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Should Hydromorphone be Used to Treat Heroin Addiction?

Hydromorphone  to treat heroin addictionHydromorphone, a strong opioid pain medication, could be used as one method of treatment for heroin addiction according to a new study out of Canada. Over 200 heroin addicts from the Vancouver area were involved in the study and these individuals did not respond well to other common treatments including suboxone or methadone. This study was the first ever to look at how effective hydromorphone can be for heroin addiction treatment. Study subjects received either a pharmaceutical-grade prescription heroin product called diacetylmorphine or hydromorphone, and both drugs were delivered via supervised injection in a clinical setting. According to University of British Columbia lead study investigator Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes “Providing injectable opioids in specialized clinics under supervision ensures safety of both the patients and the community, and the provision of comprehensive care.”

During the study on hydromorphine as a possible treatment for heroin addiction over 88,000 injections were given by the medical professionals, and there were just 14 cases of overdose reported and 11 incidents of seizures. No deaths resulted because the medical professionals successfully managed these complications, but the outcome would have been far different if the problems had occurred outside of a medical setting on the street. In a news release from the school Oviedo-Joekes explained “Hydromorphone is a widely available licensed pain medication. Our study shows that hydromorphone is as effective as diacetylmorphine, providing a licensed alternative to treat severe opioid use disorder.” According to Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer Dr. Patricia Daly “Diacetylmorphine isn’t available in many countries. Hydromorphone has a significant advantage as a legal, licensed pain medication. No single treatment is effective for all individuals. Every person with severe opioid use disorder left untreated is at high risk of serious illness and premature death.”

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