Supervised Use Of Heroin Keeps Addicts Clean
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05 June 2010
New York, NY USA
Prescribing heroin to addicts who can’t kick their habit helps them stay off street drugs, British researchers said on Friday.
So far, doctors have had little hope of treating the 10% or more of heroin users who don’t respond to methadone, the standard anti-addiction medication. Fuelled by drug cravings, those users often spiral downward into crime and diseases spread by dirty needles and unhealthy living. Short of actually getting addicts off the drug, "heroin clinics" can at least get them off the streets.
"What we are dealing with here is a very severe group of heroin addicts, where all of the treatments have been tried and have failed," said Dr John Strang, an addiction expert at King’s College London, who led the latest study. To test how prescription heroin would work for this group, Strang and his colleagues invited 127 addicts into supervised injecting clinics. The researchers then randomly chose who would get heroin, injected methadone or typical swallowed methadone.
After six months, 101 addicts had stuck with their treatment. More than two-thirds of those on heroin had no sign of street heroin in their urine at least half the time they were tested; before the study, they had been using the street drug almost every day. In comparison, less than a third of the addicts on either type of methadone had a similar number of "clean" tests.
At this point, said Strang, several users have continued in the programme for more than two years. He did not have exact numbers, but said that some had been able to get jobs and reconnect with their families. "These sorts of changes are typical of what we are seeing," he said. "People are not only physically getting better, but they’re getting back into society." REUTERS