Norway to give free heroin to 400 addicts: report
Norway's government is to start providing free heroin to up to 400 hardened addicts as it pushes forward with its drug policy reforms.
The Aftenposten newspaper reported on Thursday evening that Health Minister Bent Høie had asked the Norwegian Directorate of Health to draw up a list of which addicts were most suitable to receive so-called "heroin-assisted treatment", and to assess the economic consequences of developing a heroin treatment program.
"We want to help those addicted who are difficult to reach, those who are not part of LAR (drug-assisted rehabilitation) and who are difficult to treat," he told the newspaper.
Høie signaled that he would look into the possibility of introducing heroin-assisted treatment (HAB) attempts back in January.
According to Aftenposten, the pilot project will start in 2020 or 2021, with local governments in both Oslo and Bergen reportedly applying to take part.
The drugs reforms have split Norway's ruling coalition, with the centre-right Conservative Party pushing for a more liberal approach against the opposition of the populist Progress Party during a parliamentary vote on the new policy before Christmas.
"Addicts should be met with health care and respect, not with punishment and condemnation," Høie said in March when he appointed a new high-level committee to draw up the details of the new policy.
"We are now moving away from what might be described as a moralistic approach in the previous thinking," he told the Verdens Gång newspaper at the time. "We fully recognize that some are not motivated to become drug-free. This group will now get a much better offer than before."
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Norway has one of the highest fatal overdose rates in Europe, with 80 per million people in 2015, putting it below only Estonia and neighbouring Sweden.
But this is already an improvment on the year 2001, when the country's overdose rate was close to 140 per million, almost double the rate in Estonia, then still the country with the second highest rate.