At ARCA Midwest and MIRA, there has been a sharp rise in the amount of patients being treated for heroin addiction. With viable treatment options that include anti-craving medications such as Vivitrol, it is not understood why there are studies being performed to see if heroin addicts would stay in treatment programs if offered prescription heroin. The goal is to remove the addictive substance from the patients’ bodies rather to reinforce the idea that heroin is an acceptable form of self-treatment for larger, underlying issues that can be effectively treated with counseling and therapy. Percy Menzies, President of MIRA and ARCA, comments on a story recently published online at ABC News referencing a Canadian study about the possibility of using prescription heroin. This story, reposted below for easy reference, can be found online here: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/prescription-heroin-isnt-outlandish-analysis/story?id=20397322.

“It is complete insanity to glamorize radical and untenable treatment options like giving heroin to heroin addicts. We don’t seem to learn from history. How can we forget when morphine maintenance clinics were the norm and yes, heroin was being used as the cure for morphine addiction!  Methadone and buprenorphine have not solved the problem.  Movement for drug legalization is a direct result of the failure to offer effective evidence-based treatments.

The treatment community should put aside ideological barriers and look at evidence-based treatments that allow patients to attain complete abstinence. The medications most overlooked are naltrexone and the Vivitrol monthly injection. Why should naltrexone be restricted only to well-to-do patients and healthcare professionals? We have successfully used naltrexone in street addicts and those incarcerated.

It is time that we in the treatment community look at our own biases and give patients a fighting chance to get well.”

Why Prescription Heroin Isn’t as Outlandish as You Might Think

Sept. 27, 2013
By TED HESSON

Canada’s department of health decided last week to provide heroin to at least 15 participants who are finishing a government study in Vancouver. The study looked at using heroin and another opiate as a treatment for addicts.

Giving heroin to heroin addicts?

In the U.S., it’s commonly accepted to offer users methadone, a synthetic opiate, as a sort of transition drug. Distributing heroin, though, would surely shock some people.

The idea has its detractors in Canada, too, including the country’s Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose. She said in a statement that the decision was “in direct opposition to the government’s anti-drug policy.”

But the concept isn’t so outlandish.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in April 2012 found that chronic heroin addicts given diacetylmorphine — the scientific name for heroin — fared better than participants using methadone. And at a lower cost to society.

Here’s why it saved money to give addicts heroin:

Users were more likely to stay in treatment longer if offered heroin as opposed to methadone. And people who stay in treatment are less likely to commit crimes, use health care services or die, researchers found.

That doesn’t mean it’s the answer to addiction. Users given heroin still spent a little over 10 years in treatment and four years in relapse. But the heroin-supplied group did better than methadone users, who spent just under 9 years in treatment and 5.5 in relapse.

Those given heroin lived about a year longer on average and with a slightly higher quality of life, health-wise.

The takeaway

While U.S. isn’t likely to start prescribing heroin for addicts as a matter of course, the move could open the door for public health experts who want to push for this data-driven approach to treatment.

Ted Hesson is the immigration editor for Univision News. 

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