The Heroin Clinic

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The Heroin Clinic

At Crosstown Clinic, doctors are turning addiction treatment on its head: they’re prescribing heroin-users the very drug they’re addicted to. This is the story of one clinic’s quest to remove the harms of addiction, without removing the addiction itself.

This is one of the best episodes in our archive. It was broadcast March 9th, 2017, and was honoured with a 2017 Jack Webster Foundation award for excellence in feature reporting in radio. The Jack Webster Awards are BC’s most prestigious journalism awards.

The Heroin Clinic was made in partnership with the Vancouver newspaper The Georgia Straight and the podcast Life of the Law. Check out the article we produced with Travis here, as well as another article hereAnother version is also available at The Life of the Law as well as the CBC's Doc Project.

If you want to hear more stories about the drug war, check out our other podcast Crackdown. Recently, Crackdown produced an episode commemorating longtime Vancouver drug user activist, Dave Murrary. Dave is pretty much the only reason this heroin clinic ever took off, and his story is chronicled in more detail on Crackdown.

Key References

Gartry, Candice et al. “NAOMI: The Trials and Tribulations of Implementing a Heroin Assisted Treatment Study in North America.” Harm Reduction Journal 6:2 (2009).

Nosyk, Bohdan et al. “Cost-Effectiveness of Diacetylmorphine Versus Methadone for Chronic Opioid Dependence Refractory to Treatment.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 184:6 (2012): E317-28.

Oviedo-Joekes, Eugenia et al. “Diacetylmorphine Versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction.” The New England Journal of Medicine 36:8 (2009): 777-86.

Oviedo-Joekes, Eugenia et al. “Differential Longterm Outcomes for Voluntary and Involuntary Transition From Injection to Oral Opioid Maintenance Treatment.” Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 9:23 (2014).

Oviedo-Joekes, Eugenia et al. “Hydromorphone Compared with Diacetylmorphine for Long-Term Opioid Dependence: A Randomized Control Trial.” JAMA Psychiatry 73:5 (2016): 447-455.

Oviedo-Joekes, Eugenia et al. “The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI): Profile of Participants in North America’s First Trial of Heroin-Assisted Treatment.”

Oviedo-Joekes, Eugenia et al. “The SALOME Study: Recruitment Experiences in a Clinical Trial Offering Injectable Diacetylmorphine and Hydromorphone for Opioid Dependency.” Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 10:3 (2015).

Small, Dan and Drucker, Ernest. “Policy Makers Ignoring Science and Scientists Ignoring Policy: The Medical Ethical Challenges of Heroin Treatment.” Harm Reduction Journal 3:16 (2006).

Strang, John. “Heroin on Trial: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Trials of Diamorphine-Prescribing as Treatment for Refractory Heroin Addiction.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 207 (2015): 5-14.


his radio documentary was produced by Gordon Katic, Sam Fenn, Alex Kim, and Travis Lupick. With editing from Nancy Mulane.

We’d like to thank Life of the Law for their editorial support, Dan Reist for academic mentorship, Josh GD for editorial input, as well as Lauryn Rohde and Jenn Luu for research and marketing help.

Dakota Koop is our graphic designer. Our production manager is David Tobiasz, and executive producers are Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.

Cited is also produced out of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia -- that’s on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.