It’s as easy as buying a bar of chocolate,” Ann* says. “They can get drugs anywhere. It’s easy and it’s cheap. And if they can’t buy them, they steal them - or they order them over the Internet.
“Jim was able to order 300 pills over the Internet - posted to his flat. It was that time I found him - slumped, blue, foaming at the mouth. I called an ambulance and they worked on him for 40 minutes before they even allowed me in the room to see him. That’s what is happening to our young people.”
Ann is talking about her 19-year-old son - “He’s the same age as Andrew Quigley,” she says. Ann was one of a large crowd of Derry people who attended the rally on Saturday to call not only for the revision of a decision to deny funding to Foyle Search and Rescue and Hurt, but also to call for a dedicated detox centre in the city.
“I could have been listening to them talk about my son,” she said. “When Andrew’s mother, Collette spoke of her son slipping through her fingers it was like a shot to my heart. I don’t want my son slipping through my fingers.”
Ann’s son Jim first started experimenting with drugs when he was 14. Ann believes this was a “coping mechanism” as her teenage son struggled to deal with a number of personal tragedies her family had experienced.
It was shortly before he turned 16 that she noticed a major change in his behaviour. “Everything about him changed - his mood, his whole self. He started to fall into deep depressions. He stole to feed his habit. He became aggressive.”
It was around this time that Jim made the first serious attempt on his life.
At a loss of who to turn to for help, Ann turned to Social Services and - to protect the other children she had living at home - Jim was asked to leave the family home with the support of his social worker and key workers.
But social services are not in a position to help Jim tackle his drug addiction.
“He started with cannabis. Then alcohol. Then cannabis and alcohol together. Then anything he could get his hands on.”
As his drugs problems escalated Ann saw her son arrested, serve time in prison and descend to a place where he has made numerous, very serious, attempts on his life.
“After one attempt, when we were at hospital, we were told his problem was not a mental health problem. That his problem was drugs. And yet, he had just tried to take his own life.
“I asked them what was I to do? They couldn’t tell me.”
On another occasion Ann was forced to drive to Gransha, as Jim had threatened to once again to take his life, where she had to beg staff to admit him.
“Because he was on drugs, they said they couldn’t. I just told them I wouldn’t leave until they helped him. I sat there for four hours until they found him a bed.”
“I live in fear of that call - if my phone rings late at night I know he has tried to take his life again, or he has taken too much, or he is being aggressive. Or he has gone to the bridge, like Andrew.”
Ann is sharing her story in the hope it will help other families feel less alone. She is adding her voice to those from the Quigley family who are calling for a detox centre in Derry.
“I feel like I’m screaming for help and no-one is listening.”
*names have been changed