“There’s at least one recorded casualty in the fight over prescription heroin in British Columbia, Canada. Back in September, B.C. doctors won approval from Health Canada to prescribe diacetylmorphine—the active ingredient in heroin—to 20 hardcore addicts in Vancouver. That decision lasted two weeks.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose is not OK with controlled doses of heroin, even in rare cases of severe long-term addiction where treatments like methadone and Suboxone have failed. On October 3, Ambrose changed the rules that normally allow doctors to prescribe unapproved drugs in life-threatening cases. “It was never intended to provide heroin to addicts,” she said in a press statement. “We are taking action to close this loophole.”
Ambrose claims there is “no evidence” that heroin-assisted treatment is safe, but eight years of peer-reviewed research in a half dozen countries say otherwise. “Medically it’s not even vaguely controversial,” explains Dr. Gabor Maté, a Vancouver-based physician and addictions expert. “The decision has nothing to do with medicine.”