Giving heroin to heroin addicts may not sound like a great idea, but it could soon become the preferred treatment for hardcore addicts. Switzerland and a handful of other countries already have clinics that administer small, supervised doses to addicts, and Britain could be next after completing a four-year trial on the practice. The results were encouraging: Street-drug use among participants fell 75% in six months.
The goal, of course, is to eventually wean addicts off the drug, and the treatment is only used if detox and methadone have failed. “It’s a less than perfect treatment,” admits one researcher. “But for entrenched addicts, it gives them the first step toward getting their life together.” Of course, the idea is still controversial. But last year in Switzerland, where initially the clinics were unpopular, 68% backed a referendum to keep them.