Monday, 19 May 2008

The Start of Prescription Heroin in Australia?

This week, Senator Lyn Allison put forward a motion for a trial of prescription heroin to the Australian senate. Although only a motion, it is hopefully the start of a heroin trial that Australia desperately needs. 
The last time a heroin trial was proposed, 10 years ago, it was supported by The Libs, The ALP, The Democrats, The Greens, most states, the AFP and most health organisations but was vetoed by John Howard. The Australian Heroin Diaries is extremely critical of hysterical conservative journalists, the influence of the religious right and US interference that added to John Howard’s personal views and halted the last attempt to trial prescription heroin. Hopefully the new government will live up to their claims that future policies will be ‘evidence based’ and give it’s support.
Date 15 May, 2008
The Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Allison), pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 70—That the Senate—
  (a)  notes that:
    (i)  the Danish Parliament approved in February 2008 a pilot medical scheme to prescribe heroin to 500 of Denmark's most seriously addicted and marginalised citizens,
    (ii)  heroin is to be prescribed in combination with methadone with the aim of rehabilitation and to reduce the criminal activity of addicts,
    (iii)  prescription heroin for treatment of severe cases of addiction exists as a therapeutic option in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Netherlands and is being established in Germany, and
    (iv)  trials of prescribing heroin for the treatment of opiate dependency in Spain and Canada also show favourable results; and
  (b)  encourages the Government to closely monitor this and other pilot programs and to consider conducting a similar project in Australia.
Question put and negatived. All Australian Greens senators, by leave, recorded their votes for the ayes.
Thanks to DFA Watch for the tipoff.
DFA Watch go into more detail of a heroin trial proposed by Senator Lyn Allison: What Allison can see that Roxon can't...
Below is an interesting article describing the success of the Swiss prescription heroin program. If you have any doubts, read on.
Swiss Harm Reduction Policy for Heroin Results in Less Problematic Heroin Use
Swiss researchers involved in 15 years of harm reduction approaches to heroin use have managed to reduce heroin use four-fold, according to results published in the British medical journal the Lancet last week. The Swiss approach includes safe injection sites, needle exchange programs, methadone or buprenorphine maintenance programs, and heroin maintenance programs.
Critics of this pragmatic approach had warned it would attract new drug users and keep current addicts strung out longer. But in their study of more than 9,000 heroin users who underwent treatment -- including opiate maintenance -- between 1991 and 2005, Stohler and his colleague, Dr. Carlos Nordt, found that the incidence of "problematic" heroin users was declining at a rate of 4% a year.
"As a result (of heroin-assisted treatments), people can lead normal lives, go to work, not obsess about buying the drug, when they know they can relieve their craving legally," study coauthor Dr. Rudolf Stohler of the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich told Reuters Health.
The researchers found that half of Swiss heroin users enter an opiate maintenance treatment program within two years. They calculate that the incidence of regular heroin use has declined by 82% since 1990, when more than 800 people sought treatment. That figure was down to 150 last year.
"Heroin can be prescribed to people who have failed two former therapies," Dr. Stohler told Reuters Health. The practice is to give addicts one gram a day.
And the Swiss may have succeeded in making heroin boring, the researchers suggested. "As the Swiss population supported this drug policy, this medicalization of opiate dependence changed the image of heroin use as a rebellious act to an illness that needs therapy," Drs. Nordt and Stohler wrote. "Finally," they add, "heroin seems to have become a 'loser drug,' with its attractiveness fading for young people."


zoot said...

Jeez, I hope so. But I fear it will be over Miranda Devine's dead body.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Zoot.
If we follow Miranda's strategy, there will be more dead bodies than there is now.

Terry McKinney. Vancouver BC said...

As an addict in Vancouver for 38 years I was certain I would have no problem attending the program. It seems they only took Downtown addicts which gave them a very limited demographic and my calls went from wait to forget it. You could contact the NAOMI people if you want info but you'll be searching through an unpublished project.

I hope you discuss parameters as most trials make getting off of heroin a prerequisite, which kills the project as you may well imagine. Harm reduction and working and happy clients should be the goal.

Don't let them set you up to fail.

Anonymous said...

What about making part of that heroin test a second sectioned-off trial for opiate users with chronic or accute pain issues...? At the moment we're a very marginalised group who's wellbeing is always being comprimised for some damned fool's slow-release opiate agenda or some other fool's insistence on treating opiate pain-relief &\or addiction with a combination of Bupe plus anti-psychotic chemicals as they try to trick you into thinking you're not in pain... The moment it gets down to deceiving a patient it shows where insanity really is...