Canada mulls heroin fixes for addicts outside hospitals

Canada mulls heroin fixes for addicts outside hospitals
The Canadian Health Ministry is proposing that heroin be administered to drug addicts outside hospitals. Canada says that it is battling a severe public-health crisis which could kill over 3,000 people due to opioid overdoses this year.

Health Canada suggested “remov[ing] some of the regulatory restrictions specific to diacetylmorphine [pharmaceutical grade heroin] in the Narcotic Control Regulations,” the ministry said in a statement. 

“These proposed changes would allow [heroin] to be administered to patients outside of a hospital setting and provide an additional treatment option for healthcare providers,” it added. According to the proposed amendments, heroin-assisted treatment can be considered part of a “comprehensive treatment plan that could include other related services, such as primary healthcare and counseling.”

The plan was announced by Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor during the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse’s conference in the city of Calgary on Wednesday. “We plan to support innovative pilot projects that will provide a safer opioid alternative such as dilaudid [opioid-class pain medication] to people who use drugs at supervised consumption sites,” she said. Canada currently has 25 supervised drug injection sites, including the one in Calgary.

More than 2,800 opioid drug users died in 2016 and the number is expected to reach 3,000 in 2017, the health minister stated. “This is an emergency and ... sometimes the short-term measures need to be taken to address the reality on the ground. We are in the midst of a national public health crisis and no one group or government can address it alone,” Taylor said

In 2014, doctors in the Canadian city of Vancouver became the first medics in North America to administer prescription heroin to drug addicts. The procedure is highly controlled with patients having to visit the clinic three times a day to receive their doses at scheduled times.
Heroin-assisted treatment is applied to those opioid users who don’t respond to substitution drugs, such as methadone and buprenorphine.

The procedure is allowed by health services in some European counties, including Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.