New Heroin Addiction Treatment? Heroin

Scientists caution that controversial treatment has its downsides
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2009 11:42 AM CDT
A sign hangs in the hallway of a recently opened Bupenorphine clinic November 4, 2002 at the University of Vermont at Burlington.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Medical heroin may be effectively used to treat heroin addiction, Canadian scientists have discovered, but their dramatic findings may be railroaded over political and financial concerns, ABC News reports. Injectable diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, resulted in 67% less illegal activity and illicit drug use after one year when compared with 47.7% for oral methadone, the standard treatment for opioid addiction. Despite the results, one author cautions that methadone should remain an addict’s “first-line treatment.”

In the study, patients who received diacetylmorphine showed greater improvement over their methadone counterparts in drug use, psychiatric status, employment satisfaction, and social relations. But the diacetylmorphine group was more prone to overdoses and seizures, and at $6,300, diacetylmorphine treatment can double the cost of methadone treatment. While the approach is already used in Switzerland and the Netherlands, Germany and Spain have balked at the idea. Scientists say they’ll wait to see if the treatment finds support across the Atlantic.