Nevada State Senate to Consider Groundbreaking Heroin-assisted Treatment Program

Press Release March 18, 2015
Media Contact

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<p>Lindsay LaSalle 510-847-8064<br />
Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

Last week, Nevada State Senator Richard Segerblom introduced groundbreaking legislation, Senate Bill 275, which creates a four-year heroin-assisted treatment pilot project.

Heroin-assisted treatment, also known as heroin maintenance, refers to the supervised administration by a doctor of pharmaceutical-grade heroin (diacetylmorphine) to a small group of chronic heroin users who have failed more traditional forms of treatment including abstinence-based models and medication such as methadone. 

While heroin-assisted treatment may cause some raised eyebrows, Senate Bill 275 is only considered radical because of its introduction in a country which has largely ignored pragmatic approaches to drug use in favor of a highly punitive regime, which by all accounts, has failed.

“The war on drugs is over, we lost, said Sen. Segerblom. “Now it’s time to face reality and look for new solutions.  SB 275 is one of those solutions.”

SB 275 would task the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services with modeling the heroin-assisted treatment pilot program, which is slated to begin treating patients by January 1, 2017, on the successful programs in other countries.

Permanent heroin-assisted treatment programs have been established in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, with additional trial programs having been completed in Spain, Belgium, Luxemburg, and even our neighboring Canada. 

The results have been unanimously positive.  Empirical studies have conclusively demonstrated that heroin-assisted treatment is a highly cost-effective intervention that dramatically reduces illicit drug use, crime, disease and overdose while improving health, well-being, social reintegration and treatment retention among heroin-dependent persons who failed prior treatment.

“Heroin-assisted treatment has proven effective in reducing crime, disease and death everywhere it’s been tried,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “What’s more, it helps precisely those people who have tried everything else to overcome their addiction and failed.  All that stands in the way of starting such programs in our country is backward thinking and drug war ideology.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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