An addict receiving medical grade heroin twice a day says the scheme has given him the ‘chance of a lifetime’.
He is one of 11 people who are injecting themselves with diamorphine under supervision as part of a project launched in Middlesbrough to cut back on drug-related crime.
Cleveland police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger said none of the scheme’s participants had re-offended in the 15 weeks since it started.
Instead, they are beginning to address the causes of their addiction now that they are not looking for street heroin and committing crime as a means to pay for it.
One addict, 42, said he used to shoplift £80 worth of goods a day to feed his 20-year heroin habit.
He continued: ‘I’ve been in treatment since 1999 and I’ve never gone without heroin in all that time. I’ve spent a lot of time in jail, but I used in there as well.
‘I want to be totally abstinent of everything and then help other people do it. I’ve been through it and I know what the problems are.
‘This scheme might not work for everyone but it’s worked for me and it’s worked for the other people that I’m on the programme with.
‘There’s not many of us on it and we’ve been given the chance of a lifetime and you can see the difference in everyone.’
Participants are also encouraged to access other services when they attend the clinic, addressing issues such as homelessness or mental health problems.
The attendance rate has been 99%, and one woman is now looking at entering rehab, while one man is reducing his diamorphine intake.
One person was taken off the project since October, and was later jailed for committing an offence.
Middlesbrough was chosen for the project as it has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the UK.
Mr Coppinger said the 11 participants had committed more than 900 detected crimes in their past, with their offending costing the taxpayer £3,700,000, while the diamorphine, sourced from Switzerland, cost £11,000.
He is now hoping to expand the scheme to other areas using money seized from criminals.
Mr Coppinger said: ‘It’s my intention to use funding seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act to go back into our communities, to repair the harm that the illegal drug trade has wrought not only to those on the programme, but to our entire society.’
Clinical lead Danny Ahmed said: ‘Evidence from countries like Canada and Switzerland told us that heroin assisted treatment could work here in Middlesbrough, but I continue to be impressed with overwhelming change in our participants in such a short time frame.
‘The majority of these individuals have battled addiction for decades and they are finally able to lift their head out of the daily struggle of substance use and look forward to living life.’