Heroin-assisted treatment to be expanded to Esch

The Tadiam programme provides heroin users with two doses of pharmaceutical heroin a day in a controlled environment Photo: Shutterstock

The Tadiam programme provides heroin users with two doses of pharmaceutical heroin a day in a controlled environment Photo: Shutterstock

A heroin substitution treatment offered in Luxembourg City is expected to be launched in Esch-sur-Alzette, with nearly a third of the 25 people currently enrolled in the programme from the country’s south.

The so-called Tadiam programme--diacetylmorphine-assisted treatment--provides two doses of pharmaceutical heroin in pill form to addicts. They take the drug in a controlled environment at a centre near the Luxembourg City train station.

Of the 25 people currently enrolled in the pilot project, 11 hold jobs, one is retired, nine are on benefits and one person is without income. “It should be noted that these figures are based on their current situation,” a report published on Thursday said. “This note is important because many of the customers had no income, no housing and most of them no work before joining the programme.”

Some 66 people have taken part in the programme since it first launched in 2017. Roughly a third of overall participants spent more than two years in the project. Of the current users, 15 have been using the heroin substitute for two years or more, including four who have been part of the programme for upwards of four years.

Most people who drop out of the programme leave after around five months.

Out of the 41 people who have left the assisted treatment programme, six went to seek further therapy options, three were sent to prison and 13 returned to methadone treatment, another drug substitution offer. The other 19 left for different reasons.

The return to work for many also means that they have to leave the programme, the Jugend an Drogenhëllef, which runs the project, said. The opening hours of the centre are often incompatible with work schedules.

Opening a centre in Esch-sur-Alzette and bringing it closer to participants aims at helping with this problem, with a search for a venue ongoing. The Tadiam office--unlike the Abrigado drugs centre--does not provide needles or an environment to take street drugs but is dedicated specifically to substitution treatment.

Heroin-assisted treatment aims to stabilise drug use in a controlled environment, prevent overdoses and infection with HIV or hepatitis. The programme hopes to reduce drug use and allow people a return to a more regular life.

“Some customers thanks to the diacetylmorphine programme succeeded in stabilising their consumption of illicit drugs, find new accommodation and reintegrate into daily life by moving away from the scene,” the report said.

Luxembourg is one of only a handful of countries offering heroin-assisted treatment, with similar programmes available in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, the UK and Canada.