UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

“SALOME gave my dignity back” : The role of randomized heroin trials in transforming lives in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada Jozaghi, Ehsan


Although numerous studies on heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) have been published in leading international journals, little attention has been given to HAT’s clients, their stories, and what constitutes the most influential factor in the treatment process. The present study investigates the role of HAT in transforming the lives of injection drug users (IDUs) in Vancouver, Canada. This study is qualitative focusing on 16 in-depth interviews with patients from the randomized trials of HAT. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically using NVivo 10 software. The findings revealed a positive change in many respects: the randomized trials reduce criminal activity, sex work, and illicit drug use. In addition, the trials improved the health and social functioning of its clients, with some participants acquiring work or volunteer positions. Many of the participants have been able to reconnect with their family members, which was not possible before the program. Furthermore, the relationship between the staff and patients at the project appears to have transformed the behavior of participants. Attending HAT in Vancouver has been particularly effective in creating a unique microenvironment where IDUs who have attended HAT have been able to form a collective identity advocating for their rights. The result of this research points to the need for continuation of the project beyond the current study, leading toward a permanent program.

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