Life... injecting it or sucking it away?
by Sarah Bingham


During my G.P Attachment, a patient who was on methadone maintenance treatment came to the surgery. At one point, heroin had become her life; it was the only thing she lived for every day. But now she realizes that instead of enhancing her life and taking away the pain, it was gradually ruining her life, stripping it of everything that mattered to her, until all that was left was her addiction.

I wanted to portray this in a painting. I focused on the idea of a syringe being able to inject and suck, in the same way that the liquid in the syringe (heroin) was injecting a new lease of life into this girl whilst simultaneously sucking it out of her. I used newspaper letters to make the writing stand out over the oil painting and I chose to write a question so that the viewer has to make up their own mind about the scenario being shown.

Whole Person Care


Siobhan O'Donnell

19 March 2012 - 11:25:01
"This was the piece that struck me first. I believe you have presented the problems associated with drug addiction in a very profound way. At this time, I personally have very little experience of meeting those with a drug addiction. However, this picture made me sit back and think about what a complex situation it is to be in and the difficulties that doctors face in guiding a patient through rehabilitation. I like the use of subdued colours and the newspaper cut outs."

Francesca Guarino

19 March 2012 - 11:25:01
"This immediately caught my eye when looking through the paintings. The oxymoronic quality makes the viewer really think about the situation in a lot more depth than would first be considered. It highlights how there is so much more behind drug addiction and the doctor must take this into account in order to fully understand how their patient has got to this position. I feel it is very easy for a lot of people to immediately judge someone in this position, however because this has such a depth to it it highlights how there are so many layers which must each be treated individually and so many factors which must be taken into account. The use of newspaper i feel gives it a 'rougher' edge and also contrasts against the artistic detail of the painting. "

Chris Smith

19 March 2012 - 11:25:01
"This depiction of addiction particularly struck me looking through the different pieces of work. In society there is an attitude which has strongly stigmatized addiction and treats this taboo subject as a moral failing rather an illness or considering any of its complexities. I find the portrayal of the patients viewpoint particularly arresting as it gives a striking insight into the complex issue of addiction as illustrated by the question of the effect of drug taking - was it giving a lease of life, or slowly draining it away? I think that it would be valuable to doctors to have a more astute viewpoint of the nature of addiction so as to be able to engage with the patient without making a knee-jerk judgement to them."

Diana Lim

19 December 2012 - 18:30:23
"This is indeed an amazing piece of work! I really love the idea of the syringe injecting a new lease of life while at the same time sucking it away. This idea clearly illustrates to me that at the end of the day, it is still up to us to make the final decision on our wellbeing. One may choose to remain addicted for life so long as they feel better, while others might try to overcome their own addiction. Besides, I really like the newspaper letters because it potrays an idea of life being imperfect."

I Pemble

19 December 2012 - 18:30:23
"I found this piece of work really striking, the shocking message that it is conveying is done with real simplicity. I find the use of newspaper letters mirrors the disorder and confusion that is often seen in the lives of drug addicts. Also the use of red backround on the left gives the painting a malevolant vibe.I particularly enjoy the question "injectig it in or sucking it away?" because it draws your attention back to the individuals purpose of taking drugs in the first place which can often be over looked."

Hamzah Akram

02 November 2019 - 23:09:18
"This piece immediately stood out to me as I've known people in similar positions and feel like addiction in general has a large stigma. The use of a simple 6 word phrase highlights the path a user goes through and provides a unique perspective for us as a society in understanding their plight. i like the way the syringe, a simple medical tool, is used as a two way device having the potential to take the user to either extreme side of the spectrum of "life". The newspaper cuttings subtly hint to the severity of the issue at hand and forces the viewer to consider for themselves how they feel. The way something so complex has been deconstructed and made identifiable with the common person is wonderful."