Diamorphine, pharmaceutically produced heroin, is available in a very small number of European countries.

It has been available for prescription in the UK since the 1920s, but it is rarely prescribed and is generally considered a treatment of last resort. Your chances of getting a script for this are very slim – despite recent research demonstrating its efficacy with some people.

Taking diamorphine
Prescribed diamorphine is usually taken by injection under supervision, often more than once per day. This means you will need to attend your clinic once or twice a day. Some people find this interferes with getting their life back together.

What might I like or dislike?

  • Although using prescribed heroin carries a higher chance of overdose than other maintenance therapies might, diamorphine prescription has been shown to be effective for patients who have previously struggled with other maintenance therapies.
  • Prescribed heroin will still give you the “kick” that you experienced with street heroin, helping you continue your heroin use in a much safer way.
  • Prescribed heroin lasts for a shorter time in your body than other maintenance therapies. This means you might have to visit your doctor/clinic more than once per day to avoid feeling withdrawal symptoms. This can make it harder to move forward in other areas of your life such as employment or training and can be frustrating. On the other hand, detox can be done more quickly.
  • Using prescribed heroin may mean you will feel less need to use other drugs. However, prescription heroin still carries injection-related risks.

Myth busting
There are often myths on the street about certain treatments and it is important to separate facts from fiction. Here is a common myth you may hear about diamorphine.

“Heroin prescription doesn’t help patients move forward in their recovery.” For a small group of patients who have struggled with other treatments, it has been shown to reduce their illicit drug use, criminality and to improve their overall general health.

Are there any side effects?
Not everyone gets side effects; some of diamorphine’s more common side effects are:

  • sweating
  • respiratory depression
  • nausea, vomiting
  • constipation
  • lowered sex drive
  • hallucinations
  • drowsiness
  • fainting
  • dry mouth syndrome: a lack of saliva, which some believe can cause tooth decay.

Returning to treatment?
If you’ve had diamorphine before and experienced difficulty, you should discuss this with the doctor. It may be that you were on the wrong dose last time, or this may not be the medication for you.

As with all maintenance medications, the break from cravings and withdrawal that diamorphine should provide will allow you the opportunity to tackle any other health conditions that may have arisen through drug use, and focus on Staying healthy