I smoked heroin every day when I was 16 and slept with men to fund the habit

FEW people know the dangers of the Bristol scene better than Shanon Hathway, who was a crack, heroin and alcohol addict for 20 years.

The 37-year-old, who has been clean for six years, said: “Every day I would wake up needing a solution and I would spend the rest of the day trying to find the money for medication. I would sleep with men for money for drugs.”

Recovering addict Matt* started using drugs when he was 12 years old


Recovering addict Matt* started using drugs when he was 12 years oldCredit: Alamy

I was in and out of prison for 20 years after turning to petty larceny to fund my addiction.”

Shanon – who lives with daughter Lexi, 4, and husband Keith, 46, also a former consumer – works as a criminal justice officer at Bristol’s Nelson Trust, a charity that helps people whose lives have been ruined by addiction.

She says: “Drug users need help, not to be punished.”

Bristol Police have been encouraging users to rest rather than jail in recent years.

“They’re victims too,” explains Inspector Green. “We’re after the gang leaders at the top of the chain who are causing all this misery.”

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Matt Shepherd*, a recovering drug user and dealer from nearby Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was drawn into gangs as a child.

“I grew up addicted to drugs and my family were drug dealers,” he explains.

The 40-year-old has been recovering for six months and now volunteers for With You, a charity that helps people struggling with drug, alcohol or mental health issues.

He explains: “I started smoking cannabis and heroin when I was 12 and was injecting heroin when I was 16. I was addicted to crack when I was 17.

“I was groomed by older drug dealers and got into gangs when I was 13.”

Between the ages of 15 and 27, Matt was in and out of prison.

After his final stint in prison, he was placed on methadone, which was his first introduction to recovery.

Matt is now married with children and has helped hundreds of drug users.

As part of Operation Scorpion, police also visited more than 320 addresses of vulnerable people and conducted nearly 50 educational trips to schools, youth clubs and colleges to talk about infiltrating drug gangs.

Drug raids like the ones we saw in Bristol take months to plan and it’s dangerous work.

Last year there were almost 37,000 attacks on police officers in England and Wales, including British transport police. In Bristol alone, around six officers are attacked every day.

“Fortunately, no officers were injured while carrying out their duties today,” says Inspector Green.

My shift ends at 4 p.m. It’s been an enlightening and tiring day, but one that gives me – one of Bristol’s 465,900 residents – hope that the drug threat is finally being tackled.

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But the fight still has a long way to go in the cocaine capital.

*Name has been changed

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Bobby Allyn

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