Saturday 21 September 2019

'We must not let this happen again' - parents' drugs warning after tragic deaths

Drugs 'freely available' in colleges

HEARTACHE: Parents Johnny and Elaine Downey with a photo of their only son Jack. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
HEARTACHE: Parents Johnny and Elaine Downey with a photo of their only son Jack. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Jack pictured with his mum Elaine last year

Alan O'Keeffe and Donal Lynch

The parents of two students who died weeks apart after ingesting dangerous substances have issued an emotional warning to young people across the country about the dangers of illegal drugs such as MDMA.

In the past number of weeks, at least two young people have lost their lives after taking illegal drugs. Separately a third young man is in a critical condition in hospital after taking a substance at a festival in Wicklow.

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Popular teenager Jack Downey (19) lost his life after taking a substance, thought to be MDMA, at a music festival in Cork two weeks ago. Jack's heartbroken parents, Elaine and Johnny, tell the Sunday Independent today that their only child was "destroyed" by the drug.

Explaining why they decided to let Jack's friends gather at the hospital to see their beloved boy as he lay dying, Elaine said: "We were duty-bound to let every single person who came to that hospital see how Jack Downey, the fine man that he was, was destroyed. Destroyed by what happened."

Elaine said she remained deeply concerned that a great many young adults in Ireland continued to take chances with illegal drugs.

"Many young people today are different from how our lives used to be. They want a buzz. Many of them are sensible, educated, bright young people with great futures.

"But all it takes is one big mistake and the results are awful and horrendous," she added.

"We can't let what happened to Jack happen to any other boy or girl. People have to stand up and speak. The young need to look out for each other.

"We are all too casual about what is going on among young people in Ireland," she said.

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Jack pictured with his mum Elaine last year

The parents of another young man from Tipperary also revealed their devastation at the death of their son, John Ryan, who died after taking a substance at a house party in May.

Patricia and Denis Ryan said young adults and their parents needed to be more aware of the dangers of the "rampant" use of drugs.

In an emotional interview, John's father described what happened to John after he ingested the substance, saying: "His temperature was rocketing and they could not get it down."

John's condition grew steadily worse and his kidneys were failing. His liver suffered serious damage and he was placed on life support. He died two days later.

The couple said they wanted to get the message across about the dangers caused by the widespread availability of drugs. "We don't want another family to go through what we've been through. People must not let the use of drugs be normalised," said Mrs Ryan. "We don't want John's death to be in vain. This issue needs to be highlighted more."

‘World was his oyster’: John Ryan (20) died in early May

Addressing the drugs problem facing our young people in schools and colleges across the country, Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor said she is aware that drugs are being openly sold on college campuses.

In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, the minister said: "I've attended some students' funerals and as a mother and a TD, it really concerns me. You don't expect in a higher education institution that there would be drugs freely available, but I have heard about drugs being sold within colleges."

She added: "I'm talking about MDMA, ecstasy. They'll pop one, then they'll pop two or three and there are tragic consequences."

She said: "There is a laissez-faire attitude to this issue in colleges but I am going to show leadership on this."

Sunday Independent

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