Thursday, October 13, 2011

Alternatives to Methadone Maintenance Likely

A man takes his daily dose of methadone to taper off opiates.
Heroin addicts might soon have an alternative to conventional methadone or abstinence-based treatments, if a clinical trial in Vancouver proves to be effective.
The Canadian federal government recently approved the study that will test the effectiveness of the prescription pain reliever Dilaudid or injectable heroin on the treatment of 322 heroin addicts.
An earlier study showed that hard-to-treat heroin addicts responded much better to medically prescribed heroin than methadone. After 12 months, 88 percent of the subjects prescribed heroin were still in treatment, as opposed to 54 percent who received methadone. Researchers were surprised to see that a small group prescribed Dilaudid was just as likely to stay in treatment as the heroin group, though the Dilaudid group was not large enough to present significant scientific conclusions.
The new study might open a new door for treatment if it shows Dilaudid to be as effective on hardcore addicts as prescribed heroin. If successful, Dilaudid could be used as a second line of treatment for addicts, if methadone maintenance fails.
In America, medical providers would probably experience less regulatory hurdles and political baggage in prescribing Delaudid than heroin as a methadone alternative.  In the U.S. and Canada, providers cannot administer heroin to addicts who benefit from the therapy. Delaudid might be the best substitute for heroin, if this clinical trial is effective.

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