Pubdate: Mon, 2 Feb 1998
Source: The Advertiser
Author: Miranda Murphy
Contact: CONTROVERSIAL DRUG PROGRAM FOR SA

SOUTH Australia will be one of the first States to carry out trials of a
controversial detoxification treatment for heroin addicts.

The State Government is expected soon to announce details of a program
using the drug naltrexone, which may start before June.

Naltrexone already can be used by former addicts to block the effects of
heroin, stopping cravings after detoxification.

But the trial would see the drug used in rapid detoxification under a
general anaesthetic  a controversial process developed in Israel, which
takes just hours.

It is understood 50 heroin addicts would undergo detoxification under
anaesthetic using naltrexone. They would also use the drug in tablet form
for maintenance for months afterwards.

Known as the "eight-hour heroin cure", Australians have already claimed
success in beating addiction using the technique in an Israeli clinic.

It is believed similar trials will be started in Queensland and New South
Wales this year.

The SA trial will involve the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the University of
SA. It would have to be approved first by an ethics committee.

Wattle Park resident Lili Baker, whose daughter Lia underwent the treatment
successfully in Israel last year, praised the Government for pushing on
with "fantastic" plans for a trial.

"Naltrexone seems to be the only answer for drug-dependent people because
it does offer a cure, whereas methadone doesn't," Mrs Baker said.

The rapid detoxification meant less distress to patients than days of "cold
turkey", she said.

Ann Bressington, co-ordinator of Drug Aid, warned that naltrexone trials
had been promised before but if this program went ahead it would be
"wonderful".

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Lea Stevens, said she would support such
a trial.

In October last year, a spokesman for the former health minister, Dr
Armitage, said the Government did not support the rapid naltrexone
treatment.

At the same time, the Drug and Alcohol Services Council expressed concern
about its effects on the health of the patient and said there was no
literature available on its safety.

The Federal Government has maintained its opposition to heroin substitutes.

The Human Services Minister, Mr Brown, was unavailable for comment last night.