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Prescription drugs for street addicts?

April 2, 2009

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Could the increasing misuse of prescription opioids among street-drug users actually benefit public health?

That’s the provocative question criminologist Benedikt Fischer, an addiction researcher with Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), posed in a recent essay in the journal Public Health, co-authored with B.C.’s provincial health officer Perry Kendall and others.

The authors note that when addicts of injected street drugs such as heroin forge prescriptions or engage in "double doctoring" to get legal opioids such as dilaudid and oxycontin they are significantly less likely to inject the drugs. And that reduces the risk of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV.

And while crushing and injecting prescription opioids still poses a health risk, there’s still less danger of overdosing because the potency of prescription drugs is consistent and known, unlike illicit drugs.

What’s more, the misuse of prescription drugs also reduces crime because addicts aren’t robbing people for funds to buy heroin.

The authors see such behaviour as filling an unmet need because methadone and other heroin-substitution treatments are limited in Canada and the U.S. In B.C., which has one of the higher per-capita methadone treatment rates, there’s only enough methadone for 50 per cent of the people who are regularly injecting opioids.

Fischer, who joined FHS’s Centre for Applied Research in Addictions and Mental Health (CARMHA) in September 2008, says the paper’s purpose was to open up debate. "There’s a shift away from heroin and increasing use of prescription opioids and everyone seems to be panicking about it," he says. "We’re just trying to do a bit of constructive thought-provoking in the interests of public health.

"We don’t want anyone to be using drugs illicitly. It’s not good for public health. We’re just saying, relative to the previous predominant reality, (pharmaceutical substances) may not be all bad."

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John

Your kidding, right???

Camille

There has been so much proven research in this field to show pharma is not the answer, I cannot even believe this was posted. It has been PROVEN that addicts provided a CLEAN heroin source and a place to inject can and have productive, integrated lives. Your kind of thinking scares me.

hoddy

your thinking is brilliant. I know for a fact that the percription drugs not only would clean the streets up and stop a little crime but it will also help find the addicts from the people who actually need it . i read plenty of blogs, messages and comments from doctors ignoring basic facts that these people were suffering, its only after a year or two battle and thousands of dollars spent on the street that they were able to get it. That is sad because i would say for every one i read in which help was provided im sure there was 3-4 in his/hers place still on the streets so i say its time to do something and in the end if it dosent work you stop. Its a better theory in my head then the one that is actually going down RIGHT NOW wouldnt you agree...

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