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Monitored administration of heroin may treat addiction – Canadian research

On June 2, 2009, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that a group of Canadian researchers will be launching a project that will aim towards heroin-maintenance. The trial project will be held in Vancouver and Montreal. This project was inspired by a recent study that showed how letting addicts use heroin under a controlled environment can actually improve health and decrease the number of crime cases. The study will be entitled SALOME or Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness. In it, heroin pills or injectables will be administered to some 200 heroin addicts under controlled surroundings. The study is expected to last for three years.

After getting the go signal from the Conservative government, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have decided to fund the project. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research works under Health Canada, which actually had a heroin maintenance project prior to SALOME. This project was carried out by Insite in Vancouver and provided supervised injections to opiate addicts. Unfortunately, the project was shut down by Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister. SALOME aims to continue what Insite began and even seeks to take the project to the next level—by actually administering heroin to heroin addicts.

The study will be led by Michael Krausz, a researcher from the University of British Columbia. He hopes that the research will shed light on whether the medical prescription and monitored administration can actually be an effective drug abuse treatment. If the trial is proven to be effective, the findings could be valuable to drug rehabilitations all over the world. Rehab centers may carry out programs wherein heroin addicts can receive monitored supplies of heroin to combat their addiction. The study also aims to see if addicts will respond to the substance in pill form. As a point of comparison, another group of heroin addicts will instead be given Dilaudid or opioid hydromorphone. The two studies will be carried out side by side to see which treatment is more effective.

All individuals that will be used in the studies are heroin addicts that have not responded to traditional rehabilitation methods.

SALOME is actually not the first drug-maintenance project of Health Canada. The North American Opiate Medication Initiative is also a project of the said organization.

Even if the study proves to be effective, the researchers can still expect plenty of debate whether the method should be incorporated in current rehabilitation programs.

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