March 26, 2024 – A decade ago, while working in a women’s prison, I met a young woman whose story would leave an indelible mark on me. She had endured severe abuse at the hands of men, and I was initially concerned that, as a male social worker, my presence might rekindle her trauma. Jenny* confided in me that heroin had become her refuge … But her dependency had brought dire consequences: the removal of her children and her subsequent imprisonment for possession with intent to supply. Even so, Jenny told me that before she was imprisoned: “Heroin was the only thing that helped me to cope.”

While inside, she experienced regular flashbacks and profound anxiety. Her treatment regime included antipsychotic medication Seroquel and heroin replacement Subutex – but Jenny didn’t use them conventionally. “The only way they help is if I grind them together and snort them,” she explained. This method provided her a fleeting, euphoric respite from her psychological torment.