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Treating long-term heroin users with medically prescribed heroin is more cost-effective than methadone, a new study suggests.

Heroin users who were treated with medically prescribed heroin, or diacetylmorphine, stayed in treatment longer and spent less time in relapse, compared with those who received methadone. Both results are linked with reduced criminal activity, according to CBS News. The researchers also found those receiving diacetylmorphine were more likely to live longer than heroin users receiving methadone maintenance therapy.

Each patient in methadone therapy costs society $1.14 million, compared with $1.09 million for a patient treated with diacetylmorphine, the researchers estimated. They took into consideration treatment costs, expenditures for drug therapies, and criminal justice system costs.

“The question I get most about heroin-assisted therapy is whether we can afford the increased direct costs of the treatment,” co-author Dr. Martin Schechter of the University of British Columbia said in a news release. “What this study shows is that the more appropriate question is whether we can afford not to.”

The results appear in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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