Wednesday 21 February 2018

'It just doesn’t seem real' - heartbroken mother reveals daughter (25) and brother (43) died of drug overdoses

Prescription drugs
Prescription drugs

Meadhbh McGrath

A woman has told of the devastating loss of her 25-year-old daughter to a drug overdose.

Anne-Marie, from Clonmel, Tipperary, lost both her daughter Amy and her brother Christopher to drugs within the space of 18 months.

On the morning of December 4, 2014, she had planned to meet Amy on the bus coming through the village where they lived.

“She wasn’t on that bus. She actually passed away that morning,” Anne-Marie told RTE Radio One’s Liveline.

“I didn’t find out until later in the day, near lunchtime. It was the most horrifying, terrible moment of my life. It just doesn’t seem real, even to this day.”

Before she found out, Anne-Marie had been driving with her son Thomas when they spotted an ambulance, but didn’t realise it was carrying Amy.

Just 10 minutes later, she received the call from the gardaí asking her to come to the hospital.

“She had been found dead in a flat in Fethard. She was addicted to tablets, she was taking them here, there and everywhere. The prescribed medications lyrica, seroquel, diazepam and tramadol were some of the ones on the coroner’s report.

“There were also traces of speed amphetamines and marijuana but ultimately it was the medications and tablets she’d been taking. They weren’t her own prescriptions - where she got them was anyone’s case.”

Amy had struggled with drug abuse for many years, and had received treatment a number of times, but had failed to overcome the addiction.

“She had pressed the self-destruct button, I think she felt she couldn’t get any better than she was,” her mother told the programme.

“She was very troubled as a teenager. She was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 14 years old, and she was given a choice at that point whether she was going to take medication for it and she refused, which is ironic really. That was the early years, where it started rearing its ugly head.”

Over the next two years, her problems rapidly worsened, to such an extent that Anne-Marie had to agree to place her in foster care.

“I had no choice but to ask for help,” she said.

Six months into the placement, her mother brought her home, and discovered Amy was pregnant, just ahead of her 17th birthday.

Anne-Marie said she supported her daughter through the pregnancy. She was studying for her Leaving Cert at the time, but did not complete the year.

“It was probably after the baby was born that the issue with tablets came up, and I didn’t see it then either, not straight away anyway. She was on very strong prescribed medication for her back after the birth of her first child, and it spiralled from there,” she said.

“When she first asked for help and admitted she had a problem, it was the weekend of her 21st birthday, and that’s when I really woke up to things.”

Amy had two children at that stage. Her friends threw her a birthday party, and Anne-Marie looked after the kids at home.

“She was meant to come the next day to collect them and she never turned up. We couldn’t track her down, she was missing for nearly two days. When I found her, she had a whole table top covered with tablets, ready to take a massive overdose. She begged for help that day,” she said.

Anne-Marie immediately took her to see their GP, and were directed to a counselling centre in Clonmel. Following an assessment, Amy was admitted to St Michael’s psychiatric unit, which has since closed down.

However, her mother said: “She came out and she was no better.”

Just a year and a half later, Anne-Marie’s brother Christopher was found dead in a squat in Clonmel.

He was 43 years old, and had been dead for three days before his body was discovered on May 3.

“That took me back 18 months. I had done so much to help myself and the kids since then, and this just threw me,” Anne-Marie said.

Her brother had been released from Limerick Prison two weeks before, after completing a three month sentence.

“He had been detoxing while he was in there, but he had nothing to come out to. He was homeless, he was a drug addict and he needed help. He went in, he detoxed and when he came out the door there was nothing for him,” she said.

She added that Christopher had struggled with addiction to alcohol, heroin and prescription medication, and his death spurred her on to speak out about the issue.

On Saturday, June 11, she will take part in the 'March for Change' in Clonmel’s Sarsfield Street to raise awareness about addiction and mental health issues.

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