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Experiences with Heroin

Preferred Name: Barry

Gender: Male

Age: 40


Barry is a mechanic but was not working at the time of the interview. He lives with his mother and is separated with a young child. Barry describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: he was born in Australia, as were his parents.

Brief Outline:

Barry started drinking regularly and smoking cannabis in his early teens after a close family member died. In his late teens, he was prescribed benzodiazepines to help him manage anxiety and he says he became ‘addicted’ to alcohol and benzodiazepines. A few years later, in his early twenties, he began taking heroin and has continued to take it on and off since then, which he now describes as ‘an addiction’. Barry has tried several kinds of drug treatment including counselling, opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone® [a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone]) and residential rehabilitation. He is currently on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) and prescribed benzodiazepines, and takes heroin occasionally.

Barry's Story:

Barry has a young child and says being a father is ‘the most important thing in [his] life’. He’s a mechanic but has stopped working as he says this work has become too hard on his body. In the future he plans to pursue a different career that’s more ‘peaceful’. He enjoys ‘journaling’, ‘love[s] to read and […] write’, and thinks becoming a librarian might suit him.

When Barry was in his early teens a close family member died suddenly. He and his family moved from the city to a regional town to be closer to extended family. He says he felt ‘uprooted from everything [he] knew’ and describes this as ‘a really traumatic time’, feeling family pressure to be ‘the man of the house’ and to ‘look after’ his mother and younger sibling.

Around this time Barry says he became a ‘heavy drinker’ and started smoking cannabis. He also began taking benzodiazepines that were prescribed for his mother, until he was also prescribed them in his late teens. Barry describes himself as having ‘major depression and major, major anxiety’, which means he ‘really struggle[s] a lot of the time to leave the house’. He says he ‘got addicted to alcohol and benzos’ around this time as they helped him to cope with his situation.

In his early twenties Barry moved back to the city. Soon after he began taking heroin and found that it made him feel ‘pretty laidback’. However, sometimes he felt his heroin use would ‘affect [his] work’ and in order to avoid this he tried opioid pharmacotherapy treatments ‘on and off’, including methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone®. Around this time Barry’s sibling, whom he describes as his ‘best friend’, died. He began seeing a counsellor when he returned to the regional town to live the following year. He later resumed work in the city, while living in a nearby town with a close friend.

Barry also began seeing his partner around this time. They had a relationship for a number of years until they separated just before their child was born. After the separation he completed a residential rehabilitation program and stopped taking heroin. He moved back to the regional town he’d grown up in to live with his mother and maintains regular contact with his ex-partner and child.

Barry now describes his heroin use as ‘an addiction’, and says he is ‘trying to put many […] strategies in place’ to reduce his consumption. These include counselling, GP visits, taking prescribed benzodiazepines and methadone, having his mother take ‘control of [his] cash’ and reducing travel to the city to limit his access to heroin. While he hadn’t taken heroin for the few months before the interview, he says he’ll most likely ‘dabble [in it] from time to time’. Increasingly however, he feels that taking heroin is a ‘waste of cash’ and ‘not worth the hassle’. In the future he plans to start a new career path and spend time with his child.


Barry (M, 40, unemployed, heroin) says that being on MMT helps him manage his work commitments and avoid getting sick from not taking heroin.

I’ve been on and off methadone most of this time […] since I started [taking heroin] really. I’d start and I’d go berserk, and that would affect my work. So […] I said to [my GP…] ‘You know, I need to go on methadone because I want to keep my job’. So that’s where the methadone sort of started. And it helped. And then, you know, I got clean off that and had a big relapse a while later […] But the only reason I’ve gone back on methadone this time was because I was working […] I could not afford to get sick [from heroin withdrawal] and miss work […] I just couldn’t […] afford to do that. I had to keep going because work was the thing that kept me going.

Barry has undertaken a number of alcohol and other drug treatments and explains why he finds psychotherapy the most helpful.

For me, the best [kind of treatment] is one-on-one therapy […] I had a great […] narrative psychologist and she was fantastic. But she’s just pulled the plug because she’s going [overseas…] so she’s put me in touch with another mental health nurse. I’ve got an assessment with a psychiatrist […] I’m just trying to put many […] strategies in place to keep me safe […] because […] I could never confront the grief [of losing my close family member when I was a child] I couldn’t, you know, because I was the man of the house. I never got a chance to [grieve] you know. And I grew up in a heavy drinking family too so if you feel a bit down, you know, just skull some beer and you’ll be all right […] You know, my way of dealing with it was drinks, drugs […] and ignoring it. Turning a blind eye to it. Whereas now I’m confronting it head on [in therapy] you know. So it’s pretty intense, but it has to be done.

To support his mental health, Barry attends counselling and sees his GP.

[Counselling] is hard, dragging up and dredging up […] a lot of the past […] You know, when it’s emotional, it’s really, really emotional because I’ve never dealt with it […] My way of dealing with it was drinks, drugs […] and ignoring it. Turning a blind eye to it. Whereas now, I’m confronting it head on, you know, so it’s pretty intense. But it has to be done […] I moved up here in May and in that time, I’ve done more therapy and good solid […] really ‘to the bones of it therapy’ than I’ve done in the last over 20 years […] I’ve got a great GP who I can call in and see whatever I want. If I’m not coping, I can ring up and make an appointment and just go in and talk, you know. I do a lot of journaling […] which helps.