Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Monday, 22 May 2006 17:14 UK

Grandma cheers victory over drugs

By Eric Simpson
BBC News, East Midlands

Josie Potts with her grandson's football kit
Mrs Potts says football has helped youngsters avoid drugs
Josie Potts remembers the day her little grandson brought a collection of used needles back from the wasteland behind her house.

"It scared me - I began to think about his future," the 58-year-old school cleaner from Nottinghamshire said.

Three years later, she says, the former mining community where she lives has been transformed.

The change was partly due to a three-day inquiry into the heroin problem organised by her local MP, she said.

Mrs Potts joined the inquiry and helped take the numerous recommendations, covering everything from job creation and drugs treatments to sport for the young, to the Home Office in London.

"It is a lovely feeling to sit in the chemist and see someone you knew (was hooked) is now getting proper treatment.

The crime rate is down big style - you aren't hearing about sheds being robbed to feed their habit or shoplifting
Josie Potts

"There are lots who have had the treatment that have been clean for three years. They have their own homes and are building their own lives."

Mrs Potts said youngsters in Manton near Worksop were now busy playing in local football leagues.

And jobs have arrived with the opening of a distribution warehouse and sandwich factory.

"It is positive here now - it is on the up. I have lived here 33 years and it did get out of hand with people walking the streets out of their heads on heroin and dealing," Mrs Potts said.

"But the crime rate is down big style - you aren't hearing about sheds being robbed to feed their habit or shoplifting.

Pies and crisps

"I used to feed them - they would whistle at the end of the garden - I'd feed them pies and crisps and sometimes a hot meal on Sunday. But I have never got burgled by addicts - I think they had respect for me.

"It was rife three years ago - there were deaths - about 10 deaths (from drug abuse) in 18 months in this community."

The situation in Mansfield - another former mining community just down the A60 in Nottinghamshire - is similar, but one former drug user says more still needs to be done.

Calvin Madin, 40, is a drugs counsellor who was hooked on drugs himself for 24 years.

He spent almost 14 months in residential rehabilitation and managed to turn his life around.

Calvin Madin in his doorway
Calvin Madin took drugs for 24 years

Even though heroin is less of a problem in Mansfield now, he thinks some addicts are still finding it hard to get help.

"Housing is a major problem for drug users who are trying to put their lives back together.

"If you have no place to live and no support network - we are failing people - it makes it difficult for people trying to counsel them if their life is chaotic."

Mr Madin said he once had to explain to a drug user that the programmes were designed mainly for criminal offenders.

No waiting

"Basically you have to commit a crime to get into the treatment quicker. For someone who does not commit crime - you are right at the bottom of the pile."

But Kate Davies, head of drug and alcohol services for the county, said help was available for self-referrals or addicts sent by their GP - or by the criminal justice system.

"We used to have waiting lists - but we don't any more."

She said in 2005-06 there were 2,476 people treated for drug problems in Nottinghamshire - not including Nottingham city - and two or three years ago there were about 1,100.

John Tunney of the Mansfield Partnership Against Crime said crime figures for theft and house burglary had dropped from 1,671 in 1995 to 717 burglaries in 2005.

But Mr Madin said: "We need more services for people who are abused and it is a massive lack of that. Those issues can send people back on that drug cycle.

"Sexual counselling is sometimes difficult to find. It is not that there isn't anything available - but they are over-stretched."

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A former user talks about her addiction

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02 Mar 05 |  Nottinghamshire
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