Diacetylmorphine or diamorphine is commonly known as ‘heroin’ is an opioid pain killer. It is also used less commonly as a cough suppressant and as an antidiarrhoeal. Heroin is used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Frequent and regular administration is associated with tolerance and physical dependence. In some countries it is also given to long-term users as a form of opioid replacement therapy alongside counseling.
Administered intravenously by injection, heroin is two to four times more potent than morphine and is faster in its onset of action. Illicit heroin is sometimes available in a matte-white powder freebase form. Because of its lower boiling point, the freebase form of heroin is smokable. It is the 3, 6-diacetyl ester of morphine.
Heroin was first made by C. R. Alder Wright an English chemist working at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London in 1874 by adding two acetyl groups to the molecule morphine, a natural product of the opium poppy. Internationally, heroin is controlled under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Under the generic name diamorphine, heroin is prescribed as a strong pain medication in the United Kingdom, where it is given via subcutaneous, intramuscular, intrathecal or intravenous route. Its use includes treatment for acute pain, such as in severe physical trauma, myocardial infarction, post-surgical pain, and chronic pain, including end-stage cancer and other terminal illnesses. In other countries it is more common to use morphine or other strong opioids in these situations.
Although Heroin is a medicine for strong pain killer, its adverse effect is people use it as an addictive material. As a reason most countries in the world has forbidden commonly use of heroin.
Much like in the United States, Canada has seen a spike in the rates of opiate use among its populace. So doctors in Canada can now prescribe heroin to patients with particularly serious addictions to the drug, thanks to new rules that were recently approved by the country's government.
The rules, which went into effect, last week, allow any doctor in Canada to apply to the country's national health department (known as Health Canada) for access to medical-grade heroin to prescribe to specific patients. The requests are approved on a case-by-case basis, by the government-run Special Access Programme, according to the new regulations.
However,the drug, known medically as diacetylmorphine, can be prescribed only to patients with severe heroin addictions who have tried to end their addiction multiple times with other methods but have failed, the government said.
"Having access to diacetylmorphine will provide health practitioners with an additional treatment option to treat patients with opioid dependence who have not responded to traditional treatments," the new regulations said."Treatment with diacetylmorphine in a comprehensive setting can lead to improved treatment outcomes and health benefits for these patients."
The changes come at a time when opioid overdose deaths in Canada are on the rise.Not all provinces keep track of opioid deaths, but in British Columbia, there were 433 drug overdose deaths between January and July this year, a 75 percent increase over the number of deaths that occurred during that same period in 2015, according to a report from British Columbia Coroners Service. About 62 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the opioid fentanyl, up from 30percent of deaths in 2015.
The center of the problem is that addicts don't know they are buying fentanyl; they believe they are buying heroin or other opioids. Because fentanyl is so potent, it's easier for drug dealers to make more money with it, so they cut heroin with it, Oviedo-Joekes explained.
This fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government will sponsor a summit to address the issue of opioid addiction, Health Minister Jane Philpott told 660News.
A number of studies have shown that treatment with diacetylmorphine can help addicted patients who've previously failed other treatments. For example, a 2009study in Canada found that patients with severe heroin addictions were more likely to stick with their addiction treatment and less likely to use illegal drugs if they received diacetylmorphine, compared to standard treatment with the drug methadone.
Prescriptions for diacetylmorphine are also available in some European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, to treat people with opioid dependence who has failed other therapies, the new regulations said.
Patients who get prescriptions for heroin will be supervised by medical staff when they're injecting the drug, according to CNN.