Canadian doctors dealing with patients who have proved unable to stop taking heroin can now go ahead and prescribe them heroin. Justin Trudeau's government has reinstated a policy that allows doctors to prescribe diacetylmorphine—pharmaceutical-grade heroin—to severely addicted patients if other methods of treatment fail, ABC News reports. In Vancouver, BC's Crosstown Clinic, which currently runs the only such program anywhere in the US and Canada, addicts come in daily for up to three injections, the Washington Post reports. Lead physician Scott MacDonald says his patients are hard-core, long-term users and that one has been using the drug for 50 years.
The program "is a kind of last resort to get them into care, to get them off the streets," MacDonald says. "We see them come to us every day rather than stay on the streets." Giving addicts heroin clearly doesn't cure their habits, experts tell CNN, but it prevents many overdose deaths and reduces both health care costs and crime. Fatal overdoses of illicit drugs have soared in Canada this year, and the Vancouver Sun reported in May that many of those deaths were caused by the cheaper and more potent drug fentanyl. It has almost completely replaced genuine heroin on the streets, although dealers still claim they are selling the real thing. (An even stronger opioid is killing people in Ohio.)