Drug War Facts

Heroin Assisted Treatment/Heroin Maintenance

  1. A study of the Swiss heroin prescription program found: "With respect to the group of those treated uninterruptedly during four years, a strong decrease in the incidence and prevalence rates of overall criminal implication for both intense and moderate offenders was found. As to the type of offense, similar diminutions were observed for all types of offenses related to the use or acquisition of drugs. Not surprisingly, the most pronounced drop was found for use/possession of heroin. In accordance with self-reported and clinical data (Blaettler, Dobler-Mikola, Steffen, & Uchtenhagen, 2002; Uchtenhagen et al., 1999), the analysis of police records suggests that program participants also tend strongly to reduce cocaine and cannabis use probably because program participants dramatically reduced their contacts with the drug scene when entering the program (Uchtenhagen et al., 1999) and were thus less exposed to opportunities to buy drugs. Consequently, their need for money is not only reduced with regard to heroin but also to other substances. Accordingly, the drop in acquisitive crime, such as drug selling or property crime, is also remarkable and related to all kinds of thefts like shoplifting, vehicle theft, burglary, etc. Detailed analyses indicated that the drop found is related to a true diminution in criminal activity rather than a more lenient recording practice of police officers towards program participants. "On average, males had higher overall rates than females in the pretreatment period. However, no marked gender differences were found with regard to intreatment rates. Taken as a whole, this suggests that the treatment had a somewhat more beneficial effect on men than women. This result is corroborated by selfreport data (Killias et al., 2002). With respect to age and cocaine use, no relevant in-treatment differences were observed. As to program dropout, after one year, about a quarter of the patients had left the program, and after four years, about 50% had left. Considering the high-risk profile of the treated addicts, this retention rate is, at least, promising."

    Source: Ribeaud, Denis, "Long-term Impacts of the Swiss Heroin Prescription Trials on Crime of Treated Heroin Users," Journal of Drug Issues (Talahassee, FL: University of Florida, Winter 2004), p. 187.

  2. A study of the Swiss heroin prescription program found: "Finally, the analysis of the reasons for interrupting treatment revealed that, even in the group of those treated for less than one year, the majority did not actually drop out of the program but rather changed the type of treatment, mostly either methadone maintenance or abstinence treatment. Knowing that methadone maintenance treatment – and a fortiori abstinence treatment – is able to substantially reduce acquisitive crime, the redirection of heroin maintenance patients toward alternative treatments is probably the main cause for the ongoing reduction or at least stabilization of criminal involvement of most patients after treatment interruption. Thus the principal post-treatment benefit of heroin maintenance seems to be its ability to redirect even briefly treated high-risk patients towards alternative treatments rather than back 'on the street'."

    Source: Ribeaud, Denis, "Long-term Impacts of the Swiss Heroin Prescription Trials on Crime of Treated Heroin Users," Journal of Drug Issues (Talahassee, FL: University of Florida, Winter 2004), p. 188.

  3. "Overall, results indicate that heroin prescription is a very promising approach in reducing any type of drug related crime across all relevant groups analyzed. It affects property crime as well as drug dealing and even use/possession of drugs other than heroin. These results suggest that heroin maintenance does not only have an impact by reducing the acquisitive pressure of treated patients, but also seems to have a broader effect on their entire life-style by stabilizing their daily routine through the commitment to attend the prescription center twice or three times a day, by giving them the opportunity for psychosocial support, and by keeping them away from open drug scenes."

    Source: Ribeaud, Denis, "Long-term Impacts of the Swiss Heroin Prescription Trials on Crime of Treated Heroin Users," Journal of Drug Issues (Talahassee, FL: University of Florida, Winter 2004), p. 188.

  4. "The harm reduction policy of Switzerland and its emphasis on the medicalisation of the heroin problem seems to have contributed to the image of heroin as unattractive for young people."

    Source: Nordt, Carlos, and Rudolf Stohler, "Incidence of Heroin Use in Zurich, Switzerland: A Treatment Case Register Analysis," The Lancet, Vol. 367, June 3, 2006, p. 1830.

  5. "Heroin misuse in Switzerland was characterised by a substantial decline in heroin incidence and by heroin users entering substitution treatment after a short time, but with a low cessation rate. There are diff erent explanations for the sharp decline in incidence of problematic heroin use. According to Ditton and Frischer, such a steep decline in incidence of heroin use is caused by the quick slow down of the number of non-using friends who are prepared to become users in friendship chains. Musto’s generational theory regards the decline in incidence more as a social learning effect whereby the next generation will not use heroin because they have seen the former generation go from pleasant early experiences to devastating circumstances for addicts, families, and communities later on."

    Source: Nordt, Carlos, and Rudolf Stohler, "Incidence of Heroin Use in Zurich, Switzerland: A Treatment Case Register Analysis," The Lancet, Vol. 367, June 3, 2006, p. 1833.

  6. "The incidence of regular heroin use in the canton of Zurich started with about 80 new users in 1975, increased to 850 in 1990, and declined to 150 in 2002, and was thus reduced by 82%. Incidence peaked in 1990 at a similar high level to that ever reported in New South Wales, Australia, or in Italy. But only in Zurich has a decline by a factor of four in the number of new users of heroin been observed within a decade. This decline in incidence probably pertains to the whole of Switzerland because the number of patients in substitution treatment is stable, the age of the substituted population is rising, the mortality caused by drugs is declining, and confiscation of heroin is falling. Furthermore, incidence trends did not differ between urban and rural regions of Zurich. This finding is suggestive of a more similar spatial dynamic of heroin use for Switzerland than for other countries."

    Source: Nordt, Carlos, and Rudolf Stohler, "Incidence of Heroin Use in Zurich, Switzerland: A Treatment Case Register Analysis," The Lancet, Vol. 367, June 3, 2006, p. 1833.

  7. "The central result of the German model project shows a significant superiority of heroin over methadone treatment for both primary outcome measures. Heroin treatment has significantly higher response rates both in the field of health and the reduction of illicit drug use. According to the study protocol, evidence of the greater efficacy of heroin treatment compared to methadone maintenance treatment has thus been produced. Heroin treatment is also clearly superior to methadone treatment when focusing on patients, who fulfill the two primary outcome measures."

    Source: Naber, Dieter, and Haasen, Christian, Centre for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research of Hamburg University, "The German Model Project for Heroin Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependent Patients -- A Multi-Centre, Randomised, Controlled Treatment Study: Clinical Study Report of the First Study Phase," January 2006, p. 117.

  8. "The German model project for heroin-assisted treatment of opioid dependent patients is so far the largest randomised control group study that investigated the effects of heroin treatment. This fact alone lends particular importance to the results in the (meanwhile worldwide) discussion of effects and benefits of heroin treatment. For the group of so-called most severely dependent patients, heroin treatment proves to be superior to the goals of methadone maintenance based on pharmacological maintenance treatment. This result should not be left without consequences. In accordance with the research results from other countries, it has to be investigated to what extent heroin-assisted treatment can be integrated into the regular treatment offers for severely ill i.v. opioid addicts."

    Source: Naber, Dieter, and Haasen, Christian, Centre for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research of Hamburg University, "The German Model Project for Heroin Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependent Patients -- A Multi-Centre, Randomised, Controlled Treatment Study: Clinical Study Report of the First Study Phase," January 2006, p. 122.

  9. "To conclude, it must be stated that heroin treatment involves a somewhat higher safety risk than methadone treatment. This is mainly due to the intravenous form of application. The rather frequently occurring respiratory depressions and cerebral convulsions are not unexpected and can easily be clinically controlled. Overall, the mortality rate was low during the first study phase, and no death occurred with a causal relationship with the study medication. Compared to much higher health risks related to the i.v. application of street heroin, the safety risk of medically controlled heroin prescription has to be considered as low."

    Source: Naber, Dieter, and Haasen, Christian, Centre for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research of Hamburg University, "The German Model Project for Heroin Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependent Patients -- A Multi-Centre, Randomised, Controlled Treatment Study: Clinical Study Report of the First Study Phase," January 2006, p. 150.

  10. "The UK is exceptional internationally because heroin is included in the range of legally sanctioned treatments for opiate dependence. In practice, this treatment option is rarely utilised: only about 448 heroin users receive heroin on prescription."

    Source: Stimson, Gerry V., and Nicky Metrebian, Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behavior, "Prescribing Heroin: What is the Evidence?" (London, England: Rowntree Foundation, 2003), p. 1.

  11. "Many countries believe (erroneously) that the international drug conventions prohibit the use of heroin in medical treatment. Furthermore, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has exerted great pressure on countries to cease prescribing heroin for any medical purpose. Nevertheless, a few countries, including the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Malta, Canada and Switzerland, continue to use heroin (diamorphine) for general medical purposes, mostly in hospital settings (usually for severe pain relief). Until recently, however, Britain was the only country that allowed doctors to prescribe heroin for the treatment of drug dependence."

    Source: Stimson, Gerry V., and Nicky Metrebian, Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behavior, "Prescribing Heroin: What is the Evidence?" (London, England: Rowntree Foundation, 2003), p. 4.

 

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