How prescription heroin worked when nothing else would for Bridgewater woman

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Dianne Tobin was addicted to heroin for decades, but in December she celebrated her first year off the drug in 40 years.

For Tobin, the answer was prescription heroin administered through a Vancouver clinical trial called SALOME, or Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness. That study was geared toward people who hadn’t had success with conventional treatments like methadone.

Tobin graduated from the program in December — the first participant to do so — and moved back to Bridgewater, N.S., to join her family.

She spoke with CBC’s Information Morning about the reasons she started using heroin and what helped her stop.

How did you come to be addicted to heroin?

I was put into jail, like a residential type [facility], when I was 12, and after I got out I got into a really abusive relationship … and at about 19 I started using heroin. For some reason, heroin … fixed something in me that I could deal with society. I was able to work, I built a log cabin in the bush, I raised a stepdaughter, and then I started working with the street nurses in about …[1992] in Vancouver when the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemic came about.

How does SALOME work?

I wasn’t even going to go on SALOME…. I made a phone call on the very last hour of the very last day that they were taking recruitment and I said, ‘OK put my name on the list,’ and they did, and I was the first one picked.

You had to go in three times a day for your medication…. At first I was getting heroin, for the first two and a half years, and then I decided I didn’t want to inject anymore, I was tired of it, and I went on oral hydromorphone [until December 2016].

Why did you decide to leave Vancouver?

[The Fentanyl epidemic] was one of the most important reasons why I decided to come down [to Nova Scotia]. I’ve been an advocate [in Vancouver] for 25 years so I knew pretty well everybody … and every day I woke up there were two or three [deaths]

and you couldn’t mourn anybody, because the next day it was the same thing.

It just got to the point around Christmastime when I said ‘No, I can’t do this, I’ve got to get away from it’….

My sister is older than I am and her husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s the only sibling I have, and I figured I should come down and help her. It was rough … after I got down here because I was still going through withdrawal for a while, but I’m getting fine now.

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How prescription heroin worked when nothing else would for Bridgewater woman

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