JUST 20 drug-dependent offenders in Middlesbrough are estimated to have cost taxpayers £784,000 in only two years.

The claim comes as addiction organisations gather for a major conference today – and announce a groundbreaking new project to help hardened drug addicts turn their lives around.

Under the scheme the most hardened addicts will visit a clinic three times a day to inject heroin under supervision in a scheme which aims to wean them off gradually, while offering other support with housing and health.

World experts on drug addiction are coming to the town today to share the latest research and thinking on drug addiction and how best to help people escape it.

And the conference, which is being organised by drug treatment organisation Middlesbrough Recovering Together, along with specialist GP practice Foundations, will mark the unveiling of the pilot scheme which it is hoped will reduce the enormous cost the problem poses to local businesses.

It is also hoped it will also free up NHS, police and other criminal justice resources.

The scheme will focus on addicts who do not respond to current strategies and often find themselves on a cycle of crime to feed the addiction and prison, which continues until they die.

It would cost £12,000 per addict to put the 20 most prolific drug offenders through the new scheme – significantly less than they have cost the public purse in the last two years.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, who is supporting the conference and bringing together partners to drive the pilot scheme forward, said: “It’s clear that for a small group of addicts the current strategies are not working and if we don’t try something new the cycle of offending and the enormous costs to society will simply continue and in all likelihood increase."

Injectable Opioid Treatment will see a clinic established to allow substance users to self-administer under supervision three times a day in a programme that weans them off heroin.

The trial will focus on long-term addicts for whom all other treatment has failed and who are known to be the most active criminals in the town as they look to finance their addiction.

Daniel Ahmed, a clinical partner with Foundations, said: "Basically these were traumatised children who experienced adverse child experiences.

"The rest of their lives have not been much better as they have been constantly punished by society.

"The reality is that at present they are on a cycle of addiction and offending until they die.”