Heroin Misery Of The Trainspotting Generation

Nick Martin, Sky News Correspondent

The number of adults over 40 seeking treatment for heroin and crack cocaine addiction in England has more than doubled in 10 years, new figures have revealed.

While the total number of heroin and crack cocaine addicts has fallen below 300,000 for the first time since estimates began, there is a generation still hooked - the so-called Trainspotting generation.

The disaffected, heroin-addicted young people immortalised in Irvine Welsh's bestselling novel are getting older.

More than a third of the total population of adults in treatment centres are aged 40 or over, according to Public Health England.

Many started using heroin in the epidemics of the 1980s and 1990s when good-quality, cheap opiate flooded the inner cities.

But as they enter old age there are warnings that dwindling health and dependence on heroin could place an increased burden on the National Health Service.

On the ageing generation of addicts, Louise Ford, deputy manager at the Smithfield Detox Centre in Manchester, told Sky News: "For many people of this age group there is a sense of 'now or never' in finally getting the treatment they need.

"For the over-40s it could be redundancy, bereavement or failing health that finally prompts them to come in for help. The treatment is not easy and many relapse."

For those who have not sought treatment, life is a cycle of "scoring" heroin and finding the money to pay for it.

Homeless Paul, 42, has been taking heroin since he was 17-years-old.

His partner Jill, 39, was introduced to the drug at the age of 14. They take heroin in the back streets of Manchester's city centre.

He said: "I had a good life, what you'd call an average life, a car, a flat. I got laid off last year. I had never been out of work before.

"Now I wake up, go and score, go and take it, go and find a pitch and start raising money again to score again and that goes on and on.

"If I don't get help now I'll still be doing this into my 50s and 60s and I don't want that. Heroin just makes you feel bad when you don't have it. It doesn't make you feel good anymore."

Meanwhile, new figures show the number of heroin-related deaths in England have risen sharply.

The number of people dying through heroin and morphine abuse increased by around a third (32%) between 2012 and 13 from 579 to 765.

And the number of people admitted to hospital with drug poisoning has soared by 76% over the last decade.

But there is hope in the form of recovered addicts like Steve Cundell, who first dabbled in heroin so that he could come down from ecstasy fuelled raves in the 1980s.

He went from experimenting to dealing in a matter of weeks.

He said: "I thought it wouldn't grip me but it did and very, very fast.

"I decided the best way to get my supply was to start dealing in it. My every waking hour was consumed by heroin.

"It used to play on my mind so much that I was getting older and older and I had not achieved anything - that I was going to wake up one day 65 or 70-years-old still on heroin."

Mr Cundell is now a peer mentor on a rehabilitation course run by Turning Point and tries to help others.

He added: "I like to think I have something to give back and it helps my recovery - because I'm not out of the woods yet."