Half of addicts quit after 6 months of treatment

Oct 01, 2009 By MARIA CHENG , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- About half of heroin and crack cocaine addicts in England's treatment programs quit the drugs after six months, a new study says.

Experts warned, however, that the danger of relapse means permanently kicking the habit probably requires ongoing care. A senior U.S. White House official said the results validated England's approach to treating drug addicts and called for similar efforts to evaluate American programs.

British researchers monitored more than 14,600 patients across England addicted to either heroin, crack cocaine, or both. Heroin addicts were treated with oral methadone for at least six months between January and November 2008. Some patients also received counseling.

Since there is no recommended substitute drug treatment for crack, cocaine addicts only received the psychological therapy. The researchers did not compare the treated addicts to addicts who tried to quit on their own.

After six months, 42 percent of heroin users reported they had stopped injecting the drug. Among crack users, 57 percent said they had stopped. About half of the people addicted to both drugs said they had either quit or cut down.

The study was paid for by Britain's National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. On average, it costs the government up to >5,000 ($7,991) per person per year to provide .

Experts said the results were encouraging, but drug addicts would likely need more than six months of care. "It is quite possible that many of those with a positive outcome experienced relapse," said Jeffrey Parsons, an addiction specialist at Hunter College in New York who was not linked to the research.

Dr. Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, said treating heroin and crack cocaine addicts was similar to managing patients with diabetes or high blood pressure. Just as diabetes patients wouldn't only be treated for six months before being released without medication, McLellan said drug addicts needed continuing care.

"Addiction is best thought of as a chronic condition," McLellan said. "There is no cure, but we can manage it."

McLellan said Britain's approach was an advance over similar programs in the U.S., where substance abuse treatments mostly focus on an acute period.

He said ongoing treatment would ultimately lower the medical and social costs of drug addiction, including crime and lost productivity. "The cost savings will be astronomical," he said.

On the Net: http://www.lancet.com

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Oxygen diminishes the heart's ability to regenerate, researchers discover

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Addiction treatment gets tested

Mar 18, 2007

Heroin addicts in Scotland are undergoing a treatment involving low-level electrical impulses to determine if NeuroElectric Therapy actually works.

Cocaine cravings are studied

Jun 15, 2006

U.S. scientists say they have found the brain chemistry that underlies "cue-induced" craving in cocaine addicts.

Recommended for you

Team reprograms blood cells into blood stem cells in mice

3 hours ago

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have reprogrammed mature blood cells from mice into blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), using a cocktail of eight genetic switches called transcription factors. The reprogrammed ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

visual
not rated yet Oct 02, 2009
No, not just half, they all quit.
Half quit the drug, and half quit the program ;)
Sauvignon
not rated yet Oct 02, 2009
57% of crack addicts said they had stopped taking the drug, and the researchers BELIEVED them? Only in England! ROTFLMAO!!!

More news stories

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Team reprograms blood cells into blood stem cells in mice

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have reprogrammed mature blood cells from mice into blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), using a cocktail of eight genetic switches called transcription factors. The reprogrammed ...

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...