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Nellie Knows : 1 August 2019

Well that’s it the A levels and GCSEs are over, university courses are done for the year, schools are out, the festival season has well and truly started and the promise of a long hot summer beckons (though Tuesday’s weather was something else).

Thinking back to when my O levels were over I went to Estepona, came home and nervously waited for the dreaded envelope but let’s gloss over that.  Just before I started at college an undergraduate, Olivia Channon, died of a drugs overdose.  Her death sent shock waves and before I arrived in Oxford I was given the drug and alcohol chats, a school friend had also had the same chats. Sadly she chose to ignore all the advice and became a drug addict, was kicked out of college, lived on the streets and this girl I had known since we were 12 was begging and stealing to fund her habit. If I knew then what I know now she would still be an active part of our lives, instead she is living a very different life to what could have been. 

Over the years there have been incidents reported in the press about deaths and family destruction due to drugs or alcohol and there’s always someone left to pick up the pieces. I remember the shame a friend had when her father was done for drink driving. Why would you? Why would you get behind the wheel of a car having had alcohol or taken drugs and then play Russian Roulette with yours and other people’s lives? I know people who have been pulled over and breathalysed the morning after only to be over the limit.

Don’t for one minute think I’m Little Miss Perfect, I enjoyed a drink and used to look forward to wine o’clock. I worked in the city where lunches were long and liquid, and many thought a glass of wine at lunch was pretty standard, actually a bottle was normal and then back to the office for an unproductive afternoon before heading back to the bar for a quick one before the train.  Looking back I shudder at the lost hours, the money that was frittered away and the health damage. I would regularly wake up as the train left Wokingham and then have to alight at the next station and dash across to the other platform.  

I have been an Ambassador for DrugFam, a local charity that supports families whose loved ones are struggling with an addiction, for 18 months now and in that time there have been close to  5000 drug related deaths nationally, that’s twice the number of people killed on our roads and addiction certainly isn't about choice, Thames Valley Police arrest approximately 3000 people each year for drug possession, arrests for drug or drink driving in the Thames Valley are increasing each year.  Add in County Lines - children being criminally exploited for running drugs from cities to our market towns and so called legal (not legal anymore) psychoactive substances (spice) or 'nos' - nitrous oxide, left over evidence are those shiny metal capsules you see lying around in car parks, beauty spots with discarded balloons are all drugs highs and it’s a real worry.

In the past 15 months, DrugFAM have helped 20% more families than they did the same period the previous year, supporting 3,602 families on 14,174 occasions via their Helpline, support groups, email and one-to-one support. Sadly, these figures also included providing emotional support to 242 bereaved families.

Addiction doesn’t just claim lives it wrecks lives tooand some of the stories I have heard horrify me. I was chatting to T/DCI Jason Kew of TVP recently who told me of an addict who injects into his eye lids. That made me feel physically sick, I wince when I have a contact lens malfunction so the thought of putting, let along injecting anything horrifies me.  

Please speak to your children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and if you need to talk to someone about a loved one’s use, abuse or addiction then contact DrugFam.


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