NHS Scotland is to open the UK’s first Heroin Assisted Treatment centre, which will see nurses distribute heroin to addicts up to three times a day.
The centre, set to open after the summer, will be available to users who have been unable to break their addiction.
But a drugs expert warned that the scheme would “incentivise failure” and could lead to thousands of Scots being hooked on NHS heroin.
Addicts will be given an appointment at the centre where they will be put into a private booth and allowed, in most cases, to inject themselves.
Nurses will be expected to load the correct dosage into the syringe and then oversee its administration.
Users will be allowed up to three shots of medical-grade heroin – diamorphine – per day.
Despite claims that the scheme will ease pressure on the health service, reduce crime and save lives, critics argue it will only deepen Scotland’s drug epidemic.
Neil McKeganey, Founding Director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said: “The treatment of people addicted to heroin should be focused on helping them into a drug-free state, not facilitating dependence.”
“You are effectively saying to users that if they don’t get better on other things such as methadone you will give them the drug they crave.”
Patricia Chapman, an ex-addict who lives near the centre, said: “It’s terrible. I used to smoke heroin and came off it with methadone and detox. I’m not sure how I would have fared if I knew I could get it on the NHS.”
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells, said: “Heroin addicts should be helped to beat the habit altogether, not be assisted by the NHS in taking the drugs which have ruined their lives.”
“This is the wrong approach, which will only make Scotland’s drug crisis worse.”
Heroin was responsible for 83 per cent of drug-related deaths in 2017, and an estimated 5,500 people inject drugs in Glasgow alone.