'After my daughter died I started taking heroin and lost the run of myself'
A man has opened up about how he became hooked on heroin after the death of his five-year-old daughter.
John Devoy said that he has seen drugs destroy lives and families and wants to raise awareness about the dangers they pose.
John (53) told Independent.ie: "I started using drugs when I was a teenager, it was a part and parcel of life for many of us.
"I managed to kick it though in my 20s, I fell in love, got married and had kids, I was really happy.
"Things were going really well until my daughter was born with a heart condition, she had surgery when she was a baby but it was always there.
"I thought she would be okay but a few days after her fifth birthday in 1992 she died.
"I couldn't deal with it and started using heroin again, I lost the run of myself for years."
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John, who is from Ballyfermot in Dublin, said that he was addicted to heroin for several years and used it regularly, impacting on every aspect of his life.
He managed to wean himself off drugs but lost a friend to an overdose two weeks ago.
John said: "We grew up together in Ballyfermot, he was homeless and living in hostels for the last few years.
"He had been trying his best to get off heroin and had started using tablets instead, I think they were Benzos [Benzodiazephine, a psychoactive drug].
"People are buying them online and then selling them on the streets, they can be different strains and you never really know what's in them or how they'll affect you.
"I'm not sure how many he took but he was found dead in his hostel room after an overdose last week."
John said that his friend's heartbroken family paid a moving tribute to him at his funeral.
He said: "There was a real sense of shock but even through all the sadness people still spoke fondly about him.
"He was the eldest boy and had six sisters, his family said growing up he was the leader and inspired them all."
John now works with the Union for Improved Services, Communication and Education (UISCE), is recognised by the State as the representative body for people who use drugs and was part of the team behind the new National Drug Strategy - Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery.
The group has been operational for 25 years and psychologists use their peer-led outreach to provide an impartial and unbiased voice for people who use drugs.
John said he is determined to help raise awareness of the dangers of drugs.
He said: "There's a lot of support services for people who use drugs but addiction needs to be tackled a lot earlier, at school age.
"Young people are looking up to rock stars and think it's cool to do drugs but they don't realise that once you're addicted it can be very hard to give up."
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Maureen Penrose, who works with the Family Support Network, has also experienced the devastation drugs can cause firsthand.
She said: "About 20 years ago my daughter overdosed on heroin, she was taking it with someone who was much older and more experienced who knew to call for help.
"She was lucky and there was no lasting physical affects but she has been using drugs on and off in the twenty years since then, she's currently in rehab."
International Overdose Awareness Day was held recently and Hannah said that there's still a taboo surrounding supports for people who use drugs.
She said: "You see Leo Varadkar's big programme on the side of buses trying to stop social welfare cheats but there's nothing to raise awareness about the hundreds of people who are overdosing here.
"The government want to sweep addiction under the carpet, it's not a glamorous issue and people seem to think if you die from an overdose it's your own fault for using drugs."
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