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Heroin addicts need more access and better treatment: report

A newly released report says treatment for addiction to heroin and other opioid is severely limited in both Canada and the United States, despite the fact overdoses from such substances represent a leading cause of accidental deaths.

An opinion piece authored by researchers from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS says as many 325,000 Canadians are either heroin addicted or dependent on prescription opioids such as oxycodone.

In the United States, there are about 2.3 million dependent on the drug and it’s the second leading cause of accidental death in America, yet the researchers say fewer than 10 per cent of those addicted receive maintenance treatment, such as methadone.

The report for expanded access to methadone and other similar treatment, allowing patients to take their treatment in doctors’ offices rather than community clinics, mandating addiction education in medical schools, and cutting financial barriers to treatment.

The report’s lead author, Dr. Bohdan Nosyk, says access to proven treatment has been severely limited in both Canada and the United States, and governments should be looking for ways to expand addiction help.

The report says expanding substitution therapy a cost-effective way to help addicts, while reducing costs to the health-care and criminal justice systems.