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Heroin can be used to treat addiction

August 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study out of Canada suggests that the active ingredient in heroin can be effectively used to help serious addicts get off drugs.Researchers from the University of British Columbia say injectable diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, can be more effective than the more traditional use of oral methadone in the treatment of chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.

The study examined more than 200 long-term users of injectable heroin who had not benefited from at least two previous attempts at treatment for addiction, including at least one methadone treatment.

One-hundred-eleven drug users were randomly assigned to receive methadone while 115 users were given diacetylmorphine.

After a year, almost 88 percent of those receiving the injectable diacetylmorphine were still participating in the study. Sixty-seven percent significantly reduced their use of illicit drugs, including street drugs, or other illegal activity.

Comparatively, about 54 percent of the methadone group remained as part of the study, while almost 48 percent had curbed illicit activities.

Still, those taking the heroin injections did suffer more side effects. The most common serious side effects associated with diacetylmorphine injections were overdoses and seizures. Those two side effects impacted a total of 16 people participating in the study.

The study appears in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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