Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2000
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2000 Associated Press
Author: Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press Writer


SAN FRANCISCO - White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, an
advocate of methadone therapy, said heroin addicts must be treated the
same as people with other diseases.

Speaking at the American Methadone Treatment Association's National
conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, McCaffrey said the challenge
is making effective, science-based treatment for addicts more available.

An estimated one million people nationwide are chronic opiate addicts,
but only about 179,000 are in treatment, he said.

``We are not talking about a rare tropic disease, we're talking about
a million of our citizens,'' he said.

Implementation of a national drug policy that addresses heroin
addiction in a more mainstream way won't be easy, McCaffrey
acknowledged. But methadone treatment is key, he said.

``It is clear to me that there has to be a package, a system, in the
treatment of opiate addiction - and methadone is an important part of
it,'' he said.

Communities across the country have routinely fought methadone clinics
in their neighborhoods, claiming they bring with them crime and
blight. In Antioch, Calif., a federal judge ruled last month that
civil rights law allows a methadone clinic to move into a residential
neighborhood despite the city's claim that it would be unsafe.

Methadone is a synthetic drug prescribed to blunt the craving for
heroin and ease withdrawal symptoms. Many researchers believe it is
the best hope for recovering heroin addicts, allowing them to hold
down jobs and contribute to society.

Methadone is addictive, but only provides a high for the first month
or so of use. Addicts drink daily doses of the liquid narcotic.

A report released late last year by a panel of scientists convened by
the National Institutes of Health said heroin abuse is a treatable
disease and urges the expansion of methadone programs.
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