Date: Sat, 6 Sep 1997 11:36:27 EDT
From: Chris Jenks <jenks>
To: Multiple recipients of list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here is the latest article about Heantos. It seemed to be the most
N. W. Star MT. ISA from N. W. Queensland. Aug. 28, 1997
Herbs used to fight drugs
XA LINH, Vietnam - Tran Khuong Dan is not your normal physician. His father
was an opium addict, his brother died of an overdose. Tragedy led him to
explore the mind-bending post-war world of Saigon opium dens.
"You know, after the war ended, hundreds of wounded veterans were
addicted to the pain-killer morphine," he says. "The idea of finding an
anti-drug addiction medicine came into my mind during the time I lived in a
neighborhood of drug addicts in Saigon."
Dan turned himself into an addict and lived the cravings associated with
opium addiction or chasing the heroin dragon as well as the torment of
He sold his home. He traveled to live among tribal groups in northern
Vietnam where he sought an answer to addiction in traditional herbal
remedies among communities where opium had been grown for decades. Fifteen
years after that quest began, the 55-year-old may have found a cure with
potential implications for addicts worldwide.
In June this year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
announced it was stepping up testing of the medicine that Dan created, a
fiery-tasting brown syrup named Heantos.
Roy Morey, the UNDP's Washington director, told a news conference in the
United States that the medicine had already been tested on 3000 Vietnamese
He said trials had shown a high degree of success and reported
extraordinary results with only about a 30 per cent rate of recidivism, or
re-addiction, and minimal side-effects.
Full testing would require two more years but follow-up studies were
under way in both Vietnam and the United States by the Vietnamese
government and the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"It's very exciting," says Laura Dillon of the INDP's Hanoi office. "I'm
told normal withdrawal from addiction can feel like thousands of maggots
crawling up your legs. It drives people mad. Heantos seems to avoid those
At a small centre in Hoa Binh, some 80 km west of Hanoi, nervous heroin
addicts arrive at a small rehabilitation centre to begin carefully
One is a young Hanoi taxi driver, a group notorious for its use of drugs.
He breaks down in tears as he is searched in front of foreign reporters.
Patients who have already received treatment declare the process a success.
"I no longer have cravings since I took Heantos," says Le Ngoc Binh, a
young woman who until June was a heroin addict. "Now I can't think of
drugs. If I do it makes me vomit."
Doctors say the medicine is delivered in two doses. The first eliminates
withdrawal symptoms and within a week leaves patients able to abstain. The
second course is taken a month later to prevent re-addiction. It's said to
have a quick effect on addicts to heroin, cocaine, and some addictive
medicines. For opium users the process is slower.
In Vietnam, the costs of treatment are typically around $30 per person,
about a third of the cost of existing alternatives.
The medicine is non-addictive and so far - apart from difficulties noted
by some patients in sleeping during the first course - few side effects
have been noted.
About 80 km away in Xa Linh, a poor village near the Laos border,
63-year-old Hang A Trang scoops opium paste into a pipe, hold it over an
oil-lamp flame in a dimly lit room, inhales and lays back in ecstasy.
The image is straight out of a 19th-Century East Asia of opium dens and
crazed addicts. But for the thousands of people across the thinly policed
and ancient world of northern Indochina, it's a reality that remains today.