The Doc Project

The unlikely fix: treating heroin addiction with heroin

With the introduction of fentanyl to the streets, heroin use has developed a whole new level of risk in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. So, if you're an addict, how do you stay alive? At the Crosstown Clinic, there's another approach: providing users with prescription heroin.
Kevin Thompson stands in front of the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Travis Lupick/The Georgia Straight)
In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, heroin use has developed a whole new level of risk with the introduction of fentanyl to the streets.

Fentanyl is powerful and often deadly, and street heroin is increasingly laced with it. Over 1,000 people have died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. since the beginning of 2016.

So, if you're addicted to heroin, how do you stay alive?  

You can go to a safe (or "supervised") injection site, where if you overdose, you'll be revived. Or, you can try to get off heroin using a traditional treatment like methadone, but that doesn't work for everyone.

At the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, there's another approach: providing users with unlaced, prescription heroin.

The Heroin Clinic is the story of the Crosstown Clinic and the heroin addicts whose lives depend on it.

This documentary was produced by Sam Fenn and Gordon Katic, with Travis Lupick and Alexander Kim, in collaboration with Cited Podcast and The Georgia Straight.

About the producers

Sam Fenn
Sam Fenn is co-host of the Cited podcast, a documentary radio program about research and higher education.

He has produced radio documentaries about Mennonites who hang out with high risk sex offenders, a Japanese American baseball player who was interned during World War II, and the rise and fall of Vancouver's world-class drug policy. He has written for The Georgia Straight and The Tyee and has a MA in Canadian history from the University of British Columbia.


Gordon Katic
Gordon Katic is co-host of Cited

He has produced radio documentaries about the myth of the American "Superpredator," a fight over how to teach Canadian history and the push for sex ed reform in Ontario. Gordon is taking a MA in journalism at the University of British Columbia.


Alexander B. Kim
Alexander Kim is a journalist and radio producer based in Vancouver.

He is a producer for Cited and an associate producer for CBC Radio. He has reported for CBC Aboriginal, Arctic Deeply, Discourse Media and Canadian Psychiatry Aujourd'hui. He is also the host and producer of Theoretically Speaking, a podcast about absurd science.


Travis Lupick
Travis Lupick is a staff reporter at The Georgia Straight. 

He has written countless stories about Vancouver's politics and social movements as they relate to mental health, addiction and housing affordability. He has a particular interest in where those issues intersect. His other areas of focus include drug-policy reform, police accountability, immigration and climate change.