Pharmaceutical grade heroin, diacetylmorphine, is being considered as an option for opioid dependence treatment under a new proposal in Canada. According to a news release from federal health agency Health Canada there are plans in the works which would amend regulations to allow certain people who need opioid dependence treatment to receive a prescription for diacetylmorphine. The release explained that “A significant body of scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine, also known as pharmaceutical-grade heroin, for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence. Diacetylmorphine is permitted in a number of other jurisdictions, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland, to support a small percentage of patients who have not responded to other treatment options, such as methadone and buprenorphine.” The change would move heroin into a lower controlled substance category so that the medical equivalent can be considered for use using a Special Access Programme. This would allow patients who have not responded to more conventional drug treatment and approaches to request emergency access to specific drugs.
Allowing pharmaceutical grade heroin or diacetylmorphine for heroin addiction treatment may seem like a drastic move but something must be done to fight the growing opiod crisis in Canada and other countries. The war on drugs has failed and alternative treatment methods are being sought. Crosstown Clinic operator Providence Health Care is supportive of the change, and the clinic has already been involved in a clinical study heroin maintenance program. According to a release from Providence to the Vancouver Sun “Allowing access to diacetylmorphine, or medical heroin, to patients who need it, ensures that life-saving treatments get delivered to vulnerable people suffering from chronic opioid use.”