Netherlands’ free heroin distribution program could curb opioid-related deaths

Despite efforts towards better healthcare through telehealth solutions and value-based care, U.S. healthcare faces other challenges like opioid-related deaths. But, in The Netherlands where heroin is distributed to its citizens via supervised injection sites or heroin treatment centers since the 90s the country has witnessed significantly fewer opioid-related deaths.

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In 2016 the country reported just 235 fatal opioid overdoses as compared to 4,050 in Ohio in the same year. The Netherlands launched heroin distribution program in 1988. To qualify an individual must be atleast 35 years old, a regular user for atleast 5 years and should have a record of unsuccessful treatment efforts, including methadone-maintenance therapy. It means this program should be the last resort.

The basic concept of this program:

1) Drug addiction should be viewed as a chronic disorder rather than a condition that needs to be cured, accepted with the fact that its best treated with supervised drug use.

2) Treatment doesn’t imply stopping drug use, which in a clinical setting reduces criminal activity and leads to patient well-being.

3) Policies that affect public health should be practical instead of being based on moral choices.