A PORT man who turned his life around after getting hooked on heroin at 16 and watching it claim the life of his brother says the methadone programme is a waste of money.

Neil Ainslie says his life spiralled out of control when he started injecting heroin at the age of just 16.

In a devastating turn of events in 1998, Neil's older brother Jamie died aged 24 after taking the drug.

Neil won his battle against addiction thanks to the support he received from Margaret Diamond and her team at Jericho House drug rehabilitation unit in Greenock.

Now he manages Jericho's sister project in Derby.

The 39-year-old says he is saddened after new figures released last week showed drug deaths are on the rise in Inverclyde.

He said: "It does make me sad as Inverclyde is my home town.

"Drug addiction is a worldwide problem - it's a sorry state of affairs.

"I have never known anyone who says methadone has helped them and I've known a lot of drug addicts over the years.

"It does take the desperation out of addiction but it's the furthest thing from a cure you can find.

"Instead of using money to deal with the symptoms of addiction, the money should be used to fix the actual problem.

"There is a reason why people become drug addicts and people become heroin addicts.

"That's the problem that needs to be addressed."

Neil knows all too well of the devastating impact of drug addiction and the toll it took on his mum Bridie of Broadfield Avenue in Port Glasgow.

He said: "When my brother died it devastated my mum - it ripped the soul out of her.

"I can't put into words how traumatic it was.

"I was still stuck in addiction when my brother died.

"After he died, I tried to sort myself out by getting a job and going on methadone.

"But I was still taking valium and alcohol so eventually my addiction came back, worse than ever.

"I lived with my mum and she had to watch me go through this insanity where I didn't want to use but I couldn't break away from it.

"I had lost all my motivation, dignity and self respect."

But Neil says Jericho House saved his life.

He said: "Jericho told me that if you recover, you can achieve anything you can and be anything.

"I used to be the wee junkie sitting about street corners smoking weed and taking jellies but they made me realised that it was not me, I'm not that guy.

"Now I'm helping others.

"It's my duty to help people when they're not being helped."

Neil strongly believes that abstinence is the way forward.

He said: "I was forced to look at myself and at all the lies I'd told."

Neil believes there should be greater emphasis on drug education, especially in schools.

He said: "I ticked all the boxes I needed to at school and then smoked weed and before you know it I'm on heroin, it all happened so fast.

"Nobody tried to educate me about drugs, there was no guidance.

"Education is so important."