Drug addicts in Norway are set to be prescribed free heroin in a bid to improve their living conditions, it has been announced.
The government revealed yesterday that the most serious addicts will be given the drug in the trial programme, which could begin by 2020.
The country, which has one of the highest deadly drug overdose rates in Europe, hope that the scheme will benefit up to 400 addicts.
The Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs has been tasked with proposing an experimental project to identify patients likely to benefit from the programme, to examine the implementation method, and to calculate the costs.
Health Minister Bente Hoie said: ‘We hope that this will provide a solution that will give a better quality of life to some addicts who are today out of our reach and whom current programmes do not help enough.’
Norway has one of the highest overdose mortality rates in Europe, with 81 deaths per million in 2015 after Estonia (132 deaths per million) and Sweden (88 deaths per million), according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Already adopted or tested in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, medical heroin therapy is controversial.
However, supporters argue that in addition to improving the quality of life of addicts and lowering overdose mortality, it reduces crime and the costs associated with it.
The first treatments under the project will begin in two years at the earliest, the health ministry said in a statement.