'Casual drug users risk death over bad batch,' says ex-addict Rachael
A former heroin addict whose needle-scarred arms shocked the nation 13 years ago has warned casual users they are putting their lives on the line amid fears that a bad batch of drugs has entered the market.
Dubliner Rachael Keogh (39) made headlines in 2006 when images of her arms, ravaged by years of injecting heroin, were published.
She went on to become a best-selling author with the release of a harrowing memoir detailing her battle with addiction and subsequent recovery.
The mother-of-one said she had heard of many cases where recreational or first-time users had died because of a bad batch of drugs.
"I couldn't tell you the amount of people I knew personally who died from over- doses, so it's not shocking for me to hear," she said.
"I had a cousin who was only 18 and never used drugs. She was heading off to America to start a new job, but decided to go to a party beforehand and take ecstasy.
"Unfortunately, she fell ill and overdosed a short time later.
"Cases like these are beyond tragic, and I know there's so much peer pressure on young people today, but it's just not worth the risk."
Ms Keogh's comments came following reports that some young people have been unknowingly taking poor quality or highly potent substances at festivals, debs and house parties.
Last week, a 21-year-old man from Co Galway was left fighting for his life after taking a substance at a festival in Co Wicklow.
Earlier this month, 19-year-old Jack Downey died after a suspected overdose at the Indiependence festival in Cork.
Ms Keogh was speaking yesterday at the launch of the first Ballymun Recovery Month, which celebrates people overcoming addiction.
The artist and activist said she had seen how much the northside community had changed in recent years.
"The people of Ballymun have done a 360 in terms of how we view and treat the drug user," she said.
"We have moved on from using tough love as an approach to addiction to a much more humane, compassionate way of helping users overcome their addiction.
"We have seen so much negative publicity around drugs in recent times in this area.
"This is why it's really important to highlight the inspiring journeys taken by so many people towards their own health and well-being."
During next month, Ballymun, along with other communities across Ireland, will host a series of activities and events showing that recovery from addiction works.
Former drug user Donna Kinsella (40), from Ballymun, is just one of the many success stories.
"Anyone can get clean and stay clean - I'm a testament to that," she said. "I first started smoking cannabis at the age of 14 and thought it was all fun and games.
"I then progressed to heroin at 17 and then to methadone.
"When I first decided to stop once and for all, I knew I couldn't do it alone. Thankfully, there were plenty of services in my community that I availed of which made all the difference.
"That's what this recovery month is all about - to make drug users aware of the treatment and services available to them."