MORE details of a pioneering North-East "shooting gallery" for heroin addicts were released today.

Yesterday The Northern Echo reported that a controversial Darlington clinic that provides two free daily shots of NHS heroin to addicts was being hailed as the best way to cut crime and reduce the purchase of illicit street heroin.

Today the full details of the Randomised Injectable Opioid Treatment Trial, known as RIOTT, were released at a conference in London.

The Darlington clinic, which is at an undisclosed location, is one of three in England which have provided free daily injections of either heroin, heroin substitute (methadone) or an oral version of methadone to a hard core of difficult to manage heroin addicts over the last three years.

Today, experts from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse said that the RIOTT trial, comparing methods of treatment, had produced "remarkable" results and suggested that providing injectable heroin to hardcore addicts should be a model for other towns and cities across England.

Based on similar so-called shooting galleries in Switzerland, the RIOTT trial demonstrated that it is possible to retain in treatment "some of the most entrenched, hard-to-treat heroin addicts for whom previous treatment, rehabilitation and prison appear to have had little beneficial effect."

All three groups in the trial saw a reduction in the use of illicit street heroin, but the biggest reduction was among those given injectable NHS heroin.

Three quarters of those given injectable heroin twice a day remained "largely abstinent" from street heroin use.

There was also what was described as "a dramatic reduction" in self-reported crime.

Those in the group receiving heroin admitted committing a total of 1,731 crimes in the 30 day period before entering treatment.

After six months this fell to 547 crimes (a reduction of 1,184 crimes per month).

All the service users enrolled in the programme were already receiving oral methadone treatment prior to taking part in the RIOTT project.

The NTASM experts point out that at a cost of £15,000 per patient per year it is considerably cheaper than prison, which typically costs around £44,000 a year per person.