UNDP Launches Global Initiative on Use of Herbal Medicine Against Drug Addiction

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13-Jun-1997 00:23:13
Roy Morey, Director of UN Development Programme's Washington office, announces a UNDP sponsored project in cooperation with Vietnamese government that has successfully treated heroin addicts through the use of herbal medicine called “Heantos”.

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A major initiative involving the Government of Viet Nam, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Chemical Dependency Center of the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland is under way to review, test and eventually make available on a wider scale a herbal medicine, known as Heantos in Viet Nam, for the treatment of drug dependency, a UNDP official said at a Headquarters press briefing yesterday afternoon, 12 June.

Roy D. Morey, Director of the UNDP Washington Liaison Office, said a $450,000 project document was signed last month. The United Nations Office of Programme Services was also involved in the project. Discussions going on now were the first phase of what could develop into a large project. "To do the full testing (and) analyse the results, would actually require another two years", he said in response to questions.

Mr. Morey, who was UNDP Resident Coordinator in Hanoi for four years until the beginning of this year, said UNDP was sponsoring a visit of a team of senior Vietnamese scientists to the United States next week for talks in Washington, D.C. with their counterparts at the Johns Hopkins University Chemical Dependency Center. Similar meetings had been arranged with the National Institute for Drug Addiction, which operates under the National Institute of Health and with interested United States Congressmen. The Vietnamese scientists would also visit New York. Discussions would among others cover how the testing programme would be carried out during the remainder of the year.

Earlier Mr. Morey said various treatments for addiction to opium, heroin and cocaine had been developed throughout Asia. Careful study and work on some 13 herbs that grow in Viet Nam had resulted in the treatment called Heantos. In recent years there had been an increase in drug abuse in Viet Nam and, as a result, there was considerable demand for treatment that was safe, reliable and cost-effective, he said.

Mr. Morey said the trials carried out to date in Viet Nam, involving some 3,000 persons, had shown that the treatment was safe with fairly minimum side effects. The herbal medication was administered in liquid doses for a period of three to five days, followed by tablets taken for an additional month. The treatment was not a drug substitute medication, he stressed. It was being administered to those primarily addicted to opium, heroin and in some cases, cocaine.

"In my view, if this treatment did not have, at least some potential, it certainly would have been difficult to attract the involvement" of the Chemical Dependency Center, he said.

Giving a genesis of the project, Mr. Morey said about a year ago he was visited by a Vietnamese scientist in Hanoi who was interested in establishing a project to develop a capacity within the country to carry out internationally acceptable trials into herbal treatment of drug addiction. The internationally-recognized Center for Chemical Dependency at Johns Hopkins University was consequently contacted.

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