Pubdate: Tue, 02 Jun 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Ian Austin, Canwest News Service
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)


(CNS) - Scientists will supply more than 300 addicts in Montreal and 
Vancouver with free heroin as part of a study on effective 
substitutes for the highly addictive drug.

The research, which is still being finalized, will test whether the 
legal painkiller Dilaudid could be swapped for heroin.

Trish Walsh, executive director of the InnerChange Foundation, said 
Dilaudid -- a prescription painkiller that comes from the same opioid 
family as heroin -- was used by addicts in earlier tests, and was 
indistinguishable to both the addicts and those running the drug trials.

In the new three-year project -- dubbed Study to Assess Longer-term 
Opioid Medication Effectiveness -- some addicts will be given 
injectable Dilaudid while a control group will be given heroin.

In the second stage, addicts will be given Dilaudid or heroin in pill 
form to eliminate the need for nurses.

"We have the potential to revolutionize treatment on an international 
basis," said Walsh, whose organization advocates for addicts and 
funds innovative drug research.

"It gives addicts the opportunity to move from a very unsafe, 
back-alley drug to taking an oral tablet."

Dr. Martin Schechter of the University of B.C. said the Canadian 
Institute of Health Research has agreed to fund the research costs 
for the study.

He said the researchers are still waiting on Vancouver Coastal Health 
and the Quebec Ministry of Health to fund the clinical care costs of the study.

Schechter, who works in UBC's School of Population and Public Health, 
said the study will give heroin to half the 322 addicts, while the 
other half will receive Dilaudid.

Should Dilaudid prove effective, Schechter said the ideal solution 
would be to treat addicts with Dilaudid in pill form, allowing them 
to live productive lives free of the social stigma of heroin.
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