If you thought Space Cadets was the pits, just wait for the new Channel 4 reality show

Forget witchetty grubs, high-wire trials and Space Cadets. Try convulsions, vomiting and gut-wrenching pain. Channel 4 is to screen a brutal, live reality-style series in which viewers will see heroin addicts going "cold turkey" as they try to come off the drug.

The station and producers believe the week-long series will act as a stark warning to viewers about the dangers of getting involved with the drug when it is shown in the New Year. Cameras will be placed within a treatment clinic and follow at least three addicts as they go through withdrawal with twice-daily programmes.

But critics say exposure on television could leave the addicts vulnerable in the vital weeks after the detox when they will need a strong support network.

Programme-makers will not be searching for addicts. Those featured will already be signed up to start a programme and will have to give consent to appear on television. Co-executive producer Nick Curwin said: "Anyone tuning in thinking this is going to be entertaining will be sorely disappointed. This is one of the most brutal experiences known to man. It is going to be extremely tough to watch and if you are just looking for a bankable TV hit, you wouldn't be commissioning it. It's very brave.

"The basic principle is that we want to show what the experience of coming off heroin is like. The point is to show the kind of grip it has over people, not just the addicts but their families and friends. We wanted to be able to show it in a clear and visceral way, and doing it will be as campaigning, without being worthy, as we can possibly be."

The series, yet to be given a name, was initially commissioned as an educational programme for morning screenings, but Channel 4 chiefs have decided to schedule post-watershed shows as well. A documentary will later be screened to examine the long-term success of the withdrawals.

"There will be all sorts of challenges for us because some of the programmes will be going out in the morning. Although we want to give young people a very good, clear, visual appreciation of what all this is about, we also need to take care," said Mr Curwin, the joint managing director of Firefly productions which is making the show. His firm's past projects have included Anatomy for Beginners in which Günther von Hagens dissected corpses on screen.

There are around 60,000 registered heroin users in the UK, according to figures released this year. During withdrawal, addicts experience symptoms such as tremors, muscle cramps, diarrhoea and insomnia, usually peaking two to three days after their last hit.

John Beyer, director of campaigners Mediawatch UK, applauded the aims of the programme. "Drug abuse is a very serious problem, and if they can persuade people not to take drugs it can be a good thing," he said. "But what bothers me most about it is that on the one hand they say they want to show the reality of drug abuse and then on the other they show movies which tend to glamorise their use."

A spokeswoman for the drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction said: "I do hope it is not exploitative but I have concerns about the programme. I hope that individuals are not made more vulnerable. It is not just about withdrawal: it is about what happens to them afterwards, the support they get."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine