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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Readers share heroin experiences
Karen Davies

The BBC News website received hundreds of emails in response to Karen Davies' story of how she lost her son to heroin.

Karen described the pain of seeing her son deteriorate and the effect his addiction had on the family. Despite loving him, she says she felt a "moment of relief" when he died.

Many responses were from people saying they had had similar experiences either as an addict themselves or as a friend or relative of an addict.

Below is a selection of your experiences.

I am a girl of 20 and my dad has been addicted to class A drugs my whole life.

I've never known my real dad, only the druggy dad that borrows money off me all the time
C, Sussex
This means that I've never known my real dad, only the druggy dad that borrows money off me all the time, lies, cheats and can't be bothered to know his kids because he's too wrapped up in drugs.

He's 45 years old and doesn't even have his own house because all his money gets spent on drugs. I have my own problems to deal with and I don't need to be worried about whether my dad will be alive or not tomorrow.

I know what Karen is saying about relief, the whole time they are abusing drugs you're waiting for something terrible to happen to them, at least when it actually happens you get those few seconds before the grief sets in when you don't have to worry anymore.
C, Sussex

I've been addicted to heroin for 4 years now, I've tried numerous times to come off, but I feel the help is not always there.

Not all addicts are the same, you can't label us all as burglars
I've had counsellors missing appointments, accusing me of switching urine samples when they were clean.

Not all addicts are the same, you can't label us all as burglars. People just don't realise the strong grip it has on people and you don't know the reasons they started in the first place.

Six years ago my sister ran away from home. She came back last year, a week after her 25th birthday, she looked like a skeleton, she barely weighed six stone, her skin was pale and she had black lips.

She came home and confessed that she had been using heroin for two or three years and wanted to go clean.

The nights were the worst as heroin turned her into an insomniac and getting a fix to alleviate her withdrawal symptoms was all she could think about
Gill, Middlesex
The entire family disowned her with the exception of my mum and myself. We couldn't afford to put her through rehab and our GP was uninterested. We were given the wrong information on several occasions about where to get help and support.

We would have had to practically re-mortgage our house if we wanted to get her any treatment of a professional standard and the information we received from the NHS was vague.

So my mother and I took alternate turns to look after her over about a two month period, juggling home and work at the same time. We kept a constant vigil over her and watched her go through the withdrawal symptoms.

Not an easy process, during the day she would eat, be sick and sleep for about an hour. Her body was so exhausted that she would fall asleep instantly, it would take both the effort of my mum and me in order to bathe her and keep her afloat if she fainted in the bath.

The nights were the worst as heroin turned her into an insomniac and getting a fix to alleviate her withdrawal symptoms was all she could think about. She was prescribed diazepam to help her sleep but it did nothing for her. So as long as she was awake you were awake.

But we helped her though it and she has been clean for over a year.

Having gone thought the process of nursing a loved one off heroin I wish I could have had some form of support and guidance for myself and my mother as we had no knowledge in what we were doing and what we were supposed to be doing.
Gill, Middlesex, UK

My younger sister was addicted to heroin and did some truly diabolical things to me and my family whilst she was using. Her entire personality changed and the only thing that mattered to her was where she could get her next fix from.

She went through several programs of treatment but these didn't help because she wanted heroin more than she wanted to live. In the end it was combination of tough love from my parents and extended family and the fact that she almost died that got her into rehab.

I didn't speak or see her for over 10 years but now we are trying to rebuild our relationship. It is hard when you are constantly reminded of the drug abuse because she has serious health problems caused by the heroin. It is very sad that I was robbed of my sister for so long and now her future is limited too.
Racine Whitehall, London

I would like to pay tribute to Karen. My twin sister has a son who is just 24 and reading Karen's article mirrors exactly the horrors of what he went through as a heroin addict and the pain and helplessness you feel as a parent of a son or daughter going through this hell.

Once the evil of drugs has touched your life, whether you are the addict or the relative you can never truly escape from them
Lynne Thomas, Leamington Spa
My nephew knew he was at the end of the road like Christian and also sought rehab. He went through the hardest most gruelling time of his life, but thankfully he succeeded and has since studied at university, obtained a degree and has embarked on a career that holds fantastic opportunities for him.

We know we are very lucky because he's still in our lives and we're very proud of his achievements but his past remains as he too sees home as associated with drugs and dealers and won't return. Once the evil of drugs has touched your life, whether you are the addict or the relative you can never truly escape from them.
Lynne Thomas, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK

My brother has been an addict for 12 years now and it's like a black hole in the centre of our family. It is particularly hard for my mother as many of her friends have withdrawn from her since she told them - do they think it's contagious? Please can people be more supportive of addicts' families? The pain is indescribable and social rejection makes it worse.
Charlotte, London, UK

My brother died from a drug overdose just this year. It was a combination of pills and alcohol. He'd been taking both heavily for a while. One night he just stopped breathing. He was only 26. Seeing him self destruct was like watching a car crash in slow motion. It's such a horrible, helpless feeling.
Steven, Melbourne, Australia

My daughter is a heroin addict and has been for four years. It has been the worst four years of my life. When I know she is using I have not helped her financially, but at the moment I believe she is not using so I do give her money and food to help her.

The problem is that I can never be sure and this makes it hard, and every time I see her is traumatic as I continually look for signs of her using. I want to believe the things she tells me but addicts are amazing liars, and it is this uncertainty that makes my life so unbearable. I worry about her continually, and try to have faith that she will recover.
Maureen Parker, Glos. UK

My ex-husband's drug addiction cost him his job, his home and ultimately his marriage. I stood by him for nearly three years but could not deal with the lies, the cheating and the stealing any longer. He sank to depths I never thought possible. His parents (and mine) are still counting the cost financially as his debts spiralled out of control to the tune of almost 60,000. I come from a typical middle-class family and never thought this would happen to me. It reaches a point where you have to let go, and get on with your own life.
Kirsty, Chester, UK

My nephew died due to an overdose of heroin. He had been on methadone for some time and was keeping away from his former drug-using "friends".

I have good reason to believe that my nephew would be alive today if drugs were legalised
Tommy, Cardiff
He overdosed when he came back into contact with his addict friends. I understand that he would not have died if the strength of the drug was realised.

I feel quite strongly that drugs should be de-criminalised and supplied by the local chemist. I suspect that the majority of drug-related deaths are due to overdose or a drug that has been contaminated by the supplier. I have good reason to believe that my nephew would be alive today if drugs were legalised.
Tommy, Cardiff

I am a 50 year old grandmother looking after my 11-year-old granddaughter since the death of my only daughter to heroin five years ago. I completely know what it is like to wish a child free of this terrible addiction even if it means their death. Despite missing and loving my daughter every single day I would not ask her to be brought back to live a life of despair, degradation and suffering.

My heart goes out to all parents struggling to cope with this every day nightmare.
Lorraine, Somerset, Somerset

I lost a very close friend this summer to heroin. I knew he had dabbled when we were at University, but he had gotten a good banking position and I thought that things were well. The day he died his girlfriend called me. I hadn't seen him in a year and had no idea the state of things, when I asked her why she hadn't told anyone, she said it was because she couldn't get over the shame of it.

I have begun the healing process and in that process discovered that in New York City, addicts and regular citizens can get access to naloxone (also known as Narcan). In an acute situation this drug can stop an overdose and save lives.

I have begun working with addicts teaching them how to use these drugs to save each other. Obviously, it would be better that they just get off the junk, but if they are using, then being informed is the best way to prevent more mothers and families and friends from saying goodbye prematurely.

For those of us left behind we can only live life a little more fabulously and with a lot more love, in that we will remember our loved ones and heal our own hearts.
James, New York, NY

I lost my elder brother to drugs - methadone - seven years ago. His sudden and unexpected death left behind a huge emotional and practical workload for us all and it was a year before we'd finished sorting out his things. My father has never been quite the same: it hit him very hard.

Luckily the process brought us closer together as a family and we're able to openly reminisce about him and have a laugh as well as share the harder moments.
Chris, London, UK

My brother also lost his life due to the misuse of heroin and crack cocaine, I begged him to stop, begged doctors to help him but to no avail.

We never saw him again until his body was found on waste ground across the road
Bonnie Frankton, Coventry
It is coming up to the two year anniversary of his death and its only now that I realise that I did all I could to help him.

Myself and my mother refused to give my brother money and I think he felt that there was no way out of his situation, so he walked off one evening and we never saw him again until his body was found on waste ground across the road. He had hung himself with his shoe laces.

I feel that people choose to ignore the problem of heroin, no-one wants to help these young kids who get caught up in something that is very difficult to get out of.
Bonnie Frankton, Coventry

Karen's story is so awfully familiar to me. My sister became a heroin addict at 15, I was 12 at the time. That was 22 years ago, she's still alive but doesn't have a life, just an existence.

She has paid the ultimate price for her dependency on drugs: she now has AIDS from needle sharing. I have had to watch what this illness has done to our mother; I've often said to my sister "if you don't put yourself in a wooden box, you'll put mum in one".

I've wished her dead so many times which is something that nobody can comprehend. People will say "I can imagine what it's like". They can't.
KT, Newcastle upon Tyne

Thank you, Karen, for telling your story. Dealing with an addict has been and still is, one of the most exhausting and despairing experiences of my life and I can completely understand your momentary sense of relief.

Coming from a very middle-class town where people think heroin only happens in big cities or to a certain class of people, I think the more people who tell stories like yours, the more people will be aware that it does form part of many people's lives and they will be better informed and equipped to protect their kids and friends.
Josie, Windsor, Berks

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