Sunday 18 March 2018

Decriminalise heroin to save lives - Philly

Philly McMahon is helping high-risk teenagers Picture: Sportsfile
Philly McMahon is helping high-risk teenagers Picture: Sportsfile
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Dublin GAA star Philly McMahon says he would decriminalise heroin in Ireland. Telling children not to take drugs doesn't work, he claims, going on to back that view up with some very strong, personal evidence.

"My parents told John not to go on drugs - and he still took drugs," Philly said of his big brother John who died in 2012, aged 31 from the effect of his heroin addiction, in London where he was living.

"He wanted to come home. We [Dublin] were in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo in 2012 and if we won that he wanted to come home to the All-Ireland Final. But we got beaten. He died in September which is the month we would have played the All-Ireland Final. He died September 7.

"He had written me a letter saying he was off heroin and he was going into methadone recovery. It was that weekend he was going into recovery and he died that Wednesday, the 7th, two days after my birthday," Philly said.

"John didn't die of an overdose. Heroin had obviously taken a toll on his health. He had a heart condition," Philly said referring to heart arrhythmia.

"Basically his heart kind of skipped a beat and had enough. It was tough, because he was so close to coming off drugs completely," Philly continued, adding that he believes what needs to be said to young people in Ireland contemplating touching heroin is simple: this is what will happen to you if you take drugs.

"This is what happened to me. I saw my brother on drugs and all the bad things he went through. We have the third highest overdose rate in Europe. So we need to help people come off drugs. If someone gets caught in personal possession of drugs, they need to be put in front of a doctor and a psychiatrist and maybe a judge and given a recovery station."

And would John be still alive?

"He'd probably be still on drugs," Philly said, "but he would be longer on this planet - which would mean he'd have a better chance of coming off drugs."

Philly set up his own charity Half Time Talk, "to target high-risk youths and drug addicts".

The Dublin star who grew up on the first floor of a four-storey block in his beloved Ballymun says he is trying to help youths develop self-esteem and empower them about the working class communities they hail from.

"I don't feel I've suffered because of where I come from," Philly says.

"I would have got the odd 'Ya Ballymun knacker' and stuff like that. And look at it, when people speak badly of other people that's their negativity. If someone says something about Ballymun that's their issue not mine.

"Ballymun has shaped who I am. It's shaped who I am as a business person. It shaped who I am as a sports person. It shaped who I am in how I treat people. Ballymun has given me a lot more positive things than negative things in life."

Sunday Independent

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