treatment for their addiction twice, and all of them had failed treatment with methadone.

Methadone is a synthetic drug with effects similar to heroin and other opioids.

It is used by some doctors as an analgesic, but it can also be used to treat opioid addiction.

If given at doses higher than 80 milligrams, methadone blocks addicts from feeling the pleasurable effects of other opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine.

However, withdrawal from methadone is considered to be even more difficult for addicts than heroin withdrawal.

For the purposes of the recent study, Canadian researchers assigned 115 addicts in Vancouver and Montreal to receive diacetylmorphine (heroin).

They also assigned 111 other subjects to  receive methadone, which is considered the standard treatment by many experts.

The addicts who were assigned to receive heroin dosed themselves in the presence of a medical supervisor, and remained under supervision for half an hour.

At the end of the study, researchers found that the addicts who took diacetylmorphine were better off than the ones being treated with methadone.

88% of the people taking diacetylmorphine were still voluntarily undergoing treatment, as opposed to 54% of the people being treated with methadone.

Patients who were treated with diacetylmorphine were also able to reduce their heroin use after one year had passed, taking it only 5.3 days a month on average compared to 26.6 when the study began.

By comparison, patients taking methadone recorded 27.4 days of use for every month when the study began and 12 days when it ended.

The researchers said that addicts treated with heroin had greater improvements with respect to medical and psychiatric status, economic status, employment situation, and family and social relations.

They said that, although most heroin addicts on methadone treatment should not stop taking it, prescribed, supervised use of diacetylmorphine appears to be a safe and effective adjuctive treatment for this severely affected population of patients who would otherwise remain outside the health care system


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Krissy Ducharme

Monday 28th September 2009 @ 10:41

I would love to see the government consider this seriously- I'm a heroin addict sine the age of 27 (now 32) I'm female by the way. I once had a husband (died of overdose), a nice house, my daughter now 11- she only lives w/ me pt. my career I have a 4-yr. degree- lost my profession too and the list goes on & on. I have battled w/ this addiction. I'm on methadone it is terrible you are dead sick if you miss a day. They hold your "membership" over your head constantly threatening to terminate you. It is an AWFUL form of treatment! I think this new way using actual heroin may be just what we need - all in what may allow us to "function" in life once again. I live in central MA where use is spiralling out of control!

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Article Information

Title: Heroin to treat heroin addicts
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 12481
Date Added: 25th Aug 2009


Los Angeles Times

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