Since a number of existing treatment models offer a dismal success rate, specialists around the world are always working on new and refined ways of treating addiction. Enhancing and broadening the parameters of successful addiction treatments have brought forth new and inspiring approaches. One such approach comes via an experiment conducted in Switzerland.
Switzerland faced an addiction crisis in the 1980s when the number of heroin addicts rose to an alarming degree. The narcotics team and Swiss police tried to control the situation by limiting the heroin use to certain areas. This approach of trying to confine heroin use did not produce commendable results and soon these areas became known as “needle parks”.
It became imperative to take further measures to fight the heroin epidemic, and the Swiss government decided to create a forum to bring together the federal government and the Cantons of Switzerland. They did this in hopes of finding a viable solution to deal with the crisis effectively. A four-pillar policy was developed – prevention, therapy, risk reduction, and repression.
What is Switzerland’s Experiment for Addiction?
The general idea behind Switzerland’s experimental heroin-prescription program (PEPS) is to provide the patients with prescription-grade heroin as a way of fighting the illegal and dangerous ways through which the drug is usually procured. Every day, heroin addicts check themselves in to receive their daily dose of diacetylmorphine, which is manufactured in Swiss laboratories or a dose of prescription-grade heroin. Miraculously, the approach of fighting addiction with the drug itself is working!
All 1,500 patients enrolled at the 22 experimental heroin-prescription program centers previously failed to give up heroin when they attempted recovery through conventional methods such as drug replacement therapy. However, this method seems to be working because the goal is not to achieve complete and immediate sobriety by fighting and resisting the withdrawal symptoms. Instead, this method focuses on gradually weaning the patients off of heroin while providing treatment for underlying issues that hooked them to the drug in the first place.
One patient, Marco, was quoted in The Nation, talking about the wonders of the new experiment, “Methadone didn’t work for me. The side effects were terrible, and I didn’t get any tranquilizing effect. So I was taking other drugs on top of it. I’ve been registered here for the last six months. I’ve put on weight, and cut my heroin use by 80%. Eventually, I want to get clean.”
Another benefit of the PEPS program is that since patients are given a measured dose of heroin, the chances of death by overdose diminish completely and the risk of developing diseases like HIV is no longer prevalent. Crimes involving heroine have also decreased, since patients enrolled in the experimental program are less likely to get involved in criminal activities that previously surrounded their life due to their addiction problem.
Why Switzerland’s Experimental Addiction Treatment Seems to Be Working
Currently, Switzerland’s bold experiment for treating addiction seems to be on its way to becoming one of the most successful strategies for dealing with the heroin epidemic. Surely, there are a number of reasons for that. Specialists believe that addiction results from situations where the patient believes that drugs are the only way to deal with a particularly difficult phase in life. Later, they need the drug to escape even the slightest inconveniences. In other words, addiction develops when the patient starts believing that drugs are the only answer to their problems. Eventually, the brain becomes dependent on the substance.
If the supply of heroin is stopped, the chemical equilibrium in the brain can become unbalanced. Keeping this in mind, Switzerland’s experimental program offers a softer, easier way to achieve sobriety and makes dealing with the underlying issues and eliminating the roots of addiction a priority.
Secondly, the heroin available in the streets is cut with caffeine, paracetamol, and other harmful substances. That’s not the case with medical heroin, diacetylmorphine, which is more pure and cleaner than street heroin. Furthermore, the local and illegal street heroin often prompts the patients to abuse other substances like alcohol and other drugs. This happens because street heroin is impure and cut with inappropriate substances: it does not produce a sufficient effect to satisfy the general craving of the user. Switzerland’s experimental program takes care of this situation as well by offering doses that are specially tailored to each individual.
The positive impacts are clear. Another patient, Jeff, age 54, talked about how the program has helped him get his life on track. He said, “My quality of life has definitely improved. It’s stabilized my day. Before I got into the program, I was a dealer. I was cunning, I found ways to get money, and I did bad stuff – not anymore!”
Owing to the productive results, people everywhere are looking into this as a viable approach to deal with the addiction crisis.
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