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Sunday 4 December 2016

'I’m shocked at amount of kids out of their minds on drink and drugs' - singer and reformed alcoholic Mary Coughlan

Eugene Masterson

Published 05/04/2016 | 14:55

Blues singer Mary Coughlan.
Blues singer Mary Coughlan.

Reformed alcoholic Mary Coughlan is in a rage over what she claims is the State’s neglect in dealing with people with chronic drink and drugs problems.

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The singer insists there is a widescale problem which is “out of control”, with alcoholic teenagers becoming a growing phenomenon.

The 59-year-old reveals that for the past several weeks since she has started rehearsing in Dublin city centre she has seen countless numbers of people “out of their minds on drink and drugs”.

Mary was hospitalised on numerous occasions over her alcoholism and finally kicked the habit on March 17, 1993 – she has not touched a drop since.

She goes back to the Rutland centre, where she was finally successfully treated, every year at Christmas to entertain staff and patients and also to take part in talks.

“I would be keeping a close eye on things and I’m shocked at the amount of kids that are coming in,” she stresses.

“It used to be 40 to 60-year-olds who would come, that would be the average age of people that would present. Now it’s 16, 17, 18.

“I think Irish people are predisposed to alcoholism. I really think so. People always say you look at new generations coming along.

“There are a couple of places now in Ireland for Under 16s, it’s that serious. There’s a few around. They’re really hard to get into because they’re booked out all the time.

“There’s also a huge shortage of beds and an enormous waiting list. There are private places like John Of Gods and St Pat’s, but it’s a disgrace more is not being done to help people who cannot afford care.”

She adds: “So if a kid wants to get off alcohol or heroin or anything or if there’s food issues or gambling they have to wait and wait.

“So if you want to get sober and say ‘tomorrow I want to go someplace, there is no place to go’. You have to go private. There are lots of drop-in centres, but in my opinion you need to go away for six weeks.

“It’s just a huge crisis and since I’ve been working in town I see it all the time, there’s young people, there’s old people.

“There was a woman this morning in her mid 60s, and she was completely gone, out of her mind. There are lots of people going around like zombies.”

The HSE told the Sunday World and Independent.ie that while there is indeed a waiting list, the State funds 787 residential beds across the country for detoxification, including four specifically for adolescents (at Aislinn in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny).

Mary is at a loss as to why she thinks the problem is exploding and finds it hard to come up with a solution.

“I think it’s a sign of a world totally out of control,” she insists. “It’s constantly on television and social media.

“There is glorification of drink and drugs. You can’t warn people. There’s nothing anybody can do. I think that it’s just part of a thing that people are going through.

“You are never going to stop kids. Nobody could have stopped me doing what I was doing.”

Mary confirms that she has remained teetotal since 1993.

“It’s not hard to resist, but it isn’t easy sometimes,” she reveals. “I never desperately want a drink, but I have thought ‘I wonder how it’s going to go when everyone turns up and they’re all drinking champagne’, but I’m usually fine. I always bring my car and I always have a get out.

“I have to be responsible as it would cut the life out of me if I did it at this stage. I choose to stay away from it.”

She points out that she was flooded with emails and messages when she revealed her alcoholism problems in her autobiography.

“After I wrote the book and I came clean about it all, the publishers used to get hundreds of letters, and because I’ve been so honest and open about it, it is of some assistance to some people to see that we can really come back from being in the gutter,” she says.

The Galway born singer is set to play three headline shows in Dublin’s Lab studios on Foley street as part of the city’s ‘Music Town’ series.

“It’s a show based on the album I did, called the 'House of Ill Repute',” she notes.

This is a completely new departure for me and everyone is into it.”

Further info and tickets from musictown.ie

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