'We're dropping like flies': The harsh reality drug addicts face with no access to help

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

Darren wipes a tear from his eye and wonders aloud how long he has left.

"How many drug addicts do you know in their fifties?"

It’s not a question that requires an answer.

Statistics tell us that across Europe, one in three drug-related deaths takes place in Britain.

Darren is 47- years-old but his face is an alarming portrait of years wasted on heroin and crack.

This summer he was offered a lifeline. A place at a rehabilitation centre - Broadreach House in Plymouth, his hometown.

"When I was waiting for my drug worker to confirm the day I would enter I found out they’d gone into administration," he says.

I ask him if there’s any chance he can stay away from drugs without help.

"Impossible," he replies.

"Being an addict is not a nice place."

Some understatement. He looks desolate.

Broadreach closed its doors in July. So too a sister organisation, Longreach House, which helped women.

Chrissy Goodenough was the last client to leave. She fought her drug demons for years and ended up living on the streets before she finally found the help she needed.

"We felt betrayed," she says. "I was so angry, I almost relapsed."

"There were ladies there who hadn’t been in there so long and one-by-one I saw them fall apart. And it was really sad."

Four months on and Chrissy is slowly rebuilding her life. She's still clean. Hers is a success story.

But for one friend, out of the care of Longreach, the struggle was too hard. She relapsed and then overdosed.

"It’s the grim reality," she says. "People die."

Chrissy's friend Zeta (left) relapsed and died.

Drug addiction touches more people in Britain than ever. But users don’t naturally arouse public sympathy.

Perhaps that explains why, in harsh economic times, so many local councils have cut services designed to help them.

"It is a hard case to make," admits Hannah Shead, who runs Trevi House, a unique residential rehabilitation centre for women with children.

A six-month stay here doesn’t come cheap - £38,000 is the price tag.

"It sounds like a lot," says Hannah.

"But when we look at what that means for the mother, and for her child it’s a small investment.

"The woman in recovery is no longer using health services in the same way.

"Look at the saving from not having to put her child into care. Look at the saving to the criminal justice system."

Trevi House is rarely full. Credit: ITV News

And look too at the joy on the faces of Niamh and her son who play together in Trevi’s nursery.

Niamh (not her real name) came to Trevi pregnant and desperate. Her four previous children had been taken into care.

"The only way I can describe it is like a demon pulling you so far down a hole there is just no light at the end of it," she tells me.

"No light no matter how hard you try. No matter how much you love your children."

It has taken, she admits, many setbacks and many moments of heartbreak to find the strength to start again. And the support of Trevi's staff.

"I’m not going back to the place I was before," she says. "Having my son with me. Just looking at him. He’s the reason I’m doing this."

Rehab doesn’t work every time and it doesn’t work for everyone. And closing facilities might save money from one budget, but it just pushes the costs to society elsewhere.

To the police, to the courts, to the prisons.

As Britain wrestles with a growing drug habit, the remedies are as complex as addiction itself.