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Prescription heroin fight reaches B.C. courts

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

A man injects non-prescription heroin. Postmedia Network file photo

A man injects non-prescription heroin. Postmedia Network file photo

A local health authority and a legal rights group take their fight to court Tuesday to keep a heroin program alive after the federal government cracked down on doctors prescribing hard drugs.

Providence Health Care and the Pivot Legal Society are pushing for an injunction that would allow the former to maintain its SALOME treatment program that was serving more than 200 people.

Douglas King of Pivot said that since the federal government imposed changes last year, recovering addicts exiting the treatment portion have been unable to continue taking the clinical heroin.

Initially, he said, a group of graduated patients were granted an exemption that allowed them a supply lasting several months, but that provision has since ended.

King said many of the patients have already unsuccessfully tried methadone — an opiate replacement drug funded by government — or abstinence, to no avail.

“Their lives were getting better and now they’re told they can’t continue,” he said.

“It meant they didn’t have to engage in criminal activity. They had time to worry about other things, like food.”

Under the $7.4-million SALOME study, recovering addicts were given prescription heroin and monitored after taking the drug three times daily before going on their own.

According to an affidavit of participant Larry Bryan Love, he had just blown $200,000 — about half of an inheritance — on the drug in two years and became homeless prior to turning his life around in the program.

“I felt that I did not have to look over my shoulder or feel different than anyone else,” Love said.

“I ate more regularly and had a better appetite. I had more money and could afford better quality food to eat. I experienced less anxiety and stress generally.”

A public report on the SALOME study, which began in late 2011, is expected sometime next year.





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