Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New weapon in battle to beat heroin

Evening Times Online

A new heroin substitute is to be prescribed in Glasgow.

Health chiefs have approved buprenorphine as an alternative to methadone.

And the drug could become a major weapon in the battle against heroin dependence.

Buprenorphine - used in England, France and Australia - will be prescribed for detox and short-term withdrawal.

It will be aimed at individuals in the early stages of addiction - people who may smoke heroin but are not yet injecting.

Addicts who have stabilised and have strong family support will also be considered.

Although it may only be prescribed to a fraction of Glasgow's 13,500 problem addicts it's viewed as a major step forward.

Neil Hunter, general manager of Glasgow Addiction Services, said: "We see it as a useful addition to our toolbox."

Buprenorphine - also known as Subutex - is taken in pill form and will only be prescribed by specialists under supervision in pharmacies.

The drug was given the go-ahead by the NHS Management Committee.

The tendency to rely on methadone in Glasgow - 6500 heroin addicts in the city are on it - has provoked criticism.

But Mr Hunter said: "Glasgow has a large methadone programme and for the majority of people it's effective and safe.

"However, there are individuals who may be intolerant to methadone or have other reasons why it's not suitable for them to take it."

The number of Glasgow drug deaths - mostly from heroin - fell from 108 in 2004 to 78 during 2005.


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