New drug treatment service aims to target town’s most ‘at risk’ heroin addicts

Plans to give a town’s 15 worst heroin addicts two daily doses of diamorphine have been revealed.

The treatment plan in Middlesbrough – using medical grade heroin – is the first of its kind in the country and is designed to cut crime, reduce the number of addicts dying and boost their chances of recovery.

The office of the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger is part-funding the scheme known as the Middlesbrough Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) programme.

Mr Coppinger said the policies of the past have failed and the pilot has been drawn up following extensive research and evidential study from home and abroad.

It will focus on up to 15 of Middlesbrough’s most “at risk” individuals, for whom all other treatment plans have failed, and who have been flagged up by other agencies.

Under the programme, participants will visit a clinic twice a day, where diamorphine, medical grade heroin, will be administered under supervision.

As they are freed from the need to constantly fund drug deals, the addicts can use their time to engage with agencies to improve their lives and return to mainstream society.

Mr Coppinger said: “The policies of the past have failed. If we are serious about tackling and preventing addiction we need to listen to the experts, take notice of the evidence and act decisively.

“Police need to continue to relentlessly target the organised gangs and dealers behind the supply of street heroin and, at the same time, we need to provide effective treatment to release users from their snares and take early preventive action to prevent others becoming addicted.

“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.

“By removing street heroin from the equation, you remove the need to commit crime to fund addiction and the impact this has on local residents and businesses.

“You remove the health risks of street heroin and the associated drugs litter, and you remove the drain on public services, including health and police.

“In addition, you halt the flow of funding to drugs gangs.”

Clinical lead Daniel Ahmed said: “This treatment and recovery pilot is aimed at those for whom all other current methods have failed.

“They are on a cycle of offending, committing crime to raise funds for street heroin, being arrested and going to prison, being released and offending again.

“The cycle often only ends when they die, often in the street.

“Before joining the pilot, each of the cohort is medically assessed and the appropriate course of diamorphine is prescribed and administered under supervision daily at a specialist clinic. This removes the constant need to commit crime in order to fund street heroin addiction.”

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