Where the Nurse Prescribes Heroin

LONDON — Homeless drug users in Scotland will be allowed to inject pharmaceutical-grade heroin twice a day under the supervision of medical officials as part of a new program intended to reduce drug deaths and H.I.V. infection.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, a $1.5 million facility in Glasgow that opened on Tuesday will allow a handful of drug users to receive doses of the drug alongside other treatment for their physical and psychological health, according to Glasgow City Council.

The pilot project, known as heroin-assisted treatment, is the first such licensed operation in Scotland, a country that has been called the “drug death capital of the world.” It has struggled to cope with high rates of fatal drug overdoses and its worst H.I.V. outbreak in decades.

The program will target those with the “most severe, longstanding and complex addiction issues,” the City Council said.

It aims to reduce the risk of overdoses and the spread of viruses such as H.I.V. by prescribing diamorphine — the clinical name for pharmaceutical-grade heroin — for patients to inject in a secure clinical room under the supervision of trained medics.

The clinic opened in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, after Britain’s Home Office granted it a license, and follows a similar initiative that began in Middlesbrough, England, last month.

Up to 20 patients are expected to take part in the first year of Glasgow’s program, with the number set to double in the second year.

“Heroin-assisted treatment is a much more clinical service aimed at getting people stable,” Andrew McAuley, a senior research fellow on substance use at Glasgow Caledonian University, said in an interview on Wednesday. “The program is a significant step forward, albeit for a very small number of people.”


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