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Medical prescription of heroin does not pose neighborhood risk

This release is available in French.

Montreal, February 17, 2009 Providing heroin to drug addicts at medically supervised clinics does not pose risks to surrounding neighbourhoods, according to a new study by Serge Brochu, a researcher at the Universit de Montral School of Criminology. Brochu found that the Montreal leg of the NAOMI project, otherwise know as the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, didn't have a negative impact on its surrounding neighbourhood.

Launched in 2005, the NAOMI project did not foster increased criminal acts, dangerous debris, deviant behavior or emergency interventions in its downtown community. A comparable study of the Naomi project's sister clinic in Vancouver, led by Neil Boyd of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, also found the impact of that heroin clinic to be negligible. The NAOMI-CI (Community Impact) studies were launched simultaneously in Montreal and Vancouver to measure the community impact of the experimental NAOMI project.

As part of his study, Brochu and his team interviewed close to 40 residents, business owners, police officers, security guards, social workers, kindergarten employees and homeless people between May 2005 and June 2008. Police data (criminal and uncivil acts) was obtained from the Service de police de la Ville de Montral for the period from 2002 to 2008. What's more, Brochu and his team undertook 150 observational walks in the streets, alleyways, parks and parking lots within a 200-meter radius of the NAOMI clinic in to assess the levels of debris, deviant behavior and observable emergency interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

Data collected during the neighborhood walks revealed that the quantity of drug injecting debris (syringes, needle covers, stericups, spoons, etc.) decreased significantly. What's more, the NAOMI clinic had no impact on the quantity of various street debris (drug containers, condoms, alcohol bottles, etc.), on deviant behavior (loitering, solicitation, public consumption of alcohol or drugs, squeegees, or rummaging through garbage) or on observable police and ambulance interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

NAOMI project waiting for government funding

The NAOMI project was established after research showed that the injection of pharmaceutical heroin is more efficient than simple methadone treatments to help some drug addicts that do not respond to traditional treatment. In Montreal, the study was led by Dr. Suzanne Brissette, head of the drug addiction rehabilitation program of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universit de Montral and a professor at the Universit de Montral's Faculty of Medicine.

Results from the last 12 months have been very positive. NAOMI patients undergoing treatment throughout the program increased 88 percent and participants reduced their consumption of illicit drugs by 70 percent, reduced their criminal activity by 36 percent and improved their health by 20 percent.

"Steps have been taken with the Quebec Ministry of Health so this type of program can be offered to heroin addicts that don't respond to traditional treatments," says Dr. Bissette. "These new results obtained by Professor Brochu are keeping us hopeful."

"Studies conducted on the NAOMI project as well as my own study on the criminal impact of the project highlight its validity: the health of drug addicts is improved with no negative impact on the urban area. That said, why not continue helping these marginalized people combat their dependency problem, or at the very least, help them improve their physical health?" says Professor Brochu.


Contact: Julie Gazaille
University of Montreal

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