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Prescription Heroin Maintenance Reduces Crime, Improves Health, Says New Study from England


July-August 1998

Supplying heroin to addicts reduces the amount of crime they commit and improves their health, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (Nicky Metribian, et al., "The feasibility of prescribing injectable heroin and methadone to opiate-dependent drug users: associated health gains and harm reductions," Medical Journal of Australia, June 15, 1998, Vol. 168, pp. 596-600; Marion Downey, "Addicts' Crime Rate Falls in UK Heroin Trial," Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), June 15, 1998).

The researchers, who work for the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour in London, England, administered heroin, diamorphine, or methadone to 58 longtime drug users. Those who were not given heroin had indicated a preference for one of the other two drugs. Eighty-six percent of the patients remained in the study after three months, and researchers found that between the third and sixth month, the addicts were committing fewer crimes, participating in fewer high-risk behaviors for contracting HIV, and using drugs less often than at the study's inception.

Dr. Alex Wodak, the director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, wrote an editorial which accompanied the study. He lauded its results, saying that it is important to try "a range of effective treatments" for addiction. He supported the concept of heroin prescriptions as a much-needed alternative to the limited treatments currently offered. "The rationale for evaluation of medical prescription of heroin is based mainly on the need for dramatically improved treatment outcomes," said Wodak (Alex Wodak, "Prescribing heroin: nothing to fear but fear itself?" Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 168, June 15, 1998, p. 590).

Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behavior - 200 Seagrave Rd., London SW61RQ, ENGLAND, Tel: (011) (44) (181) 846-6565, Fax: (011) (44) (181) 846-6555, E-mail: <>.

Dr. Alex Wodak, Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, Australia - Tel: (011) (61) (29) 361-2632, Fax: (011) (61) (29) 361-2498.