The Home Office has issued the first UK licence to distribute free supplies of heroin to addicts.
The centre, based in Middlesbrough, will attempt to wean long-term addicts off the Class A drug by controlling their intake.
The facility is backed by local police and doctors but experts fear the move will attract more addicts and ‘increase addiction’.
Users will be allowed up to three shots of the medical-grade heroin – diamorphine – per day.
Nurses will load the correct dose into a syringe and oversee its administration, but in most cases users will inject themselves.
The Middlesbrough centre opens in the Autumn and will be followed by an NHS heroin assisted treatment centre in Glasgow.
David Green, Director of think-tank Civitas, said if drug distribution centres become accepted, they “could increase the amount of addiction”.
He said: “I would like to see a heavy emphasis on getting people off drugs altogether as the first-choice line of attack.”
Drugs researcher Neil McKeganey said the treatment of drug addicts “should be focused on helping them into a drug-free state, not facilitating dependence”.
West Midlands, Durham, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioners have backed the move and expressed interest in setting up similar facilities.