Canada has recently made major and controversial changes to their drug policies surrounding heroin and their treatment for addicts. In hopes to fight the ever-growing overdose rate in their country, Canada has decided to legalize prescription heroin. Yes, you’ve heard it correctly. They plan to prescribe heroin to fight heroin addiction.
The Canadian government is implying that this new treatment method is the safer alternative to buying and using heroin illicitly. Instead of having to commit crimes, risk the chance of overdose, or contract a STD, heroin addicts can use safely under the care of a medical professional.
To us, it sounds more like a “If you can’t beat them, join them” kind of tactic.
How The Program Works
The new treatment, known as a heroin maintenance program, will allow for severe addicts to receive free injections of a pharmaceutical-grade heroin, known as diacetylmorphine, three times daily. In order to qualify for the program, each client must be able to come for all three injections each day. Some believe this is will be an inconvenience for addicts who are employed full-time or are responsible for taking care of their family, nevertheless, the program is still projected to have a low dropout rate.
It should be obvious, but of course the rate of those abruptly stopping the treatment will be low. Canada plans to give heroin addicts their fix, for free, without legal consequence. Who would pass that up? Addicts will do anything to get their next high, whether that means stealing from loved ones, leaving their kids with family members or not showing up for work. Now, instead of going to undesirable places to score, they are simply visiting a doctor for a medical condition. If this new treatment option becomes available to an addict, they will make it their first priority, putting other obligations aside.
The Canadian government argues that this new heroin maintenance program isn’t intended for everyone. It is only meant for those that are severely addicted and have tried other means to recover, such as traditional rehabilitation, methadone and Suboxone, but have failed countless times over. More or less, it is designed for those they have deemed “lost causes”.
Along with reducing the number of overdoses and deaths, the Canadian government hopes to address other social service issues surrounding addiction. With heroin injections being done in medically supervised centers by practicing professionals, the rate of communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis will be reduced. Furthermore, because addicts will no longer have to purchase drugs on the street illegally, or commit crimes to obtain heroin, the crime rate will be lowered. As a result, they hope taxpayer money will be spared.
Controversies Behind Heroin Maintenance
The question becomes, how long does one stay on a program such as this? Ninety days? A year? Multiple years? When the Canadian and American governments first employed methadone and Suboxone as treatment options, they didn’t intend for users to remain on the drug for extended periods of time. Nevertheless, we hear countless stories of addicts continuing maintenance programs for months, or even years, often finding it difficult to stop taking these medications. Before they know it, they are addicted to the drug that was meant to treat their disease.
What is the end goal? The Canadian government says their objective is to give healthcare professionals another tool in the treatment process and assist in weaning addicts off of heroin safely. Again, with little explanation on how long an individual’s “treatment” is meant to last, many question exactly what purpose this serves, other than placing a band aid on the wound.
Furthermore, what makes this program the safer option? Having Narcan on hand and having a physician inject the drug? Obviously these components make addiction a bit safer, but it’s nothing more than that. Canada is not treating addiction, they are just prolonging it, and therefore, prolonging death.
And lastly, what are the regulations for the program and what certifications are required to prescribe the drug? Canada is allowing for ANY physician to apply to Canada Health, the country’s health department, to obtain diacetylmorphine for their patients. While approvals are made on a case-by-case basis, who’s to say these doctors are qualified in the field of addiction. Is it ludicrous to assume that some physicians’ intentions are not always pure, and there’s a chance these individuals will try to take advantage of the new system for personal gain?
Also, how does the country plan to regulate abuse? Take Suboxone for instance. In order for someone to be prescribed Suboxone, they must be able to pass a drug screening. If at any point during their maintenance program they show up positive for any other drugs, they can be asked to leave treatment. Other than testing an individual’s levels of heroin, which can become costly, it will be difficult to screen for the abuse of the drug.
Suboxone and Methadone also act as opioid-blockers, not allowing for someone to abuse opioid-based drugs without getting extremely sick. The chances of an addict abusing street heroin, while on a heroin-maintenance program are high, further increasing the likelihood of overdose and death.
Will Canada’s Policy Be The Beginning Of A New Era?
With the heroin epidemic steadily increasing throughout America, politicians, medical professionals and addictions specialists all continue to brainstorm better treatment methods and other deterrents to fight the crisis. We have already heard news of certain states such as Washington and New York, who are considering medically supervised injection clinics. So, could America be next?
In June, Scott MacDonald, the head physician at Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, testified before the Senate and also spoke at a presentation in Boston, where he received some positive feedback from American physicians.
Crosstown Clinic began running clinical trials of prescription heroin in 2005, and has been open ever since. Currently the clinic treats 52 heroin addicts, but anticipates that number doubling within a year, due to the new policy.
Contact Us For Heroin Addiction Treatment
Heroin addiction is a cunning, baffling disease that unfortunately kills thousands every year. Many politicians and addictions professionals have spent the last few years attempting to combat this disease, from the passing of the CARA bill to offering new regulations on prescription tracking. While medically-assisted treatment has its own set of controversies, heroin maintenance programs are not the answer to fight addiction. They are simply delaying the inevitable…death.
For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been offering effective drug treatment for those suffering from the disease of addiction. We have found a solution, which does not require the use of other drugs and/or medications.
If you are interested in an abstinence-based lifestyle, which is free of the mental obsession, give us a call today. At Clearbrook, we can show you what life is like in sobriety. Contact our Admissions Specialists today for further information. They are available 24 hours a day.