Recovering drug addict bombarded by county lines dealers who sent him '40 texts a day'

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward

"They would try and take over your house. You'd get 30 or 40 texts a day trying to offer you drugs from different lines."

Speaking to 'John', it's hard not to be blown away by his account of the pressure he's regularly put under by the dealers who are determined to ruin his life.

'John' isn't his real name. It's a name I've given him in order to protect his identity - so petrified is he that the gang leaders will come after him if they find out he's spoken to me.

"It pretty much consumed my life really. I was waking up to go out and get drugs," he recalls.

"It was heroin and crack cocaine. The physical addiction to it... the need for it. Your every waking thought is about trying to get drugs." 

'John' has now been clean for five weeks. It doesn't sound like a lot, but when you've been addicted to crack cocaine and heroin for as long as you can remember, it must feel like a lifetime.

Helping him reach that milestone has been the Project Adder scheme in Norwich.

Project Adder staff help recovering addicts learn new skills to help them in the future. Credit: ITV News Anglia

'John' is one of 170 people they've helped since the launch of the £4.8 million project in January 2021.

It works by taking a "therapeutic" approach, not only providing addicts with the substitute drugs they need to overcome their addiction, but also teaching them new skills to hopefully get them into employment.

After ITV News Anglia's interview with 'John', he went straight off for a lesson on how to use a computer - a lesson that will serve him well for the future, but perhaps even more crucially, will occupy his time so the dealers can't get hold of him.

Breaking up these "relentless" drugs gangs who exploit people like John is the second element that Project Adder focuses on.

Norwich was one of five areas originally chosen for the pilot scheme because of its rate of drug deaths and violence.

Nicole Chilvers illustrates how Naloxone works to ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's a problem police in Norfolk say has escalated over the course of the last decade, with improved transport links, such as the dual-lane expansion of the A11 at Elveden, making the county far more accessible for gangs.

Thanks to Project Adder, police are starting to make inroads though.

Over the course of the last year or so, they've made 550 arrests for drug trafficking and possession and have reduced the number of county lines down from around 75 to the low 30s.

"It's come from some hard work and some real structured enforcement to make sure we focus on the people who are running those drug lines," DCI Sonia Humphreys tells me.

"People are saying how different the Adder approach is. This is about taking services into a space that is really meaningful for them (addicts). So instead of just coming in to receive their Methadone, they're actually starting to engage in other steps towards their recovery."

Not only are police in Norfolk making arrests, but they are saving lives as well.

The Project Adder building is covered in inspirational quotes. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Hundreds of officers are now trained to administer an emergency medication called Naloxone that works by temporarily reversing the effects of an opioid overdose.

It means that if an officer finds a drug addict having an overdose, they can quickly use the nasal spray to buy some time to call an ambulance.

Such has been the success of Project Adder in Norwich, that the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse believes it could now be rolled out to every town and city in the UK blighted by drugs.

"Norwich is definitely a trailblazer on this for us," he said.

"We planted the seeds of Adder in five towns and cities across England and Wales, of which Norwich was one. They've definitely shown the way in the work they've been doing - bringing muscular policing of drug supply alongside therapeutic treatment of drug demand into a cycle of success."

As for 'John', he's already made tremendous progress in his recovery, but there's still a long way to go in his journey - however, it's so much better than the alternative.

This is the answer he gave me when I asked him where he thought he'd be without the service:

"Financially, probably I would have been kicked out of my home by now because I'm not paying my rent because I need to go score.

"Potentially in prison. Potentially stabbed bleeding in some alleyway because I just tried robbing someone or got involved in something I shouldn't have."