Canada Legalizes Prescription Heroin

Legalization of Prescription Heroin: What It Means

A recent article by the Washington Post reported the decision by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to legalize prescription heroin. As the article explains, the decision to legalize prescription heroin came only after other efforts to treat certain patients affected by the use of heroin failed. Though this approach is the first one of its kind within Canada or the United States, eight European countries have already implemented similar measures.

What is prescription heroin? The short answer is that it comprises a special, pharmaceutical-grade form of heroin called diacetylmorphine, which doctors will be permitted to prescribe to patients who have severe and continuing troubles in recovering from addiction to illicit heroin.

Further, this decision means that any physician in Canada may apply to receive diacetylmorphine through a specialized program. The Canadian government stressed the fact that this prescription will only be used for patients “in cases where traditional options have been tried and proven ineffective,” according to the Washington Post. Finally, the Canadian government also stressed the idea that it is important to provide as many recovery options as possible for people devastated by the heroin and opioid epidemic.

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Prescription Heroin Treatment For Addiction: How Does It Work?

Patients interested in seeking prescription heroin treatment must meet a series of requirements, as reported in an article on McClatchy DC. For instance, as mentioned above, a patient must have tried traditional options for treatment first, such as an inpatient rehab program, or prescription methadone. Previous treatment methods rendered ineffective for patients must be certified by a doctor. Also, a patient must attend clinic three times a day to receive the prescription injections for treatment—the result of which eventually leads to decreased dosages, and weaning off the prescription entirely.

In an example, Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, the first clinic to utilize prescription heroin within treatment, will now be able to incorporate the prescription into its existing heroin maintenance program. With the institution of prescription heroin, under this program, patients attending the clinic will be able to check in, sit down in a sterile environment, and receive legally prescribed injections from a nurse—free of charge. One woman’s account, as told to CBC News Canada, tells how attending the clinic and receiving the free injections have helped her to get her life back together.

Each patient admitted to the Crosstown Clinic undergoes a titration process, during which he or she is evaluated in order to determine his or her level of tolerance. As stated by the CBC News article and paraphrased here, the idea is to give people affected by prolonged heroin use enough heroin to discourage them from seeking it out on the streets.

The goal of Crosstown Clinic is not necessarily to force patients to stop using heroin, but rather to stabilize their lives. The Clinic’s program coordinator, Kurt Lock, stated to CBC News that most negative health effects associated with heroin result from a person’s search for the drug—not heroin itself. The clinic currently serves 130 patients.

The Heroin Epidemic

Though the decision to legalize a prescription form of heroin pertains to Canada and a handful of other countries, illicit use of heroin is a problem that impacts people worldwide. In 2011, 4.2 million Americans alone were reported to have taken heroin at least once, and this staggering statistic includes children from ages 12 and older.

Further, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports, an estimated 23% of people who try heroin will become dependent on it. Heroin is a very dangerous drug. Continued use of heroin can cause dependence or tolerance to the effects of it, as well as severe withdrawal symptoms, as listed by NIDA:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes, accompanied by goosebumps

To read more about the effects of heroin on the brain and body, go here.

We strongly recommend that you do not attempt to detox from heroin on your own, as this can be very uncomfortable, and at times even dangerous. A good rehabilitation program will offer you a medically supervised detox, followed by a comprehensive array of research-proven treatment modalities, including behavioral health therapies, that can aid you in building a strong and lasting recovery.

Finding Local Treatment

If you are reading this, and you are not in Canada, do not despair. The important fact to remember is that many types of treatment are available, and you do have options. There are a wide variety of treatment plans in place to help people overcome a heroin addiction.

Maybe you are reading this today because you have been affected by the use of heroin— whether personally or through a loved one—and you want to restabilize your life, or to help someone else begin to build a drug-free life. Do not fall into the heroin epidemic. If you contact us today, we can help steer you towards sobriety and successful recovery.

CBC News: Canada - B.C.’s Free Heroin Enables Addicts to ‘Have A Meaningful Life Again,’ Co-ordinator Says

McClatchy DC - Heroin Is Now Legal In Canada—If You Have A Prescription

National Institute on Drug Abuse - DrugFacts: Heroin

The Washington Post - Canada Has Just Approved Prescription Heroin

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