ADDICTS COMMIT CRIME TO GET TREATMENT
Heroin addicts are committing crime to get fast tracked into drug rehab because of waiting lists for treatment, a BBC programme reveals. This confirms anecdotal reports given to Addiction Today over a number of years.
BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme, presented by the cult bank Velvet Underground's John Cale, also shows how children as young as 12 are using heroin. Cale also talks about his own heroin and cocaine use in the past.
The assembly government doubled funding over the past five years and waiting lists for help have fallen â€“ but addicts living in the Cardiff area can still wait up to 18 months.
The programme features Jamie Harris, from the Sandpits project for under-18s in Swansea. "Young people come in more often than not around the 15 years old mark, but they are reporting that they first started using heroin younger – possibly 12 or 13,â€ť he said.
Other addicts interviewed by the investigation team revealed that they are committing crime to get treatment more quickly.: "Basically the best way to get help is to break the law,â€ť said Wayne Marsh, 23, who lives in a homeless hostel in Cardiff.
Mags Lyons, a project worker at the Inroads drugs project in Cardiff, said she was aware that people were breaking the law to get treatment. "Desperate times need desperate measures and quite often people might have to go out and offend," she said.
Llanelli assembly member Helen Mary Jones said: "When I have parents coming into my constituency surgery saying 'my boy wants to get off heroin but he's going to have to wait four or five months before he can see somebody', then we're not doing enough."
The assembly government said latest figures showed 85% of clients were assessed in four weeks, and 90% of those assessed started treatment in four weeks. It said ÂŁ18.8million was being spent this year to community safety partnerships to tackle substance misuse in Wales, an increase of 16.6% on last year's budget, with an extra ÂŁ11m allocated via local health boards.