In an effort to treat Canadians enslaved by a junk habit, the Liberal government has taken action against an old law by imposing a new set of regulations that will allow medical professionals to provide addicts with daily doses of pharmaceutical-grade heroin.
Earlier last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration made a move to revamp some of the extreme anti-drug policies that were put on the books by the Conservative government during its rule. Specifically, the change involves a tweak in the language of Health Canada’s Special Access Program, giving physicians the freedom to treat severe cases of heroin addiction with a prescription form of the drug known as diacetylmorphine.
Canadian health officials did not make any real noise over the newly amended drug policy. It was not until a federal notice got published on the government’s Canada Gazette that it was revealed legal heroin was set to make a comeback in the northern nation.
“Canada is currently facing an opioid overdose crisis, and we need to assist our healthcare providers in treating their patients, including those who are suffering from chronic relapsing opioid dependency,” Health Canada said in a statement. “Scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence in certain individual cases. Health Canada recognizes the importance of providing physicians with the power to make evidence-based treatment proposals in these exceptional cases.”
The concept of administering diacetylmorphine to Canadians suffering from decades of heroin addiction is an approach that has been used for around the past 10 years at the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver. There, more than 50 of the most hardcore heroin addiction cases in the area—those who no longer respond to traditional methadone treatments—have been enrolled in a controversial outpatient drug maintenance program, which entails receiving free injections of medical-grade heroin three times a day.
But the program is not something that is easy to endure. Since this therapy is an outpatient procedure, addicts must get themselves to the clinic up to three times a day—regardless of work or family responsibilities. Failure to comply with the rules is grounds for disqualification.
However, a recent report from the Washington Post suggests that, despite the program’s strict participation requirements, the rate for which the enlisted addicts are unsuccessful in fulfilling their obligation is amazingly low, begging the question: Could this health policy help put a leash on the opioid epidemic in the United States?
Dr. Scott MacDonald, head physician at Crosstown, believes it could.
Over the summer, the expert on heroin-assisted therapy testified on Capitol Hill that providing addicts with the drug in a controlled environment contributes to healthier individuals and helps prevent the kind of desperation that often leads to addicts getting wrapped up in drug-related crime.
A number of other countries, including Denmark and Switzerland, have already embraced this therapy.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s latest move toward common sense health and drug reform should come as no surprise.
In April, the Liberal government announced plans to eliminate marijuana prohibition across the entire nation. The idea is to cripple criminal organization by establishing a taxed and regulated marketplace—keeping the substance out of the hands of children and promoting responsible use.
Some of the latest reports indicate that Canada’s scheme to implement a full-scale legal cannabis trade will come about at some point during the first half of 2017.