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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 11:55 GMT
Leah Betts' parents back heroin photos
Lea Betts unconscious in hospital after taking ecstasy tablet
Leah Betts died aged 18 after taking ecstasy
The parents of teenage ecstasy victim Leah Betts have praised the decision to publish photographs of Rachel Whitear's death from a heroin overdose.

Paul and Janet Betts, who lost their daughter on her 18th birthday, said the shocking images would save the lives of many young people.

Mr Betts told BBC News Online he applauded Rachel's parents Mick and Pauline Holcroft and added: "If you have just helped one young person you have been successful".

But Roger Howard, chief executive of pressure group DrugScope questioned the use of the horrific images: "There is little evidence that such shock tactics actually work in changing behaviour."

'The truth pays'

The Betts have campaigned for better education about drug abuse since Leah died in 1995.

Somebody will later come up to you and say that they saw that picture and it made them think again about taking drugs

Janet Betts

Mr Betts and his wife have since given talks at more than 2,300 schools and distributed a video called 'Sorted' about Leah's story and ecstasy to all secondary schools.

They believe the overwhelming support they have received from pupils shows it pays to tell them the truth, no matter how difficult it may be.

"They appreciate that someone is being honest with them," said Mr Betts.

He added: "Most young people have only been told one side of the story - that drugs are fun, they won't do anything... I tell them both sides of the story."

Janet Betts said Rachel's story would have the same effect: "This is the truth - this is what happens if you overdose on heroin. It is not what happens on the television or on soap operas or in the movies - it is real life."

'Numb'

Despite their decision to release images of Rachel's death the Holcrofts face a difficult future, Mr Betts said.

Rachel Whitear (right) and school friend Polly
Rachel (right) lost touch with friends because of heroin
"Whenever they see their daughter's picture they will relive their daughter's death. They will have arguments with friends and wonder if they could not have done more to save her."

Mrs Betts added: "I remember the first time we saw Leah's picture in the paper and we did feel numb and a certain amount of detachment.

"But somebody will later come up to you and say that they saw that picture and it made them think again about taking drugs. Then it makes it worthwhile."

'Worst nightmare'

After the pictures of 21-year-old Rachel's death in an Exmouth flat were released Roger Howard said he was not convinced they would work.

He said: "The picture of Rachel is every parent's worst nightmare and a family tragedy.

"DrugScope helps many schools with their drug education provision and while it is understandable that parents and teachers want images like this to be shown to highlight the potentially fatal affects of drugs, there is little evidence that such shock tactics actually work in changing behaviour."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Leah's father Paul defends using 'shock tactics'
"This is a real life affair"
The BBC's Caroline Thomsett
"The pictures are featured in an educational video"
Drugscope's Roger Howard
"The risk is teenagers may discount the message"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Drug death pictures
Do shock tactics work?
See also:

01 Mar 02 | Education
01 Mar 02 | Education
28 Mar 00 | Scotland
08 Feb 03 | Medical notes
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