Controlled trial of prescribed heroin in the treatment of opioid addiction.J Subst Abuse Treat. 2006 Sep; 31(2):203-11.JS
This study aimed to assess the efficacy of the prescription of intravenous diacetylmorphine (DAM) versus oral methadone with medical and psychosocial support, with a view of improving physical and mental health as well as social integration among socially excluded, opioid-dependent individuals for whom standard treatments have failed.
This study used an open, randomized controlled trial.
This study took place in Granada, Spain.
Sixty-two opioid-dependent participants were randomized, 31 in each treatment group, and 50 of them were analyzed. The participants were recruited directly from the streets, through peer outreach, in well-known meeting places for drug-addicted individuals.
Participants in the experimental group received injected DAM, twice a day, plus oral methadone, once a day, for 9 months. The control group received only oral methadone, once a day. The two groups received an equivalent opioid dosage. The average DAM dosage was 274.5 mg/day (range: 15-600 mg), and an average methadone dosage was 42.6 mg/day (range: 18-124 mg). The daily methadone dosage in the control group was 105 mg/day (range: 40-180 mg). Comprehensive clinical, psychological, social, and legal support was given to both groups.
The following were measured in this study: general health, quality of life, drug-addiction-related problems, nonmedical use of heroin, risk behavior for HIV and HCV, and psychological, family, and social status.
Both groups improved with respect to the total domain assessed. Those in the experimental group showed greater improvement in terms of physical health (the improvement was 2.5 times higher; p = .034) and risk behavior for HIV infection (the improvement was 1.6 times higher; p = .012). In addition, this group decreased its street heroin use from 25 days/month to 8 days/month as seen on the Addiction Severity Index (p = .020), as well as the number of days free from drug-related problems (the improvement was 2.1 times higher; p = .004) or involvement in crime (from 11 days/month to <1 day/month; p = .096 between groups).
These findings support the hypothesis that, under the same conditions, DAM could be safely delivered, in our context. Also, in physical health, HIV risk behavior, street heroin use, and days involved in crime, DAM plus methadone was more efficacious than methadone alone. This implies that this treatment could provide an effective alternative for the treatment of socially excluded, opioid-dependent patients with severe physical and mental health problems because of drug addiction, when all available previous treatments have failed.