ABUSE OF prescription drugs in Drogheda is said to be reaching epidemic proportions, with some estates in the town 'awash with any kind of legal high you could want'.
The misuse of painkillers and antidepressants like Xanax, Ponstan and Valium is on the increase – across all socio-economic backgrounds – with some admitting to taking up to 30 in one day, along with alcohol, for a cheap high.
'People have always abused prescription drugs, but there has never been so many available on the streets on both sides of Drogheda before,' said a young woman, who is recovering from a 15 Valium-a-day habit.
' They are being sold by people who get them from their doctors and don't use them, so think they will make some money passing them on, or else they are being bought in bulk from the Internet and sold by the ' tray'.
Nicola Coffey from the Connect Family Centre in Moneymore has recently been trained in Women in Addiction to help locals cope with stressful situations without drugs.
' This is happening all across the town, and we see parents starting to use the likes of Valium or Xanax as a coping mechanism, maybe to numb them from everyday life, or an abusive relationship, and next thing they are taking ten in one evening with alcohol, and that can make them very aggressive,' she told the Drogheda Independent.
' This is women and men of all ages, and there is a high problem with low self esteem, so we are trying to get to the root of the problem.'
Five-hundred-and-twenty people died nationally last year from misuse of drugs that can be readily prescribed by GPs.
The Louth Community Drug and Alcohol Team in Stockwell Street is also seeing a rise in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
'Some people start on Solpadeine or low doses of Xanax or Valium, which can all be highly addictive, although others are using them along with heroin and cocaine,' said a spokeswoman.
'It is much easier to get these drugs from a GP, although a lot are available on the street, and even though there is legislation for GPs for best practice in prescribing these, there is a greater chance of over-prescribing not being investigated in affluent areas.' 'I'm 20 – when I was 14 I started on all the Es and coke – all the upper drugs really. It was supposed to be a bit of fun at the start, then I started selling the Es to make a bit of money.
'I moved on to taking Speed – it was kind of at the weekend – and I'd be at school during the week. Then it got to the stage where you got to school on a Monday and you'd be wrecked, and just waiting for Friday to come around again.
' Then one morning, I just woke up and said 'no, I'm just fed up of the whole not-sleeping, not-eating thing'. My body was just going to shut down. My jaws were sinking, I was getting so skinny, I couldn't put on weight at all and people were noticing the change.
'When I gave up the Es and coke, I didn't have the need to do it again – that left me completely.
'Around that time I was in a bad relationship, and when that ended, that put me on Valium for six or eight months. I didn't miss the others drugs, but these gave me the buzz I needed, and craved.
' The prescription drugs became the thing I needed. Alcohol never really did anything for me. One night, I was out and I'd had a few drinks, and my friend handed me two Valium, and that's when it started. Everybody my age was taking them – they are so easy to get.
'Whoever is selling them gets them off a GP or off the Internet, and they spread the word there are tablets on the street. Three or four packs will do you two or three weeks.
'It's a different high with prescription drugs – with two you could be very happy, or stumbling around – just like you are with a couple of drinks.
'It saves time and money – that's what I was thinking anyway – why bother with pints when this is quicker and cheaper?
' Then it got to the stage where my body could tolerate two or three, so I was taking ten or 15 a night, not even thinking what could happen.
'I was able to function in real life, because my body was tolerating more and more. But one night, at a house party, I got ten Valium and they went.
Then someone started handing out painkillers of some sort, and me and my friend started popping loads, and that night I probably reached my lowest point.
'All that night I was vomiting, falling asleep and then waking up – we were taken to the hospital and pumped out the next day. I got a real fright. The next day was a complete blur in the hospital – the doctors were all telling me what a lucky escape I had, and that they just caught me in time. 'I switched to weed after that to try and keep the buzz going, but I was spending all my money on it. The problem was, me on drugs became who I was. I liked the relaxed feeling, not thinking about stress, numbing everything.
'But then last year, I started having seizures and even though the doctors couldn't make a direct link, I knew in my heart it was connected to the drugs. I'm really trying to get healthy now – my body became so run down.
'I thought I needed them to sleep or get up, just to function during the day. But it's just a crutch, I was brainwashed. But I can see a better future for me now – so bright that I don't know what path to choose – but it is a future without drugs.'