Fighting heroin with heroin

With no signs of the opioid overdose epidemic abating, public health officials may need to consider more aggressive strategies to treat high-risk drug users. That could include prescribing the very drug to which users are addicted.

Doctors in Canada are now prescribing pharmaceutical-grade heroin and other prescription opioids to patients with addictions so severe that society had written them off as impossible to treat. While providing heroin to heroin addicts may seem counterintuitive, the practice has helped stabilize patients, reduce their illegal drug use and offer them a path to overcoming their addiction.

“Not everything will work for everybody, and some people need more intensive care,” said Dr. Scott MacDonald, lead physician at Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. “We need every tool in the toolbox to rise to the challenge the opioid epidemic presents.”

Markian Hawryluk reports

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