Vancouver’s Medicinal Heroin Trial Ending

The first medically prescribed heroin trial in North America is drawing to a close after almost a full year.

The $8-million North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and approved by Health Canada, sought to see what difference it would make in the lives of heroin addicts if they did not have to obtain their drug of choice in the illicit drug trade but could visit a clinic to obtain the drug.

Heroin addicts in the program, all of whom had been addicted for many years and all of whom had repeatedly attempted and failed to get clean on Methadone, were granted three visits each day.

According to Martin Schechter, of the University of B.C.’s faculty of medicine and the trial’s lead investigator, preliminary findings suggest that the treatment was safe and without any security problems and that 85% of the program’s participants stayed in the year-long program.

Similar European studies have shown that heroin treatment in this manner is far more cost effective than paying to fund the costs for health and criminal-justice services generally applied to people addicted to drugs like heroin.

Whether or not the program continues in the near future remains uncertain, but Schechter added, “What was really common was that people would say that, for the first time, they didn’t wake up thinking about how to get their next fix.”

Source: The Globe and Mail
Date: June 2, 2008

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