London, Jan 11: Heroin assisted treatment can be feasible and effective for addicts, say experts.
Various experts have been extensively debating whether heroin should be prescribed to addicts who are difficult to treat.
Jurgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and Benedikt Fischer from the University of Victoria, British Columbia agreed with the fact that maintenance treatment with heroin was pertinent to the heroin misusers under several circumstances.
They said various trials in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany, have shown that the treatment was feasible and helpful for those resistant to treatment and is even cost effective.
Swiss studies have shown that mortality among patients in heroin assisted maintenance programmes is low, and lower than for patients in other maintenance programmes, reports British Medical Journal.
Heroin has always been an alternative treatment for heroin misusers for several decades but still remains controversial practice in UK.
A Scottish study showed that 29.4 pct of addicts who received residential rehabilitation were abstinent for at least 90 days compared with only 3.4pct receiving methadone maintenance.
"We see no convincing reason why heroin assisted maintenance treatment should not be part of a comprehensive treatment system for opioid dependence," wrote the authors.
However, Neil McKeganey, Professor of Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow disagreed and stated that prescribing heroin to heroin addicts will be treating the effects of misuse and not the addiction.
He said that while the cost of treating an addict with heroin is estimated to be three to four times that of treating an addict with methadone.
This would also lead to massive pressure on doctors to prescribe increasing amounts of the drug to the addicts.
"Research has shown that with the right services in place it is possible to do more than simply stabilise addicts' continued drug use through the prescribing route," wrote McKeganey.