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Heroin effective in treating addiction
[Posted: Tue 13/03/2012 www.irishhealth.com]
By Gillian Tsoi
Using heroin's active ingredient to treat addiction is cheaper and more effective than using methadone, according to a new study in Canada.
Currently, methadone is the most common treatment used for people who are dependent on opioids such as heroin.
However, over time, most addicts will go back to using illicit drugs.
Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia, Université de Montréal and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine suggest that injectable diacetylmorphine - the active ingredient in heroin - is not only cheaper, but also more effective for treating addiction.
They estimated costs for both treatment options based on outcomes from the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), taking into account possibilities of HIV infection, periods of treatment, abstinence and relapse.
They found that a person in a methadone programme would live for approximately 14 years after entering the treatment model, with about eight years in treatment and five years in relapse. The entire programme would cost society an estimated €867,000
However, someone on a diacetylmorphine treatment programme would live for approximately 15 years, with about 10 years in treatment and four years in relapse. This would cost about €835,500.
"Our model indicated that diacetylmorphine would decrease societal costs, largely by reducing costs associated with crime, and would increase both the duration and quality of life of treatment recipients," said Dr Aslam Anis, director of CHEOS at Providence Health Care and professor at UBC's School of Population and Public Health.
"Because opioid users commit less crime and have lower rates of health care use and death while in treatment, the benefits in cost and health utility attributable to diacetylmorphine stemmed chiefly from its capacity to retain patients in treatment for longer periods than with methadone maintenance treatment."
The researchers concluded that a diacetylmorphine treatment strategy could reduce costs in treating chronic opioid addiction.
The study was published in the MAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
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