Toronto Study Gives Free Heroin to Addicts

A controversial study set to begin next year in Canada would involve giving individuals addicted to heroin a free supply of the drug for one year, the Toronto Star reported Oct. 22.

The purpose of the study is to determine whether providing addicted individuals with the drug improves their health and reduces crime.

"It's a very, very complex endeavor," said Dr. Martin Schechter of the University of British Columbia, the study's principal investigator. "There were a number of approvals we had to obtain and are still in the process of obtaining. But it's important to realize the drug is going only to people already addicted to heroin."

He added, "These are people buying the drug on the black market, sharing dirty needles, and spending most of their time in criminal activity like robbery and prostitution in order to pay for their habit. If we can break this cycle of criminal activity, hopefully we can stabilize their lives and get them the counseling they desperately need."

Under the study, 210 individuals addicted to heroin would receive injections of the drug three times a day at an office of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. In addition, they will receive counseling from doctors, nurses, and social workers.

After the first year, participants would be weaned off the drug and offered the choice of methadone or withdrawal counseling for another year.

The $8-million study, which will take place in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, is being funded by the Canadian government.


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