Saturday 18 January 2020

‘I was always mad to try it but within weeks I was injecting twice a day’- Recovered heroin addict (27) on how he overcame the drug in rural Ireland

Joe features on a RTE documentary Rural Addiction set to air tonight on RTE 2 at 9.30PM
Joe features on a RTE documentary Rural Addiction set to air tonight on RTE 2 at 9.30PM

Patricia Murphy

A former heroin addict has opened up about his experience with the drug in rural Ireland and admitted that he could not overcome the urge to try the substance for the first time.

Joe Shanahan (27) from Nenagh in Tipperary said that he did not know about the devastating effects of the drug when he began using it two years ago.

“I didn’t have a perception of heroin, of it ruining a family. I just thought it was a step up from cannabis, that it was better than cannabis. I wasn’t aware of the dangers of injecting. I thought it was ten times stronger than cannabis,” said Joe, speaking to Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio One.

“I walked in and I caught people smoking it when I was 25.  I asked what were they doing and they told me. I asked if I could have some and I did. They said if I don’t give it to you someone else will and you might die from it. I always used clean syringes. I knew to not to use other people’s syringes.” she said.

“Within weeks it went from smoking to injecting in weeks. I was always mad to try it. I just wanted to,” he said.

Joe, who has been sober for more than a year, revealed that his turning point came soon after he discovered his friend had overdosed in the Clonmel flat that they shared.

“When things were at their worst, I found my friend dead.  This time last year. He ODed.

“We were going up to Coolmines once every week to try and get into treatment. I woke up one morning at half eight, called him and there was no movement out of him. I went over and caught his arm and he was freezing. I knew then.

“I was living in Clonmel in his brother’s flat. We were all strung out to bits. It was easier to get it in Clonmel than in Nenagh,” he said.

Joe credits his mother’s support for helping him overcome his addiction, and said he opted not to use methadone as a means to get clean.

“I went cold turkey. I done it last year. This day last October. My mother let me move in with her and her partner. Only for them two, who knows what I’d be like. I might not even be here talking to you. I didn’t do the methadone or anything like that. My mother was on strong painkillers, and I took some painkillers, opiate painkillers, and that got me through the physical effects of it, pains in the legs, pains in the bones.

“For the mental side of it I still smoke cannabis. I can’t see myself staying away from it,” he said.

Joe features on a RTE documentary Rural Addiction set to air tonight on RTE 2 at 9.30PM

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