NAOMI Research Survivors: Experiences and Recommendations

On March 31st, 2012 the NAOMI Patients Association (NPA) will celebrate the completion of their first research report, NAOMI Research Survivors: Experiences and Recommendations. To mark the occasion, they are having an open house on Saturday, March 31st at noon at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), 380 East Hastings Street, in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver, BC where they will be sharing their report and celebrating their achievement. All are welcome and snacks and copies of the report will be available.

The Background

Dave Murray

Dave Murray

In January 2011, Dave Murray organized a group of former participants from the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) heroin-assisted treatment clinical trial in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, now known as the NAOMI Patients Association (NPA).

The NPA is an independent group that meets every Saturday at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) offices. The NPA has reached out to all former NAOMI participants in the heroin stream of the clinical trial and offers support, education, and advocacy to its members. Although attendance at weekly meetings varies, the highest attendance at a meeting was 44 members. On average, 15 members gather each week.

The NPA is also associated with the British Columbia Association of People On Methadone (BCAPOM).

Mission of the NPA

The mission of the NPA is stated as:
We are a unique group of former NAOMI research participants dedicated to:

  • Support for each other;
  • Advocacy;
  • Educating peers and the public;
  • Personal and political empowerment;
  • Advising future studies (heroin and other drugs) and permanent programs;
  • Improvements in consent and ethics;
  • The right to a stable life and to improvement in quality of life.

The NPA’s goal is to see alternative and permanent public treatments and programs implemented in Canada, including heroin assistance programs.

The Research

In March of 2011 the NPA decided to undertake their own research project focused on their experiences as NAOMI research participants. They met with me, Susan Boyd, a drug policy researcher and activist, and decided to work together to conduct focus groups, brainstorming sessions, and writing workshops with NPA members. The NPA adopted the words below to further guide their own research project. They are written by long-time DTES activist Sandy Cameron who passed away last year, from his poem, Telling Stories.

Telling Stories
We need to tell our own stories.
If we don’t tell our stories,
people with power
will tell our stories for us.
It is from this place that the NPA began their own research, to tell their own story in their own words.

NPA Research Findings

Five primary themes emerged from the research:

  • Beneficial outcomes of being a participant in NAOMI,
  • Problematic outcomes of being a participant in NAOMI,
  • Ethics and Consent,
  • Creative writing/Everyday life, and
  • Recommendations for other research projects and programs.

The NPA’s report, NAOMI Research Survivors: Experiences and Recommendations, expands on these themes and much more. The full report is available here.


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