Kicking the habit

PUBLISHED: 11:46 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 May 2010

Melissa Ames

Melissa Ames

THIS week The Comet is pleased to be supporting an aspiring young journalist by publishing her article about the story of a drug addict trying to get back on his feet. Melissa Ames is an 18-year-old student at Oaklands College in Welwyn Garden City. Throu

Mark undergoes acupuncture

THIS week The Comet is pleased to be supporting an aspiring young journalist by publishing her article about the story of a drug addict trying to get back on his feet. Melissa Ames is an 18-year-old student at Oaklands College in Welwyn Garden City. Through the drug and alcohol action team at Hertfordshire County Council she visited a drug intervention programme in Stevenage Old Town and met Mark Crabb who is trying to rebuild his life after years of drug abuse. As part of a competition run by the Home Office, if Melissa's article is published in the local press, she stands a chance of having her work appear nationally.

Drug-related crime is an issue which can prove to be hard to tackle, but the Hertfordshire Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) is working to make a difference.

Through supporting drug addicts as they try to kick the habit, Herts DIP aims to reduce the level of drug-related offending. A new client at the clinic in Stevenage Old Town talked about how the DIP is helping him to change his life.

Mark Crabb, 32, has used drugs for a number of years. "I started using recreational drugs at 14 or 15. By age 17 I had started to use Class A drugs such as heroin," he said.

In his home town of Tottenham, north London, he found it easy to get hold of drugs, especially when working in the rave scene.

He initially funded his addiction through work, but after losing his job in 2000 he found himself resorting to crime in order to pay for his habit.

After being in and out of prison for drug-related offences he managed to stay clean for three years, aided by the Chrysalis Project in Hertford.

However, after being kicked out of his brother's flat in December last year, Mark suffered a relapse which resulted in him getting charged with drug-related theft and serving two months in prison.

After his recent release, he made the decision to change his lifestyle. He knew people already involved in the programme and had heard positive things. "It seemed like it could help. You don't know 'til you give it a go," he said.

Mark has an optimistic outlook on the future. He hopes the DIP can give him support finding housing.

"At the moment I'm sofa-surfing," he said.

He is also making use of other facilities, such as the acupuncture clinic, which he finds "very relaxing".

When asked about how he felt having police officers giving him support, his response was surprisingly positive.

"I was a bit apprehensive at first, but there are some good, sympathetic officers," he said.

As well as support from staff on the programme, Mark has his parents and siblings by his side to help him get over his addiction.

However, he feels this time he needs to do it by himself.

He said: "My family are really supportive. They've been there so many times, and now it's down to me. The ball's in my court."

With plans to return to the clinic in the future, Mr Crabb is sure that this time, with the DIP's help, he will be able to stay clean.

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