Newsbrief: Addicts Take Prescription Heroin for Safety, Stability -- Not to Quit, Study Finds 4/2/04

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A study of 104 British heroin addicts using prescription heroin or prescription methadone has found that most seek the prescription dope because it is safer and more convenient than resorting to the black market -- not because they see it as a means of quitting their habits. The study found that only one of five saw prescribed injection drug use as a means of reducing their use, while three-quarters told researchers they sought prescriptions for heroin or methadone because of safety reasons, to avoid police problems, and to maintain normal social relationships.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, looked at patients getting injectable opiate treatment (IOT), as the British medical establishment calls prescribing heroin, which it refers to as diamorphine, or methadone at a center operated by the Substance Misuse Directorate of Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health Trust. Prescription heroin is available at limited locations in England, but the government has called for an expansion of the program, citing a need to reduce crime. Advocates of prescription heroin have suggested that it could lead to reduced use.

But that's not what participants in the study told researchers. "Subjects articulated a consistent desire for IOT in order to 'stabilize' their lives in a number of ways. These findings suggest that clinicians and policy makers should be aware of many heroin users' perception of IOT as long-term treatment and their clear preference for injectable diamorphine," researchers wrote in their conclusion.

"One of the most striking findings of the study was that 74% of patients said that procuring a drug supply of known dose and purity, improving family relationships and avoiding trouble with the police were the three key reasons for seeking a prescription of injectable opiates," lead researcher Dr. Louise Sell told the newspaper the Scotsman.

The researchers also came to other startling conclusions, such as perhaps people who want to use heroin should be able to get it, although they didn't exactly put it that way.

In discussing with the Scotsman why injection drug users were more likely to be prescribed methadone than heroin -- it is cheaper, more researched, and easier to monitor -- study coauthor Dr. Deborah Zador explained that, darn it, some people just wanted their heroin and, if all else failed, maybe they should get it. "It may prove the best option for opiate addicts who have not responded well to other treatment," she said.

So, junkies tell researchers what would be self-evident in a world not blinded by decades of authoritarian anti-drug propaganda: We like our drugs, and we would prefer to be able to obtain them in a way that doesn't disrupt our lives or get us thrown in jail. And although their conclusions are couched in the rhetoric of addiction as disease, the researchers seem to have at least a small glint of understanding.

The research report, "Patients prescribed injectable heroin or methadone their opinions and experiences of treatment," is not available online unless you want to pay Addiction's publisher, Blackwell Synergy, $25, but the abstract can be read at:

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Issue #331, 4/2/04 Show Cause Hearing for David Borden and David Guard's Civil Disobedience to Take Place This Morning | DRCNet Interview: Floro Tunubalá Paja, Former Governor of the State of Cauca, Colombia | Meth Panic Mantra: Save the Children | Czech Party Seeks Move to US-Style Drug War Policy | DRCNet Press Coverage | Medical Marijuana Advocate Confronts Congressional Opponent at House Hearing | Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Rules Police Can Search Without Warrant | Newsbrief: Addicts Take Prescription Heroin for Safety, Stability -- Not to Quit, Study Finds | Newsbrief: Another Safe Injection Site in British Columbia? | Newsbrief: Drugged Driving Bill Introduced in Ohio | Newsbrief: DUID -- Pass It and They Will Prosecute | Newsbrief: Who's Minding Your Utility Bill? | This Week in History | Job, Grant and Internship Opportunities with MPP | The Reformer's Calendar

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