Tag Archives: Medicine

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.


Some things never change. Other things change.

Babe Ruth was born on February 6, 1895.  Today is his birthday.

Some things never change.  “The Babe” will always be known as one of the greatest sluggers to ever play professional baseball.  Modern athletes may be getting bigger, faster and stronger, but nobody has truly been able to touch upon Ruth’s legacy.

Some things, however, do change.  Check out this picture, courtesy of Andy Gray at Sport’s Illustrated’s SI Vault.  It shows a 13-year-old patient lighting Babe’s pipe….  at the hospital, while she is apparently confined to a bed.

/hat tip to Andy Gray @si_vault.

YOU PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH? The perils of performing an infamous medical procedure… with your teeth.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report that provides yet another reason why you should never castrate a lamb with your teeth.

The report involves a case study of two men who were exhibiting symptoms consistent with Campylobacteriosis, an illness caused by Campylobacter jejuni.  For those of you who are keeping score, the United States Department of Agriculture describes Campylobacteriosis and Camplobacter jejuni as follows:

Campylobacter [pronounced “kamp-e-lo-back-ter”] is a gram negative, microaerophilic bacterium and is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Campylobacter jejuni, the strain associated with most reported human infections, may be present in the body without causing noticeable illness. Campylobacter organisms can be found everywhere and are commonly found in the intestinal tracts of cats, dogs, poultry, cattle, swine, rodents, monkeys, wild birds, and some humans.

The two men who were the subject of the case study were apparently exhibiting symptoms of the illness.  These symptoms often include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that may or may not contain blood. Reported complications may include meningitis and infrequently, rarely, Guillain-Barre syndrome, a paralysis that results from the body’s immune system mistaken attack upon its nervous system.  An estimated 124 people die from Campylobacter each year.

How did these two men contract the illness?  They probably ate undercooked or contaminated meat or poultry, right?  Uh… no.  According to the report:

… both patients had participated in a multiday event to castrate and dock tails of 1,600 lambs. Both men reported having used their teeth to castrate some of the lambs. Among the 12 persons who participated in the event, the patients are the only two known to have used their teeth to castrate lambs. During the multiday event, a few lambs reportedly had a mild diarrheal illness.

That’s right.  They contracted the illness by castrating lambs.  With their teeth.

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