Mum exposes grim reality of drug abuse

Published Thursday, 28 August 2014
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The mother of a young man who died after taking a methadone overdose says she hopes that the shocking image of her son spending his final days being cared for in a nursing home will help save others.

Kealan Burke died a week after turning 22 in February 2009, a year after he took the heroin substitute.

The second year computers student at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, ended up needing round the clock care in a facility.

His mother Teresa said: "He was doubly incontinent; a quadriplegic; he couldn't swallow; couldn't hear and he couldn't see. We don't think he could feel anything either.

"He was in a vegetative state. It was awful."

Kealan first experimented with drugs aged 17, when he started smoking cannabis.

He received a police caution after he was caught buying ecstasy and by 21 he was addicted to prescription drugs including diazepam.

Teresa and a number of other families bereaved through drugs from both sides of the border will address a public meeting of Derry Policing and Community Partnership on Thursday evening.

She hopes the hard-hitting pictures of her son will prevent others from turning to drugs.

"I want to show the reality of it," said Mrs Burke.

"Drugs might make you feel good for a short time, or even a long time, but they can kill you and leave devastated families behind.

"It helps me enormously to know that Kealan's life has been for a reason and that reason is to help someone else. I would like to think that somebody out there will get the message and not take drugs.

"We were just an ordinary family. We live in the middle of the country. It is three miles to the nearest shop. Drugs were not part of our being or what we knew at all."

Karen Vandersypen from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has called for all legal highs to be banned after he son died from a massive heart attack after smoking synthetic cannabis last October.

A coroner at a recent inquest into 20 deaths linked to unregulated stimulants compared the problem to a serial killer on the loose.

© UTV News
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7 Comments
Mick Moffett in S.Wales wrote (55 days ago):
I just want to commend Teresa on what she is doing.. I was on this drug and others for 17years in N.Ireland and the problem is massive and needs looked at in a serious way. Well done Teresa.
dk in belfast wrote (55 days ago):
very sad story and i feel for the family having lost many friends and family to drugs. however banning drugs and creating legal sanctions simply exacerbates the problem. firstly if there was a strict control regime implemented to allocate drugs to users similar to a chemist then the black market and legal highs would not exist. criminalisation leads to degradation of whole communities by breaking up family's and at the same time encouraging others to fill the gap left in the market place. e personally believe the government has a lot to answer for with regards to legal highs (particularly cannabis synthetics) as they have taken illicit drugs which have been taken safely for a majority of users, for which science has a fairly good understanding and replaced them with unknown chemicals with little or no background history. if people could get past reacting to drug use with emotion instead look at it objectively without social stigma and examine the evidence, less people would suffer if supply was regulated. as i say i can relate to this story, both my parents died young from drug od and several friends in the last few years. have a look at the Swiss model to see what sensible drug provisions can achieve, as well as improving quality of life for users it also makes the subject less attractive to the rebellious face of youth.
Paula magee in lurgan wrote (56 days ago):
I have a son who was heavily into drugs from approx 17yrs old..started with cannabis and progressed to mmeth,extacy and coke,..he was left seriously mentally I'll.self harming and feeling suicidal..this went on until he was twenty one then one day he came to me asking for help..I immediately took him to an out of hours gp and got him the help he needed... Thankfully now at 23 he is a totally different young man...a fitness fanatic now. There can be light at the end of the tunnel for all you parents out there suffering over their children...my heart bleeds for the family of this poor young man
me in belfast wrote (56 days ago):
Awful. But i'm sure that was meant to read "First experimented with drugs at x when he started drinking alcohol"
sarah in ballymena wrote (57 days ago):
This is so sad...that poor wee mammy. I hope the message gets through.... God bless x
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