Harm Reduction Australia and the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation have led a call by more than 40 prominent Australian experts for the urgent introduction of heroin assisted treatment in Australia for severely dependent heroin users after all other treatment options haven’t worked.
Heroin assisted treatment involves supervising prescribed pharmaceutical heroin self-administration with intensive psycho-social help to a minority of people with severe heroin dependence who have not benefitted from multiple other treatments.
Twenty years ago this month, in August 1997, the then Federal Cabinet decided against notifying the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs of an intention to conduct a trial of heroin assisted treatment and a proposed trial had to be abandoned. Since then, far too many lives have been lost, far too many families have been left devastated and far too much harm has befallen our communities.
Trials of supervised heroin assisted treatment in seven countries have found that this form of treatment is more effective than high quality methadone treatment for people with severe heroin dependence who had not benefitted from multiple other treatments. Heroin assisted treatment, and treatment with other injectable opioids, has been demonstrated to improve physical and mental health, reduce the use of street heroin, reduce criminal activity and improve social functioning.
Now, senior clinicians and researchers, major health organisations, peer-based organisations and people with long standing experience and expertise in the fields of law enforcement, drug policy and drug treatment are calling for heroin assisted treatment in Australia.