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Experiences with Heroin

Preferred Name: Ned

Gender: Male

Age: 49


Ned is single and lives with his ex-partner and her child in a commune. Due to ill health he’s on a disability support pension. He describes his ethnic background as ‘British-Australian’: he was born in Australia and his parents were born in Britain.

Brief Outline:

Ned began taking heroin in his late twenties, stopping after a few months when he felt he had developed a ‘habit’. For the next few years he smoked cannabis regularly and then in his early thirties he began a new relationship and started taking speed weekly with his partner. After a few years he decided to stop and return to taking heroin. He soon found that he was taking heroin every day and says it had become a ‘habit’. In an effort to break the habit, he undertook a residential treatment program and then several detoxes, but resumed taking heroin soon afterwards. He has since taken part in a number of rehab programs and also taken opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (methadone maintenance treatment [MMT] and Suboxone®, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone). Ned continues to take heroin and smoke cannabis but plans to cut down in the future.

Ned's Story:

Ned is very creative: he sculpts, paints and makes ceramics. He also plays several musical instruments, including piano, drums, saxophone and guitar. He sometimes busks with his guitar to earn extra income.

Ned began smoking cannabis and tobacco regularly in his teens and then in his late twenties he learnt that his sister was taking heroin and decided to try it himself. He says he found heroin ‘wonderful’ and began having small amounts each day. After several months he started feeling very ill when he didn’t take it and says he thought he’d developed a heroin ‘habit’ so he decided to stop.

Ned then began studying music and later bought a business which he ran for several years. During this period he didn’t take heroin but continued to smoke cannabis.

In his early thirties his business went bankrupt and he moved to a small town. He was homeless and busked to support himself. After about a year he found a place to live and met his then-girlfriend with whom he started taking speed every week. After a few years he decided he wanted to stop taking speed and began consuming heroin again to help him cut down on speed. He soon found that he was taking heroin every day and says it once again became a ‘habit’. In an effort to stop altogether he undertook a residential rehabilitation program and a number of detoxes but found it difficult to stop because of the ‘horrid’ symptoms he experienced.

In his early forties two of Ned’s siblings died and his relationship with his partner ended. Deeply distressed, Ned attempted suicide and was hospitalised. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (a mental health condition characterised by periods of elevated mood and low mood) and was prescribed medication (Seroquel®/quetiapine) to treat it. After being discharged from hospital, Ned went to an artists’ retreat to ‘get away from the world’. He stopped taking heroin during the retreat but started again when it ended several months later. Over the next few years he undertook residential treatment and completed several residential detoxes, each time returning to heroin after a few months. He tried to manage his consumption by taking Suboxone®, which he sourced informally, but says he later found it even harder to stop than heroin. Ned was then prescribed opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (MMT), but his prescribing doctors took him off it after a few months because he continued to take heroin.

At the time of the interview Ned had moved back in with his ex-partner. While he still enjoys taking heroin, he says he finds it ‘a big stress’ because of the cost and time involved in sourcing it, and is planning to cut down. He’s also planning to reduce his cannabis and tobacco consumption as he’s developed asthma. In the future Ned hopes to move to a new town, get work and build a house.


In order to qualify for drug treatment, Ned (M, 49, not working due to ill health, heroin) was screened and thinks he must have been diagnosed with drug dependence.


Well, I must have [been diagnosed with drug dependence] to have gone into a rehab or detox mustn’t I? […] They take you in and ask you how much you use, how many times a day do you use. What else do they ask you? Have there been any other drugs in your system other than your main drug? […] It’s like applying for a dog licence. You pass the test, get the ticks, and say you’ll do the right thing and, yeah, your dog’s all good. It’s like that, you know? It’s no real qualification for it. You just have to go like that and go, ‘Yeah, I’m a drug addict, see?’

Ned found the treatment he received at a residential detox very helpful.

[In the residential detox facility I found that] getting up and swimming every day is a brilliant thing. At [the facility] we had a basketball court […] we went on walks every day, they did physio on my knee for me when I was there. They had a guy come in […] who was a masseuse and […an] acupuncture guy […] and they’d give you massages and stuff, make you feel good when you are coming down instead of that horridness.

In the future, Ned plans to pursue his interests in music and art, and build a house.

[In the future] I really want to write an album […] I like ceramics […] I do sculptures, I do painting, I do lots of art, all different sorts. I play about 15 instruments, so I really want to […record] some of my music […] Guitar’s my favourite probably because it’s the most portable and I can do lots of things with it in the street […] so I plan to do something with that.


I would like to have a content, happy life […] I don’t mind having to go out to work. [I’d like to…] build a house or make a veggie garden […] Just as long as I’m happy [and] I’m helping someone. I like to help people and if I’m not using drugs, that would be really good […] I’m planning on buying some land […] and building a house.