A growing heroin epidemic is spreading across North America. It is estimated that 60,000 to 90,000 people are affected by opioid addiction, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Policymakers, clinicians and the public have clashed over how to treat this public health crisis.
In 2014 and 2015, I chronicled the lives of three long-term and vulnerable heroin users taking part in North America’s first heroin-assisted treatment study and program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Cheryl, Marie and Johnny have all used heroin for decades and haven’t sufficiently responded to methadone and other therapies and receive pharmacological heroin in a clinical setting. Heroin-assisted treatment is more or less their last resort. Similar programs have long been established across Europe as part of national health programs yet it’s the first time heroin-assisted treatment has been offered in North America.
My goal was to humanize the participants, amplify their voices, and help the public come to their own conclusions about heroin-assisted treatment. The photos didn’t tell the participants’ complete stories, so I asked them for their thoughts about the images.
This project was funded by a Katalyst Research Grant at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.