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Half of Heroin and Crack Addicts Quit Using after 6 Months in England Treatment Programs

A new study found that it take six months for about half of heroin and crack cocaine addicts in England treatment centers to quit. Researchers noted that ongoing treatment is usually required to avoid relapse.

The Associated Press reports that Dr. Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that these results should promt the U.S. to re-evaluate addiction treatment programs and take into consideration England’s treatment models.

Researchers examined more than 14,600 individuals who were addicted to heroin, crack cocaine, or both. Heroin addicts were given methadone for at least six months, and some patients received counseling. Cocaine addicts only received therapy because there is currently no substitute drug treatment for cocaine.

They found that after six months, 42 percent of heroin addicts said they stopped using the drug, and 57 percent of crack users said they had stopped. About half of people who were addicted to both drugs said they quit or significantly cut down.

Although the results seem promising, addicts are encouraged to continue treatment after the initial six months, as relapse is a common occurrence for those who don’t receive aftercare.

Dr. McLellan said that treating addiction is like treating someone with high blood pressure or diabetes—you wouldn’t stop giving care to someone with either of these conditions after only six months. Everyone with a disorder needs continued care. While there is no cure for addiction, it can be managed.

Because many addiction treatment programs in the US treat patients for 30 to 90 days, Britain’s approach might be more effective in that treatment lasts for at least 6 months. Dr. McLellan said that lengthening treatment would lower the medical and social costs of drug addiction.

Posted on October 17th, 2009

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