Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave doses of morphine to a study group of 69 heroin addicts, then cut them off to measure the impact of withdrawal on hyperactivity, the Washington Examiner reported April 30.
The VA spent more than $7.8 million in 1994-95 on the study, details of which were recently revealed thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Researchers found that the opiate-addicted test subjects suffered 787 “adverse events” as a result of the morphine being withdrawn, such as constipation and heart problems. Researchers considered 38 of the reactions to be severe.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) approved the study, but some view giving illicit drugs to addicts as ethically suspect, even for research purposes. “It’s very, very good for us to think about these matters,” said Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York. “But really, the truth of the matter is that these patients, in general, would continue to use these drugs. By bringing them into a hospital, we’re increasing the odds that they will engage in treatment.”
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