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Heavy Heroin Use

Q - Do you have any data on use of quantities around an eighth ounce of heroin a day for someone 'chasing'?

A - Typically, injectors will use between 1/4g and 1g per day, and 'chasers' between 0.5g and 3g per day. An eighth (3.5g) is entirely possible, but would be at the top end of daily use.

In considering whether an amount of heroin is for personal use or supply, the court will take into consideration the financial means of a defendant, and the presence or otherwise of paraphernalia (scales, packaging materials, cash etc). Defendants have been convicted of possession with intent for around a gram, and acquitted for over 2 ounces.

Unfortunately our surveys are of little assistance, as we do not recruit enough heroin addicts (typically around 0.5%) to draw any meaningful conclusions, and those who do have a problem with heroin often fail to complete (or comprehend) the relevant questions. The vast majority of people who had used heroin do so experimentally or on an occasional basis. However, there were few in the 'regular' categories who did not use daily. There seems to be a level of use which does not cause addiction, e.g. monthly or less often, but once people start using weekly or more often the risk of sliding into dependency increases dramatically.

The recommended levels of methadone prescription, up to 60mg per day (occasionally 100mg), usually fail to eliminate use of street heroin, probably because the maximum is too low. Users are most likely to resort to street heroin in the hours before their daily dose is due to be taken, but even so, the level of use can be dramatically reduced. On the other hand, if too much is prescribed, there is a risk of diversion and use by individuals not tolerant to opiates, often with fatal consequences.


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