British Columbia

Heroin more effective in rehab than methadone: study

An experimental Vancouver program suggests that using a key ingredient of heroin is more effective than methadone at keeping addicts in drug treatment and out of trouble, according to a study to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.

An experimental Vancouver program suggests that using a key ingredient of heroin is more effective than methadone at keeping addicts in drug treatment and out of trouble, according to a study to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.

The study suggests that addicts prescribed the key ingredient in heroin – diacetylmorphine – were 87 per cent more likely to stick with rehab compared to 54 per cent on the methadone program.

Only long-term addicts who had failed at least twice to kick the heroin habit qualified for the trial.

One group of participants was injected with diacetylmorphine while another group was given oral methadone, a substance that has been used for decades to treat heroin addiction.

After one year, patients in the study given the heroin ingredient had reduced their drug use and illegal activity by 67 per cent, compared to 47 per cent for the methadone users.

The study's findings are similar to a three-year trial in Vancouver and Montreal that ended in 2008 comparing diacetylmorphine and methadone treatments.

The earlier study conducted by the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, or NAOMI, treated 251 of the most chronically addicted in both cities who had not responded well to other treatment options.

That study found illicit heroin use among participants fell by almost 70 per cent and the proportion of participants involved in illegal activity fell to 36 per cent from 70 per cent.