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British needle exchanges which piloted distribution of foil packs for smoking heroin found they were widely used and may have increased attendance and reduced the number of injections, lending weight to calls to legalise such provision.
This wide-ranging review uniquely draws together findings from authoritative reviews of rigorous research conducted for the Cochrane collaboration and later studies concerned with the pharmacological and psychosocial treatment of dependence on opiate-type drugs like heroin, concluding that retention is the common key to success.
Among the messages of this simulation model for the UK and other countries is the resilience of hepatitis C in the face of considerable investment in methadone and needle exchange services, that these have nevertheless helped and need to be maintained and if possible expanded, but also that further measures are required to substantially curtail the virus.
Until June 2008 Victoria in Canada had a comprehensive extended hours needle exchange at a fixed site in the city. Neighbourhood pressure led to closure, creating a natural experiment in the withdrawal of services. The result seemed to be more sharing of injecting equipment entailing a greater risk of infection.
STUDY 2012 HTM file
Estimating the cost-effectiveness of needle-syringe programs in Australia
Latest mathematical model from Australia probably broadly applicable also to the UK suggests that needle and syringe programmes have cost-effectively saved/improved lives, and in the long run save the health service money due to averted HIV and hepatitis C infections. But in both countries adequately curbing hepatitis C requires much more.
Together studies recently conducted across the UK suggest that consistent participation in methadone maintenance treatment plus adequate access to fresh injecting equipment has prevented many hepatitis C infections, supporting calls for needle exchange to be expanded and methadone treatment sustained.
REVIEW 2011 HTM file
Substitution treatment of injecting opioid users for prevention of HIV infection
Updated review conducted for the respected Cochrane collaboration finds that methadone maintenance and allied treatments for opioid dependence consistently and significantly reduce the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses and curb the spread of HIV.
STUDY 2010 HTM file
Favorable mortality profile of naltrexone implants for opiate addiction
Few treatments for opiate addiction arouse as much controversy as naltrexone implants. Inserted under the skin, these block the effects of heroin for up to several months - for some, a magic bullet, for others, an unsafe and ethically dubious experiment. More evidence from Australia that the overdose death risk is less than with oral forms of the drug.
In the first randomised trial, implants which block opiate-type drugs for months helped heroin addicts in Norway avoid relapse after detoxification. If these or allied products gain a UK licence, they could help pave the way to abstinence for the minority of suitable addicts.
REVIEW 2011 HTM file
Heroin maintenance for chronic heroin-dependent individuals
Update of the first authoritative review to combine results from all trials to date of long-term heroin prescribing for the management of heroin addiction finds important advantages for seemingly intractable patients previously failed by methadone, including reduced illegal drug use.
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