I woke up cured of Naltrexone
The 1997 Women’s Weekly article, ‘I woke up cured of heroin’, sparked enormous public and political interest in naltrexone in Australia. Naltrexone is a safe and inexpensive drug which is well absorbed when taken by mouth, lasts for a couple of days, and is very effective in blocking the action of opiates, including heroin. After the Women’s Weekly article appeared, the Australian media ran hot with stories about the amazing benefits of naltrexone. Naltrexone was the Miracle Cure of the Year. Politicians and media commentators abused clinicians and researchers who, having been caught out before, demanded to see evidence of the effectiveness and safety of naltrexone before endorsing the drug.
Transferring a patient from heroin to naltrexone was and still is difficult. But the big breakthrough was to start naltrexone while the patient was under a general anaesthetic. This was called ‘Ultra Rapid Opiate Detoxification’ (UROD). Clinics sprung up across Australia in response to strong demand. An alternative technique, using heavy sedation, was called ‘Rapid Opiate Detoxification’ (ROD). UROD and ROD generally cost between $5,000 and $10,000 (including follow up), and many desperate parents or partners somehow scraped the money together. After UROD or ROD, patients were supposed to take naltrexone tablets by mouth every day for many months, preferably supervised daily by a loved one.
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