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Heroin and Chromosome Damage

Arthur Falek, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(2):227-228. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780150117012.
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The article by Matsuyama et al, "Chromosomes in Patients Receiving Methadone and Methadyl Acetate," in the Archives (35:989-991, 1978) is of interest to us because our laboratory has studied the frequency of chromosome damage in lymphocytes cultured from patients who have abused heroin.1-3 In our studies, informed consent was obtained from all persons. In most instances, 50 cells from each person were analyzed for breaks, dicentrics, fragments, rings, or exchange figures. A summary of the longitudinal studies shows that in comparison with the cells of normal controls (Table), the cells of heroin addicts who have not been treated show an increased amount of chromosome damage after 72 hours in culture (0.4% as compared with 2.7%, which is statistically significant (ϰ21 = 13.8, P ≤.0001). This high level of damage persists in persons who remain in the methadone program for up to three months, but it then


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