Category Archives: Medical Procedures

Feed a cold, starve a fever and use heroin to treat drug addicts

Question:  What is the most efficient means of treating a patient suffering from an addiction to heroin?

Answer:  Medical professionals should administer regular doses of heroin to the patient.

Wait.  What?

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal compared the costs and effectiveness of treatments using methadone, a synthetic opioid often used in treating addicts, with treatments involving diacetylmorphine, more commonly referred to as heroin.  The results demonstrate that long-time heroin addicts were more likely to remain in treatment when administered medically-supervised doses of heroin.  The authors also determined that the prescription of heroin instead of methadone resulted in a significant reduction of societal costs, such as those associated with the criminal justice system.

The study was based upon research conducted through the University of British Colombia, the University of Montreal and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.  The results were released on March 12, 2012.

The study primarily involved a mathematical analysis of data accumulated in NAOMI, an acronym for the North American Opiate Medication Initiative.  NAOMI is a three-year trial of the effectiveness of medically prescribed heron that was funded and approved by two government agencies, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Health Canada.

An earlier study based upon data accumulated by NAOMI was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009.  At the time, the authors concluded that “diacetylmorphine (heroin) appears to be a safe and effective adjunctive treatment.” The most recent study draws upon this conclusion in determining that the use of diacetylmorphine is not only safe and effective, by may be the best treatment for a person addicted to heroin.  Dr. Aslam Anis, a professor at the University of British Columbia and lead researcher, explains that the use of heroin

would decrease societal costs, largely by reducing costs associated with crime, and would increase both the duration and quality of life of treatment recipients… Because opioid users commit less crime and have lower rates of health care use and death while in treatment, the benefits in cost and health utility attributable to diacetylmorphine (heroin) stemmed chiefly from its capacity to retain patients in treatment for longer periods than with methadone maintenance treatment.

The numbers seem to support the claim.  For example:

  • Nearly 90 percent of patients receiving heroin remained in treatment one year after the beginning of the study.  In comparison, slightly more than 50 percent of patients receiving methadone remained in treatment after the same period.
  • The rate of illegal activity perpetrated by addicts receiving heroin-based treatment decreased by a full 67 percent.  The rate of recidivism was under 50 percent for addicts receiving methadone-based treatment.
  • The researchers estimated that the average lifetime cost of treating an addict using methadone was $1.14 million, based on treatment expenditures, the costs of drug therapy and societal costs derived from criminal acts and law enforcement.  The estimated costs decreases to $1.09 million through the use of heroin.

In other news, scientists have determined that the most effective means of treating obesity is to promote the consumption of hamburgers and cupcakes.


SPINE-TINGLING THEFT: doctor, please step away from the corpse and drop grandpa’s innards!

Great.  Another medical professional is being accused of creepy, freakish and illegal conduct.

The Sheriff’s Department in Oneida County, Wisconsin, has accused the county’s chief medical examiner of stealing the spine of a dead person.

Traci England has served as Oneida County Medical Examiner since September 2008.  The 44-year-old recently became the subject of an investigation by the Forest and Oneida County Sheriff’s Offices that revealed that she may have illegally confiscated part of a corpse after performing an autopsy.  These offices now claim she engaged in theft and misconduct by a public official.

Ms. England has since been arrested and appeared in court at a preliminary hearing.  Reserve Judge Conrad Richards found probable cause to believe that she had committed the crimes and released her from county jail on a $5000 signature bond.  She is scheduled to be formally charged by or before January 30, 2012.

Ms. England reportedly attempted to explain her conduct to law enforcement officials.  Oneida County District Attorney Mike Bloom has described her rationale as follows:

The allegation is that Ms. England, while acting as Oneida County Medical Examiner, following an autopsy [conducted earlier this week] retained possession of a body part for purposes of training a dog that she owns…

Hold on.  She allegedly stole the spine of a dead person so that she could use it to train her dog?

Look, I’m sure that many of the folks reading this entry have welcomed dogs into their families.  I’ve done the same, and my dogs are spoiled rotten.  They’re lazy, though – they don’t have jobs, they don’t clean the house while I’m at work and I can’t seem to teach them how to cook dinner.  Heck, I’m not even sure that they realize that they’re dogs – I’d bet a wooden nickel that they think that they’re really little people who have found a way to domesticate and train a two-legged servant.

I can’t imagine that my little critters could ever develop a taste for human remains.  Instead, they’d probably be shocked and insulted if I tried to feed them part of a corpse.  I’m guessing that they’d also leave a little present in some remote corner of my house, too, just to emphasize the inappropriateness of my conduct.

Anyway, I guess Ms. England offered at least had some sort of explanation for her alleged conduct.  She wasn’t attempting to potty train her pup, or somehow teach it to retrieve a cold bottle of beer from the refrigerator.  Instead, she allegedly stole the spine to help train her dog to be a cadaver dog that could be used by law enforcement to locate human remains.

In other words, she may have engaged in criminal activity to help law enforcement officials investigate potential criminal acts.  On, the irony…

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