"If this city thinks it has a problems now, just wait until 1982," predicted Dr. Kurt T. Brandt, medical diector for the city's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Administration, who believes that an influx of cheap, high-grade heroin from Iran two years ago will cause the number of addicts requiring treatment to soar by next year.
"There is a three-year lag between when people get into drugs and when they come in for treatment," he explained.
But Brandt is hoping the much criticized methadone maintenance program will be helped substantially by three experimental drugs awaiting approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Clonidine, widely used for high blood pressure, has been found to work on the brain and central nervous system to suppress withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine taken three times a day for a week, Brandt said, would detoxify an individual with little or no pain -- the main thing that keeps an addict on heroin or methadone.
The next step, said Brandt, would be to give patients Naltrexone, a drug that prevents hallucinogens from affecting the brain. This would prevent addicts from feeling high on any other drug and might quench their desire for narcotics.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Naltrexone has been tested on at least 500 patients in New York and has been found to be nonaddictive and effective for those persons who are serious about rehabilitation. One NIDA researcher said Naltrexone eliminates the need to make a choice between the treatment and the use of illegal drugs.
Naltrexone only would need to be given three times a week and would be perfect for maintenance, said Brandt, adding that eventually the drug could be stopped with no withdrawal symptons.
LAAM, a complicated chemical nicknamed "long-acting-methadone," is another alternative. Similar to methadone, LAAM lasts up to 72 hours and only would be given once every three days. Brandt said this would be an ideal schedule for ADASA's overburdened staff.