Starting in 2020 or 2021, the government is to begin a trial in which 400 serious heroin addicts will be provided with the drug.
The controversial move is part of widespread drug reform policy that has split the current coalition government.
The centre-right Conservative Party of Prime Minister Erna Solberg have pushed for a liberal approach, something the Progress Party oppose.
Health Minister Bent Høie has asked the Directorate of Health to propose which drug addicts will receive the offer and how the delivery of heroin should take place. The Directorate shall also map the economic consequences.
It is unclear how much of the drug will be prescribed or exactly how long the trial will run for.
“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” says Høie according to the report in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
Respect and care rather than punishment for addicts
“Addicts should be met with health care and respect, not with punishment and condemnation,” Høie said earlier in the year when he announced the committee charged with drawing up the specific policy details.
According to The Local, he went on to say: “We are now moving away from what might be described as a moralistic approach in the previous thinking.”
“We fully recognize that some are not motivated to become drug-free. This group will now get a much better offer than before”.
Norway is far from alone in trying such an approach. Medical heroin therapy is used or being tested in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark. Supporters of the scheme say it will reduce death rates, and crime rates.
Dealing with Norway's drug problem
The government's policy announcement should not be seen as a surprise given the country's issues with drug addicts and the ongoing shift towards treatment.
In 2017, Norway became the first Scandinavian country to decriminalise drugs in a historic vote. The vote was backed by parties in government and in opposition: the Conservatives, the Liberal party, the Labour party, and the Socialist Left.
Sveinung Stensland, deputy chairman of the Storting Health Committee, said at the time: “It is important to emphasise that we do not legalise cannabis and other drugs, but we decriminalise”.
“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision: those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment”.