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Heroin, Crack Treatment Often Successful in Short Term

Pharmacological, psychosocial treatment results in reduced use for first six months

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Heroin and crack cocaine addiction can be successfully treated in the short term with either pharmacological or psychosocial methods, but treatments are less successful in those with addictions to both drugs, according to a study published online Oct. 2 in The Lancet.

John Marsden, Ph.D., of King's College London, and colleagues conducted a study of 21,075 adults with heroin and/or crack cocaine addiction, of whom 18,428 underwent pharmacological treatment and 2,647 had psychosocial treatment. The researchers assessed data on 14,656 (74 percent of the cohort) to compare their drug use in the 28 days before treatment and the 28 days leading up to the six-month mark of treatment.

The researchers found that, in the 28-day period before the treatments were reviewed, abstinence was observed in 37 percent of heroin users and 52 percent of crack cocaine users. A higher proportion of users of heroin only abstained from heroin than did users of both drugs (42 versus 33 percent), and a higher proportion of users of crack cocaine only abstained from crack cocaine than did users of both (57 versus 51 percent). Treatment resulted in an overall reduction in heroin use of 14.5 days and a 7.7 day reduction in crack cocaine use, the investigators discovered.

"The first six months of pharmacological or psychosocial treatment is associated with reduced heroin and crack cocaine use, but the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment is less pronounced for users of both drugs," the authors write. "New strategies are needed to treat individuals with combined heroin and crack cocaine addiction."

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