'I have lost one brother to heroin scourge, now I fear it will claim another'
Published 16/04/2016 | 14:56
A woman has told of her desperate efforts to save her heroin addict brother before drugs claim a second member of her family.
Briege McGarry has already suffered the death of one brother - Wayne was just 28 when he fell victim last February.
And the 32-year-old mum-of-three believes it is only a matter of time before another brother - 30-year-old Martin - dies from a heroin overdose.
"It's horrific and we feel so helpless," she said. "Heroin is a much bigger problem in Belfast than people realise.
"I have Wayne's ashes in my house, that's all I have left of my brother, and it's heartbreaking to think we're going to lose Martin as well."
Briege said both brothers started taking drugs in their teens. In the beginning their use was recreational and limited to smoking cannabis, but they gradually became hooked and moved on to harder substances.
"It got to the stage where Martin couldn't get out of bed without smoking cannabis, he just couldn't function," explained Briege.
"With Wayne, his mental health started to suffer. I wouldn't say for certain it was 100pc drugs but it looked that way to us as a family.
"He started to self-harm and he ended up in and out of the criminal justice system.
"When he was inside you would see the real Wayne and he would promise he would give up the drugs, but once he got out he would go back on them."
Briege said the family tried to help Wayne but she was forced to cut ties with him a few months before he died.
"We felt like we had tried everything so we were trying the tough love approach," she said.
"Also, I had three children and Wayne's son, who I look after, in the house and I couldn't have them exposed to that.
"I hadn't seen him for a while when there was a knock on the door and the police were standing there when I answered.
"They actually asked for Martin.
"I wondered what the pair of them had been up to, I thought the police had come to arrest them.
"I told them I was his sister and asked them what they wanted and they said they were actually there about Wayne. Then they took off their hats and I just knew, it was just like you see in the adverts, and I started to scream. It was horrendous. I'd just had a baby two weeks before and she will never get to meet her uncle," Briege, from Belfast, said.
According to the coroner's report, Wayne died as a result of legal highs. However, Briege said there was evidence he had recently taken heroin.
"He had needle marks on his body and there was a burnt spoon in the flat," she said. "To be honest, I haven't really had time to grieve for Wayne because we are living with trying to keep Martin alive on a daily basis.
"He takes whatever drugs are going and whatever he can afford, it's a nightmare, and he has actually been living on the streets in Belfast.
"We don't hear from him for weeks on end and then eventually he will turn up. The last time I spent all day trying to get him help and found a place in Kildare that would take him; most places only deal with people who are off the drugs.
"The next day was his pay day and he blew the lot on drugs and we didn't see him again for a while.
"He's back with us now and we're hoping we can hang on to him long enough to get him on the straight and narrow.
"I don't think people realise how big an issue it is. It has really opened my eyes to what a crisis it is and I don't think there is enough help for people who have problems with drugs."