Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jun 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Brett Bundale, Canwest News Service
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


For Many, Intake Of Drugs Declined

For many hardcore heroin addicts, the hustling begins first thing in
the morning. They wake up with one thing in mind: how to get their
next fix.

Some turn to panhandling, prostitution or crime to come up with the

But a heroin study seems to have changed that for some Montreal

North America's first research study on medically prescribed heroin
will wrap up in a few weeks. The goal of the North American Opiate
Medication Initiative, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health
Research, is to examine harm reduction and the treatment of illicit
drug use.

The $8-million clinical trial started in 2005 in Montreal and
Vancouver, the site of Insite, North America's only safe-injection

As the project winds down, Quebec is considering setting up a
safe-injection facility in Montreal, Health Minister Philippe
Couillard said Wednesday.

But unlike a safe-injection site, where addicts inject themselves with
their own illegal street drugs under the supervision of a nurse, the
research study uses medically prescribed pharmaceutical-grade narcotics.

Although the findings will not be published until the fall, the
preliminary results are promising, said Suzanne Brissette, one of the
study's doctors and the lead investigator in Montreal.

In Montreal, addicts were allowed to come to the clinic three times a
day to get their fix. They had to have repeatedly failed the standard
treatment of oral methadone, a morphine-like substitute for heroin.

"What was surprising was that as their lives gained stability, many
came only twice a day," Brissette said.

In addition, the maximum heroin dose allowed was about 400 milligrams,
but on average, addicts chose to take only 170 milligrams at a time.

"Because the heroin was free, people thought an escalation in use
would occur. But this didn't happen," Brissette said.

Many users also put on weight and some managed to find jobs, Brissette

"Instead of worrying about their next fix, they had time to worry
about far more important issues, like their health and finding a job
or an apartment," Brissette said.

Martin Schechter, principal investigator in Vancouver, has said in the
past that women have thanked researchers because they no longer have
to sell their bodies for drugs.

Although the study has a team of doctors, nurses and social workers to
counsel participants about their options once the study ends, the
future for the most serious addicts is grim.

The study required an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act.
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