Health: It's great to be straight

Shaun Ryder was the wild man of Manchester, known for dance music and drugs - and not necessarily in that order. Here, he reveals how a revolutionary treatment helped him come clean. By Daisy Price
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The Independent Culture
Happy Monday's star Shaun Ryder claims that a revolutionary new drug treatment helped him overcome a 15-year heroin addiction. Last year, the singer was fitted with a stomach implant containing naltrexone, a drug used to combat opiate addiction. After years spent in and out of rehab, he now believes he has conquered his addiction.

Ryder is lead singer of Happy Mondays, an Indie-dance band which came on to the music scene in the late 1980s. Their album Pills `N' Thrills and Bellyaches, released in 1990, made them one of the most successful bands of the 90s. Alongside other groups such as Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets, they were part of the "Madchester" movement.

Followers were known for baggy clothing, sex and wild parties and the taking of drugs to excess. Ryder was the notorious wild man of Manchester at the time, rumoured to be involved with gangsters and using drug money to buy instruments. The band has recently got back together after splitting six years ago.

Ryder says: "I first heard about naltrexone through someone in the music business. But he had taken the oral version of the drug. When I went to enquire about it, I found that the implants were available. The implants aren't a magic cure for heroin addiction but are probably better than the pills - you can always stop taking the pills, you can't exactly rip the implants out of your belly (although I haven't actually tried).

"I wasn't nervous about the surgery, I didn't give a fuck about the possible side affects. I'd tried every other form of treatment and just wanted something that worked.

"I'd tried methadone, which helped stop me fucking around with gear [heroin], but for me, coming off the methadone was worse than the cold turkey from the heroin. I think the older you get (and I'm 37 now) the harder it is to have the will-power to come off.

"The surgery was carried out last year by Colin Brewer at the London Bridge Hospital, which is part of the Stapleford Centre in central London. I was in and out within 24 hours. I was put under general anaesthetic and received my first implant. This cost me about pounds 5,000. I had to come back six weeks later to receive the second implant under local anaesthetic and then, six weeks after that, for the next.

"The implants didn't really hurt. It was just like having a tattoo, but not even really that painful, just like a pin prick, in fact. I was only left with a little scar a couple of inches below my pubic area.

"After the operation, I wouldn't say I was feeling wonderful, but there were no physical side affects. I didn't get any cravings or feel any pain - although, for about seven to eight months afterwards my mind was playing pure head games and I suffered from depression. I went through fucking hell and almost threw myself out of a window on a few occasions. For months, I couldn't sleep properly, even sleeping pills like temazepam didn't seem to work.

"I never tried to take opiates while I had the implants. I was told that, if I did, I'd go in to instant cold turkey. Even over the counter opiates like codeine would have had that effect. I didn't relapse while the implants were in. But one morning I work up with a craving once the naltrexone had worn out. This relapse didn't last long.

"I would definitely recommend the implant to other addicts, because there are no physical side effects. I think counselling is still needed to deal with what is going on inside your head. Also, I think you've got to want to come off the drugs in the first place. I turned to booze for a bit to escape, but managed to get over that as well. Now I'm fine and have started mountain biking for kicks instead."