Fortress three miles out to sea will keep drug addicts from temptation

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The Independent Online

The Bull Sand Fort, which is Grade II listed and known as the "Alcatraz of the North", has already been granted planning permission and is expected to receive its first patients next year.

Instead of catering for stressed-out celebrities needing a respite from partying, the isolated clinic is aimed at men and women with acute addiction problems.

Streetwise, the Essex-based anti-drug charity, said that a team of psychiatrists, counsellors and doctors will treat up to 150 patients using a 30-day programme similar to Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step recovery treatment.

The only way off the fort, which is three miles from Cleethorpes, is by ferry or helicopter. Teams of volunteers are already removing mounds of seagull droppings from the derelict four-storey building.

Experts say there is a need for more intensive treatment programmes in Britain that are effective in weaning people off drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin. This week, it was reported that Kate Moss, the model pictured allegedly taking cocaine, had flown to the US to check in to an addiction clinic which is known for its intensive regime.

A government report earlier this year revealed that only 20 per cent of the 280,000 "high-risk" heroin and cocaine users were receiving treatment at any one time and that the majority fail to stick with programmes. Ministers have unveiled a new Bill to crack down on drug use but drugs awareness charities say what is needed is more funding to get people off drugs.

Research published this month by academics at Imperial College London and Bristol University revealed that the extent of crack addiction, for example, is more widespread than realised with as many as 50,000 Londoners addicted to the drug.

Philip Ball, a trustee of Streetwise who has spent the past six years raising funds for the conversion of Bull Sand Fort, said the centre would be a "place of safety" for addicts that would keep them away from temptation. His son, Stephen, died from a heroin overdose while at university when he was 21. "The fact is there were no doors to open for Stephen and the system failed him," said the accountant from Essex. "I never want a father to go through what I had to."

The National Treatment Agency, the government agency that oversees the running of rehab programmes, said it could not comment on specific projects but said it welcomed new services that respected the rights of patients and followed established clinical guidelines.