Can herbal cocktail help heroin addicts kick the habit?

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For Vietnam’s increasing number of opium and heroin addicts, the only treatment is abrupt detoxification. But researchers there have developed a herbal remedy called Heantos that they say makes the withdrawal process tolerable and more likely to succeed.

In this article in Nature, Peter Aldhous describes how a local herbalist, whose brother and father were both addicts, developed the remedy in collaboration with the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology’s Institute of Chemistry.

Vietnamese tests of the therapy have failed to meet international standards, so it will undergo a clinical trial in Germany. The trial, which will give the treatment to 30 heroin addicts and a placebo to 30 others should start within a few months, and yield results by the end of this year.

Even if successful, however, regulatory demands could pose a barrier to the treatment’s wider use. The complexity of the mixture — made up of hundreds of compounds extracted from 13 plants — means that seeking approval for its use could require considerably more clinical research on its effectiveness.

Link to full article in Nature