Friday 20 April 2018

Mum gives life savings to settle son's drugs debts

David Looby

LAST week a Wexford woman handed over her life savings to pay off her son's drug debts.

Shocking as it seems, the reality is that countless Wexford parents and grandparents are having to take out loans from credit unions and loan sharks to fend off drug dealers who have threatened family members in the county.

Community Drugs Project worker Ann Lacey, who works with drug addicts and their families in the New Ross area and in Wexford, said: 'It's a problem here and it's a problem across the county. It has become a common problem.

"Last week I met with parents who had just paid €1,800, which was their life savings, to three drug dealers. The parents are still in employment but now only have €77 in savings left.'

The knock on effects of drug use within families has meant that some people who had planned on retiring have had to continue working to help their children pay their drug debts.

Ann said parents have highlighted the issue to her at support meetings for families dealing with drug abuse.

'I do know that people pay a debt of say €400 for their child one week and then another debt comes along and it becomes a cycle. They are often left paying off drug debts a year later.'

Many struggling parents have had to turn to merciless loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates.

'It causes huge stress for the parents as they are the ones who have to pick up the pieces and find the money. They know it isn't good to pay the debts but what can they do. Even though they know it's illegal to pay a drug debt you couldn't advise them not to pay either because the safety and wellbeing of the relative are at risk.'

Ann said intimidation is a major issue lurking in the background for families.

'People in the locality are living in fear of drug dealers. People don't know that there is a protocol (about harassment) in the National Drugs Strategy that is acted on by the guards.'

Ann said direct and indirect threats are made to family members of indebted drug users who often owe large sums of money which they have no means of repaying.

'They target families and threaten young family members either directly or indirectly. They threaten their property and the drug user's younger brothers and sisters. Intimidation is a big thing.'

Ann can be contacted at 087 9351754 regarding drug support services in the South West Wexford area.

Enniscorthy Guardian