I smoked heroin every day at 16 and slept with men to fund habit – drug addicts like me should get help not prison
FEW people knows the dangers of Bristol’s scene better than Shanon Hathway, who was addicted to crack, heroin and alcohol for 20 years.
The 37-year-old, clean for six years, said: “Every day I’d wake up in need of a fix and spend the rest of the day trying to find the cash to pay for drugs. I’d sleep with men for cash for drugs."
For 20 years I was in and out of prison after turning to petty theft to fund my habit.”
Shanon — who lives with daughter Lexi, four, and husband Keith, 46, also a former user — works as a criminal justice recovery worker at Bristol’s Nelson Trust, a charity that helps people whose lives have been ruined by addiction.
She says: “Drug users need help, not to be punished.”
Bristol police have in recent years encouraged users into recovery, rather than locking them up.
“They are victims in this too,” explains Inspector Green. “We are after the gang leaders at the top of the chain who cause all this misery.”
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Matt Shepherd*, a recovering drug user and dealer from nearby Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was groomed into gangs as a child.
“I was brought up around substance addiction and my family were drug dealers,” he explains.
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The 40-year-old has been in recovery for six months and now volunteers for With You, a charity that helps people battling drug, alcohol or mental health issues.
He explains: “I started smoking cannabis and heroin when I was 12 and was injecting heroin by 16. By 17, I was addicted to crack.
“I was groomed by older drug dealers and got into gangs when I was 13.”
Between the ages of 15 and 27 Matt was in and out of jail.
After his final prison stint he was put on methadone, which was his first introduction to recovery.
Matt is now married with kids and has helped hundreds of drug users.
As part of Operation Scorpion, police also made more than 320 visits to vulnerable people’s addresses and conducted nearly 50 educational trips to schools, youth clubs and colleges to talk about grooming into drug gangs.
Drug crackdowns like the one we witnessed in Bristol take months to plan and it is dangerous work.
Last year there were almost 37,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales, including British Transport Police. In Bristol alone, around six officers are assaulted a day.
“Fortunately, no officers have been injured today carrying out their duties,” says Inspector Green.
By 4pm, my shift is coming to an end. It has been an illuminating and exhausting day but one that gives me — one of Bristol’s 465,900 residents — hope that the menace of drugs is finally being tackled.
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But in the cocaine capital, the fightback still has a long way to go.
*Name has been changed
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