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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Addict's mother backs drug project
Rachel Whitear
Rachel's body lay undiscovered for three days
A mother who allowed photographs of her daughter's body to be published after she had died from a heroin overdose is backing a campaign to prevent drug-related deaths.

Rachel Whitear was 21 when she died in May 2000 with a syringe in her hand.

Her body lay undiscovered for three days in a seaside flat in Exmouth, Devon.

Her mother, Pauline Holcroft, of Withington, near Hereford, is backing a DrugScope scheme to reduce the number of people injecting drugs.

Pauline Holcroft
Pauline Holcroft: Her daughter initially smoked the drug
The two-pronged scheme also hopes to educate existing drug users about safer ways of taking them.

Mrs Holcroft told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When we first discovered that Rachel was taking heroin she was in fact smoking it.

"She was absolutely opposed to the idea of injecting at that time - so much so that I wouldn't have possibly believed that she could start to do it - but she did.

Story 'not unusual'

"I don't think that she could have done it without some sort of help... I certainly wouldn't know how to go about that."

Overdose is the largest cause of death among injectors in the UK. And addicts who inject heroin are about 14 times more likely to die than their peers.

Campaign messages
Do not teach others how to inject
Do not inject, or talk about injecting, in front of others
Do not be afraid of calling for help if someone ODs
Mrs Holcroft said: "If somebody does overdose [this campaign will show] the best way of dealing with it - not to be frightened of calling for help or the consequences of it, how to deal with the casualty at the time."

She added that she did not regret releasing the photographs of Rachel, despite attracting some criticism, and hoped the pictures would stop others dying.

"I wouldn't say that shock tactics alone would work, we've never said this.

"But what happened to Rachel is the sad reality of what could happen to any injecting addict, and I felt they needed to be seen.

"Rachel's story, sadly, is not unusual. It's just that she happened to have a film made about her life."

Not 'just say no'

DrugScope's spokesman Harry Shapiro told the BBC the campaign was not simply a call to "just say no".

"We are not just trying to stop people using drugs. This is a realistic, more pragmatic approach.

Drug deaths
7,266 a year in EU
39% of those in UK
Injecting 14 times more lethal than smoking
Overdose is the biggest cause of death among injectors
"We are trying to persuade those people who are already injecting drugs not to encourage others to do so.

"We are also giving out various pieces of advice to try and reduce drug-related deaths such as not to mix substances like heroin and alcohol."

Rachel, who was once a promising student at Bath University, died after two years of drug abuse.

The police photograph of her showed her body keeled over on the floor, with bruised and discoloured flesh and a hypodermic syringe in her hand.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"It is aimed at those who are already addicts"
Rachel's mother Pauline Holcroft
"I hope Drugscope will also be able to stop heroin smoking addicts changing to injecting the drug"
Roger Howard, DrugScope
"It's about wasted lives"

Click here to go to Devon

Click here to go to BBC Hereford and Worcester
See also:

01 Mar 02 | Education
Heroin victim's death used as warning
01 Mar 02 | Education
Parents defend overdose pictures
01 Mar 02 | Education
'Our decision over addict daughter'
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