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Experiences with Heroin

Preferred Name: Peter

Gender: Male

Age: 41


Peter has worked in the hospitality, transport and agricultural industries but plans to move to a new industry so that he can have more autonomy in his job. He’s divorced and has a child. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Hungarian’: he was born in Australia and his parents were born in Hungary.

Brief Outline:

Peter first tried heroin in his late twenties and has taken it intermittently since then, including periods of between three and six months when he stopped taking it. He’s at times gone onto opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (methadone maintenance treatment [MMT] or Suboxone®, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone). At the time of the interview, he was taking heroin about once a week and was on Suboxone®.

Peter's Story:

Peter has worked in the hospitality, transport and agricultural industries but plans to move to a new industry so that he can have more autonomy in his job. He’s divorced and has a child of whom he’s very proud. For about the first ten years of his child’s life, Peter was the primary caregiver while working casually. He remembers fondly the years when his child was growing up, especially how he ‘loved do[ing] everything from the bake sales to the parent-teacher interviews to the costumes’.

When Peter was in his early twenties, he began working in hospitality, where he says alcohol and other drugs were ‘abundant’. During this time he tried a variety of drugs but avoided heroin. When he was in his late twenties, he decided to try heroin and since then has taken it intermittently, including periods of between three and six months where he stopped taking it. Peter describes heroin as ‘something just to celebrate’ at the end of a working week, akin to ‘most people go[ing] out and hav[ing] a beer’. For him, it offers what he describes as ‘a holiday from oneself’ and a way of making ‘life easier’. Peter also smokes cannabis regularly and particularly enjoys a joint at the end of the day as he finds it helps with ‘mental and body relaxation’.

In his early thirties, he tested positive for hepatitis C but has not experienced any symptoms to date. To look after his health, he avoids alcohol and is careful about what he eats. He’s keen to start on hepatitis C treatment but his doctor advised him to wait for the new interferon-free treatments to become available.

At the time of the interview, Peter was unemployed and living in crisis accommodation. Before this he was living in his own home and had stopped taking drugs for about six or seven months. When he moved into the crisis accommodation, he says he found it difficult to avoid drugs as they’re readily available there and he resumed taking heroin and cannabis.

In an effort to reduce his heroin use, he’s done three short residential detoxes. He’s also been to intensive drug counselling and found it beneficial to have ‘someone non-biased’ to talk to. Previously he’s been opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (MMT) and recently resumed treatment, this time on Suboxone®. He finds this form of treatment a good ‘deterrent [from taking heroin]’, along with having a regular routine, employment and the support of family.

Peter values being happy and having peace of mind. Equally important to him is financial security and domestic stability. In the future he plans to find a job that gives him autonomy and financial security and that will enable him to ‘be there’ for his child. He plans to stop taking heroin and to reduce his daily dose of Suboxone®, but has no plans to stop smoking cannabis.


Peter (M, 41, unemployed, heroin) has completed three residential detoxes and says there is a need for better aftercare and support.


Peter:   I’ve done two detoxes, sorry, three detoxes. I did agree with them both, but what I should’ve done too was follow up with a rehab maybe afterwards. Because after seven or eight days at detox they basically say, ‘Okay, everything’s good now, see you later’. They ship you off onto the street. And they’ve pumped you up full of all sorts of things throughout the week to help you get off the stuff, then all of a sudden you have nothing. It’s, ‘Goodbye, good luck, see you later. Here’s an NA pamphlet if you’re curious’, and that’s it.

Interviewer:       So no continuous care.

Peter:   Yeah […] at least a support worker [would be helpful], if [I] could drop in once a week or once a fortnight to see them or something similar.

Peter says he acquired hepatitis C from sharing injecting equipment and wants to begin treatment*. (Note: strong language)

* Since the interview, new hepatitis C treatments have become available in Australia on the PBS.


Part 1

I have the hepatitis C due to [heroin] use. I’ve been busting to try and start the interferon treatment but the doctor I saw recently is trying to talk me out of it. He’s saying, ‘They’re doing trials in America at the moment for the new drug or the tablet and by the time it gets to Australia and passes the PBS [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme], it could be a long time’.* But he’s still trying to put me off, and I said to him, I said, ‘Look, I’d like to start this as soon as I can’ […] They say that mentally and physically it can really knock you about […] You know, your dry nails to skin to teeth, to all sorts of things. I don’t care, you know, if it leads to a longer life, of course.

Part 2

I think [I was diagnosed] six to eight years ago, I’m not too sure. It didn’t shock me or anything. It was just no surprise really, I sort of knew. I sort of knew there may have been a fucking couple of other occasions where I fucked up and shared a spoon or whatnot, and there was a couple of times where I was given a needle fully loaded, told it was clean too.

Peter describes how police officers have discriminated against him and, on one occasion, strip searched him because they suspected he was carrying drugs.


That’s one of the marks there from using [shows interviewer a mark on his forearm].


And yeah, as soon as the police see that just, they know and they do treat you different. They treat you with such little respect. I’ve had them drag me into an alley before and fully strip search me in an alley, just because they thought I had drugs on me, they thought I was dealing and I had nothing on me. And anyone could’ve walked down that alley. And just little things like that, and your lack of dignity really. They really do take away [that] from you.