Our paper which nearly never happened is finally out!

Exploration of the physical health of dual users of heroin and crack in methadone treatment who inject or have previously injected drugs

Most colleagues who knew that I was writing a research paper assumed that it was part of some academic degree or professional qualification. Most people who heard my talks about this research study at international conferences thought it was part of my job.

But the truth is that I came up with the idea for this study back in 2015-2016, while working for an employer providing treatment to drug users in London. My employer supported me by offering me the job I asked for: part-time researcher and part-time treatment practitioner, and I had amazing clinical supervisors in Jenny Corless and Mary Bell Macleod.

After setting up a collaboration with Dr. Lynne Dawkins at LSBU I wrote the study design and received ethical approval with her support and guidance. The next step had a flavour of a one-man band approach: study advertising, recruitment, interviews in two locations, more data collection, analysis. Not without support – as Mary Bell regularly cleared my way and guided me in visible and invisible ways beyond the supervision, and several colleagues sent interested clients my way.

I interviewed about 40 people out of the 100 I had planned because it all came to a tragic end in early 2017, with the bankrupcy of my then-employer.

I was often told that any sane person would grieve the broken pieces and move on. But giving up wasn’t on. I wanted to believe that the study will make it into a publication somehow, and both Mary Bell and Lynne supported me until the end.

Researchers are usually incredibly organised and efficient, also when it comes to publications. Unlike me who needed 4 whole years to get the study written down. This paper survived 4 employers and two incredibly complicated international relocations in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, feeding on the little attention I could give it during my weekends and the hours I was supposed to relax and recharge after a day of hard work. Papers normally cost someone’s working hours and salary, and a research budget. I couldn’t say how high the costs of this paper were but they included private life time (mine and my co-authors’), private finances for attending conferences (exept from one sponsorship from Indivior), lack of sleep, tears, exasperation, hopelessness, frustration, loneliness, self-doubt and fight agaist all the odds.

5 years after a glorious start and 4 years after a dramatic near-death experience of this research here is what we learned from all the IV drug users who shared their stories with me:

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