'A life-changing opportunity': ITV News speaks to first addict to receive publicly funded heroin in health pilot

  • Video report by ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton

Britain has been blighted by the terrible drugs problems including the curse of addiction and the police's battle to break up the supply networks.

In a highly controversial attempt to crackdown on drug-related crimes and reduce the number of addict deaths, The Crime Commissioner for Middlesbrough is backing a new recovery programme.

From next week, in the first such scheme in the country, heroin addicts will be given heroin - twice a day - paid for with public money - totalling £12,000 each year.

ITV News has spoken to one of the participants on the pilot, Chrissy Shepherd, who tells of how determined he is to get off heroin through the Middlesbrough Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) programme.

Drugs are blighting the streets of Middlesbrough. Credit: ITV News

When talking about the scheme to ITV News, the 38-year-old described it as "a life-changing opportunity".

The pilot will have up to 15 participants, whose previous treatments have failed, who will visit a clinical facility twice a day where diamorphine (medical grade heroin) will be administered under supervision.

The programme has been drawn up following extensive research and hopes to achieve these aims:

  • Reduce the number of street deaths caused through heroin addiction

  • Promote long term recovery and desistance from offending behaviour

  • Provide respite for local residents and businesses so often the victims of crime to fund addiction

  • Remove the health risks associated with street heroin and drug litter

  • Free up public resources, including health and police, currently dealing with the problem

  • Cut off the funding stream to drugs gangs

The new treatment clinic. Credit: Cleveland Police

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: "The policies of the past have failed."

He said: "If we are serious about tackling and preventing addiction we need to listen to the experts, take notice of the evidence and act decisively.

"We need to provide effective treatment to release users from their snares and take early preventive action to prevent others becoming addicted.

He added: "There are numerous studies that show HAT is cost-effective.

"In Middlesbrough the most prolific cohort of 20 drug-dependent offenders have cost the public purse almost £800,000 over two years – and that’s based only on crime detected."