The Canadian government has set a new precedent in the war on drugs in its country.  The move is perhaps the antithesis to the drug policy embraced for the last century.  The war on drugs will now be less war and more damage control strategy.  The idea proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to oversee the administration of the drug in controlled settings with a pharmaceutical grade heroin known as diacetylmorphine.  

Novel Approach to War on Drugs

The decidedly more liberal stance adopted by the new administration is in direct opposition to the conservative ideals the nation was founded under but has lead to an increase in the opioid epidemic rather than fixing the problem with harsh legislation.  The specific mechanism of action used to invoke this new resolve is a retroactive modification in language contained in Health Canada’s Special Access program.  The amended clause will give physicians the authority to prescribe this special grade of pharmaceutical heroin to cases of extreme opioid dependence.

Officials offered little resistance in the way of the new legislation, perhaps due to the unsuccessful track record of previous lawmakers.  As the country faces its biggest health crisis ever there needs to be an embrace by politicians and policy makers of novel and pioneering therapies.  The move has been slowly adopted by other more progressive countries like Sweden and Denmark.

Will United States Adopt Similar Health Platform in the Future?

This begs the question that if these countries are beginning to embrace this new trailblazing health policy will the United States follow suit?  Dr. Scott MacDonald, a prominent Canadian physician based in Providence Crosstown Clinic, where much of the diacetylmorphine injection therapy takes place, gives a resounding yes.  In his testimony before Capitol Hill senate hearing he extols the virtue behind such a treatment:

“Supervised injectable hydromorphone is safe, effective, and cost effective. A useful tool when the standard treatments are not effective. Treatments are dispensed within our opioid treatment clinic and prescribed on a ‘dispensing basis’ on site. In this setting Hydromorphone is not susceptible to diversion and an exemption for its use could be considered in jurisdictions where its use to treat substance use disorder is prohibited by law.

In British Columbia we need every tool in the toolbox to rise to the challenge the opioid epidemic presents. Injectable opioid assisted treatment in supervised clinics is one effective approach. Supervised consumption rooms, like Insite, are valuable for public health. Of course we would like to see an end to people dependent on heroin but for those already suffering it is essential to provide care, and care based on evidence.”

Time for Something Different

These sentiments are shared by a number of other less significant and decorated people, myself included.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  That has been the hallmark calling card of what has lead to this mess and we clearly need to pursue alternative approaches.  The more honest we our with ourselves about the deteriorating state of health care in this country the more we can get down to the bottom of what will help solve this conundrum.  New Jersey is a state that has made some legitimate strides in this arena, having embraced more a more liberal stance by adding new legislation directed at giving addicts the treatment they deserve, rather than jail and punishment.