Heroin Addicts Committing Crimes to Access Addiction Treatments in Prison

When it comes to drug addiction, treatments are available from various organisations, including Recovery Lighthouse. However, many of those who are affected by drug or alcohol addiction do not know how to access this treatment. The lack of information regarding the addiction services available is often enough to prevent some individuals from getting the help they need.

Of course, there are other obstacles to recovery for some people, including funds to pay for private treatment. So much so, that some addicts in Exeter and east Devon are taking matters into their own hands.

Committing Crimes

It has been claimed that a number of heroin addicts are committing crimes so that they will be sent to prison as they believe this is the only way they will be able to access treatment for their illnesses. Arthur Sayers, who suffers from a heroin addiction, deliberately went to the Sidmouth Waitrose store, from where he was already banned, and punched the store manager in the hope that he would be arrested. And he got his wish; as he was taken away by police he was heard shouting, “Please take me to the police station, I want to go back to prison”.

Feeding a Habit

Mr Sayers solicitor said that her client had not been able to get onto the methadone programme and was stealing to feed his habit. She said, “It is a very difficult situation with a young man so desperate that he wants to go to prison. He cannot get a methadone script. He has asked to go to prison where he will get a script which will be honoured when he is released.”

She added that addiction services seem to be only available to those with money these days. Those with little or no access to cash ‘face jumping through even more hoops to get help’.

Pleading for a Prison Sentence

Sayers’ crimes included punching the store manager on the arm and possession of a small amount of amphetamines. This meant that the court was unlikely to impose a prison sentence, but his solicitor pleaded for her client to be placed behind bars. Unfortunately for Sayers, magistrates felt a telling off was a more appropriate punishment and refused to send him to jail. His solicitor, Galina Labworth, said, “It is not difficult to imagine what my client is going to do next.”

Is Methadone the Answer?

Methadone has long been used as a treatment for heroin addiction, but many experts believe it should not always be the first option. The idea behind the methadone programme is that heroin addicts are prescribed methadone in regular doses, which are gradually reduced. It means the addict can stop taking heroin without the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and can then be slowly weaned off the methadone.

In reality, many people on the methadone programme end up taking this substance for years as it is more addictive than heroin. Some believe that the methadone programme simply swaps one addiction for another.

GPs are now encouraged to refer patients with heroin addictions to rehabilitation services, rather than providing prescriptions for methadone.

Contract manager, Jon Cook, from Devon based Recovery and Integration Service (RISE), said, “Giving a client a prescription for an opiate substitution is not a treatment in itself.”

Knock-On Effect

With cuts to addiction services, fewer people are being prescribed methadone, and MP Ben Bradshaw said, “The cuts in funding for drug and alcohol treatment is not only hitting addicts themselves but the victims of their crimes. It is also contributing to our growing problem of homelessness and some of the anti-social behaviour we’re seeing locally.”


  1. Heroin Addicts Committing Crimes to Go to Prison for Methadone (Exeter Express and Echo)