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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Medical Heroin Over Methadone

Every year thousands of individuals receive methadone in order to stay off of heroin. Methadone maintenance programs across the country have proven to be quite effective over the years but can be quite costly in the long run and there is a high rate of relapse. There is a new form of maintenance being tested that is controversial to say the least, but may be more effective in a number of ways

Long-term heroin addicts are being treated with medically prescribed heroin and research has shown it to be more cost-effective than methadone, according to a new study.

Medically prescribed heroin, or diacetylmorphine, has helped a number of addicts stay in treatment longer as well as help them avoid relapse, compared with those who received methadone. Those receiving diacetylmorphine were more likely to live longer than heroin users receiving methadone maintenance therapy according to the researchers.

Over a lifetime, treating one patient with methadone costs society $1.14 million, compared with $1.09 million for a patient treated with diacetylmorphine, the researchers estimated. The researchers took into consideration:
  • treatment costs
  • costs for drug therapies
  • criminal justice system costs

“The question I get most about heroin-assisted therapy is whether we can afford the increased direct costs of the treatment,” co-author Dr. Martin Schechter of the University of British Columbia said in a news release. “What this study shows is that the more appropriate question is whether we can afford not to.”

The results appear in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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