Long-term heroin use can often result in illness or death. Methadone is often used to wean addicts off heroin but it can be sold on to other users and it has been known to cause death by overdose. Recently a drug called buprenorphine has been used instead of methadone as it is less likely to cause death by overdose. A trial on 96 heroin addicts in Sweden compared the effectiveness of using methadone and buprenorphine and found that both were equally effective (about 80%) in weaning people off heroin. Given the safety benefits of buprenorphine the researchers called for it to become the first choice of drug for treating heroin addicts.
Kakko, Johan ... [et al] - A stepped care strategy using buprenorphine and methadone versus conventional methadone maintenance in heroin dependence : a randomized controlled trial American Journal of Psychiatry May 2007, 164 (5), 797-803