Medically-Prescribed Heroin Reduces Addiction Treatment Costs, Study

on March 12 2012 2:53 PM
Medically-Prescribed Heroin Reduces Addiction Treatment Costs, Study
Tuan Anh Nguyen, 45, injects a syringe filled with heroin in his rented room in Hanoi November 23, 2011. Tuan Anh began abusing drugs 23 years ago after being released from prison. He has since spent most of his life in prisons and rehabilitation centres. Tuan Anh earns a living by running an illegal tea stall that generates $3 to $5 of income daily REUTERS

The fight against drugs got a little more interesting after a Canadian research group found that prescribing heroin to junkies may be more cost effective than standard methadone treatments.

The addicts stuck with the treatments of diacetylmorphine longer and relapsed less than recovery with methadone, Canadian researchers found.

The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) doled out medically-prescribed heroin in Vancouver, a city long known as a haven for addicts because of its mild weather and existing drug community.

The trials are the first in the world to prescribe heroin and the researchers found that the average heroin addict cost $1.14 million in lifetime costs in methadone therapy compared with $1.09 million lifetime cost of an addict prescribed heroin.

The question I get most about heroin-assisted therapy is whether we can afford the increased direct costs of the treatment, Martin Schechter, a co-author of the study and a scientist with Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, said in a statement. What this study shows is that the more appropriate question is whether we can afford not to.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published the study Monday.

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