How to Save Heroin Addicts

Experts weigh in on changes that should be made to treatment

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 4, 2014 12:59 PM CST

(Newser) – Could Philip Seymour Hoffman have been saved? That's what two columns are arguing today:

  • On CNN, drug experts Ethan Nadelmann and Tony Newman outline a 7-step plan to stop overdoses—105 people in the US die each day from heroin or pharmaceutical opioid ODs. The first step: Make treatment available, and stop turning people away. "It is outrageous that we taxpayers spend, on average, $30,000 a year to incarcerate someone with a drug problem, but we skimp on treatment programs that are less expensive and more effective in reducing illegal drug use and other crime." Another important part of the plan? Let's be more honest—by teaching kids the risks of things like mixing drugs and alcohol, rather than simply telling them to abstain, and by providing clean, supervised injection facilities and heroin-assisted treatment. Full piece here.

  • In Time, David Sheff, author of two books about addiction, writes that it's common for addicts to go through "serial relapses," even after multiple treatment programs. Too many of those programs don't offer treatments that are proven to be effective, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and psychopharmacology. "We don’t know if Hoffman was, upon discharge from treatment, prescribed medications like Suboxone, which prevents opiate relapse, but it’s unlikely, because most treatment programs eschew them. If he had been (and if he took them as prescribed), it’s almost certain that he’d be alive today." All opiate addicts should also have access to naloxone, which reverses an OD. Full column here.

A makeshift memorial is seen, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, outside the building where the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found in New York.
A makeshift memorial is seen, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, outside the building where the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found in New York.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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