Canada Legalizes Medical Heroin
Canadian officials just made it legal for doctors to recommend a form of prescription-grade heroin to certain heroin addicts. The new rule is part of an attempt to address the country’s growing heroin problem.
Canada has seen a sharp increase in recent years in the number of people addicted to heroin and other opioids. And lawmakers there have been working to come up with effective solutions.
A lot of the focus has been on harm reduction programs, which aim to decrease the risks associated with using drugs rather than just criminalizing it. In keeping with this effort, Canada’s health ministry made a groundbreaking announcement last Friday.
Doctors in Canada can now give diacetylmorphine to patients who are addicted to heroin. Diacetylmorphine is a prescription-grade form of heroin. Under the new plan, doctors can prescribe the drug to heroin addicts who haven’t had success in other types of drug addiction programs.
The idea is to provide addicts a more carefully controlled form of the drug. Proponents of the plan say this will make it easier for addicts to manage their condition than simply being forced to stop all at once.
“Scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence in certain individual cases,” Canadian officials said. “Health Canada recognizes the importance of providing physicians with the power to make evidence-based treatment proposals in these exceptional cases.”
A Growing Epidemic
Opioid drugs like heroin are becoming a big problem in Canada. Half of all drug-related deaths in the country now come from opioids.
And Canada’s not the only country with an opioid problem. The U.S. is dealing with the same thing. One study found that the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers has quadrupled in recent years. And that has led to a growing number of addictions and overdoses.
That same study found that there are around 2 million Americans currently abusing prescription opioids. And 16,000 people die every year from prescription opioid overdoses.
But the problem isn’t just with prescription opioids. In many cases, people who get addicted to painkillers find themselves turning to heroin later on. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of heroin-related deaths in the U.S. has risen rapidly since 2010.
In the face of these trends, Canadian and U.S. officials are seeking out new ways to treat opioid addiction.
Medical Cannabis Could Help
Studies have found that medical cannabis could be one way to help reduce opioid addictions. In the U.S., states that have legalized medical cannabis tend to see lower rates of opioid addiction and abuse. For many, cannabis could be a safer way to treat pains and illnesses than relying on highly addictive prescription opioids.
And there’s even some evidence that cannabis could help people who have already become addicted. A professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine named Daniele Piomelli recently said that cannabis could help treat opioid addiction by altering an addict’s brain chemistry.