At a clinic in a nondescript suburb of Perth, Western Australia, Dr George O'Neil has treated 12,000 drug users with an implant to help get them off heroin.

The device, which releases naltrexone into a patient's stomach to block the effects of heroin, is legal but not officially licensed.

Dr O'Neil believes it could help tackle the drugs crisis inflicting Scotland, where more than 1100 lives were claimed last year.

The figures released on Tuesday painted a bleak picture, with drugs deaths more than doubling in the last decade.

The doctor, who spent time working as an obstretician in Scotland, told STV News: "If you give the very sick heroin addict the same attention that you do other mental health patients and say 'this person without regular treatment is sick' then you only have to get him to come for an implant every six months or nine months.

"And if you do that you can guarantee he'll have got rid of one problem, which is opiate dependence. All his other problems in terms of behaviour become much easier to manage once you've got rid of your opiate addiction."

Because the implant remains in a user's system for a long period of time it eliminates the need for remembering to take a pill or have regular injections.

Dr O'Neil believes it's a more effective approach than the traditional process of getting addicts onto the heroin substitute methadone.

"When you're full of naltexone you won't have any overdoses," he said.

"So you're working with people to actually move them out of heroin dependence. Whereas if you put them on opiates, you're prolonging their dependence."

Misha Guy was first treated by Dr O'Neil in 2003 when she was looking for methadone to help her off heroin - instead she was offered the naltrexone implant.

She said: "He said that he had this new thing, this naltrexone, that I hadn't heard of before, that you didn't need to go to the chemist every day.

"He just did an implant and you detoxed and that was the end of it for 12 months. I've never used heroin again since.

"I'd struggled with that since the week before my 13th birthday. I'd been using heroin, and that was every day, like there would be lucky to be a day in those years that I didn't have any and it had just become my life.

"It had become my numbing thing to make everything okay. I was happy not being happy or sad, I was happy just being numb. He gave me my life back basically."

Dr O'Neil has offered to train a number of UK doctors in his technique and supply the required devices. Treating a patient with naltrexone implants costs around £850.

The clinic in Perth gets some funding from the government of Western Australia, but Dr O'Neill believes it will take international collaboration to provide the money to have the treatment officially registered which could then lead to it becoming more widespread.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: "The Chief Medical Officer has received a letter from Dr O'Neil and will respond in due course.

"The use of methadone is highly stigmatised, and I strongly encourage those in the public domain to be conscious of the impact that their criticism can have on those who benefit from such treatments.

"While we are clear that prescribed drug treatment cannot be the only treatment option available on the path to recovery, the use of methadone remains a central component of the treatment for opiate dependency, when provided as part of a package of care, treatment and recovery.

"All medicines, including methadone or other opioid substitutes such as buprenorphine, should be prescribed based on clinical need and discussed with patients within the context of their long-term recovery.

"Prescriptions should be reviewed regularly to achieve the best possible health outcomes and on-going support should be provided to patients who are prescribed medicines that are known to be addictive."