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'I lost my mum, dad, two sisters and brother to drugs'

By Chris Clements
Social affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

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  • Scotland drug deaths
image copyrightFamily Handout
image captionJacquie (far right) and her sisters Kayleigh and Emma

A woman from Fife has told how her father, mother, two sisters and brother all died because of drugs.

Jacquie said losing her parents and siblings "was like a fire ripping through my family".

She was speaking ahead of new figures showing that the number of people who died of drugs in Scotland in 2018 reached more than 1,187, the highest since records began.

Jacquie, 34, is herself a recovering drug addict.

She told BBC Scotland's The Nine: "It is scary how quick it can take a grip and devastate a family.

"I feel my life has been ruined.

"People could say that has been my fault, I understand that with the drug side. I can't help the fact that I have lost all my family to the drugs. And it is hard."

media captionJacquie: "We are still a family, we are not animals, monsters, or whatever people would call a family of heroin users."

Jacquie, who began taking heroin at the age of 17 and is now trying to kick the habit, said she could not remember a time when the family wasn't affected by drugs.

She is the last remaining member of her immediate family - who all lived and died in the Fife town of Glenrothes.

The first family death came in 2005, when Jacquie's father Thomas died at a property in Glenrothes. He was 40 and his death was attributed to "adverse effects of heroin".

Two years later, in 2007, the first of Jacquie's sisters, Kayleigh, died of a morphine overdose at the age of 21.

Their mother Margaret, who was hooked on painkillers and had dabbled with heroin, died in 2010, due to "adverse effects of opiates". She was 44.

In May 2018, after a suicide attempt, Jacquie's 37-year-old brother Colin was found dead at a house in Glenrothes as a result of "multi-drug intoxication".

And then five months later, second sister Emma died aged 29 after taking a cocktail of methadone and diazepam.

'I couldn't cope'

Jacquie, whom BBC Scotland is not fully naming, continued: "I would like to think in my head that they would've been able to kick the habit.

"But in reality, no. My dad was only on it four years and he committed suicide with heroin. My mum was just the same - she started with Tramadol and it led to her taking lines here and there."

Mother and sister - Margaret died aged 44 and Kayleigh died aged 21

image copyrightFamily Handout
image captionJacquie's mother Margaret [left], who died in 2010, with Jacquie's sister Kayleigh, who died in 2007

Jacquie said her own battle with addiction started in high school where dabbling with alcohol and cannabis escalated to harder drugs.

She began taking heroin at the age of 17, when she was receiving NHS treatment for alcohol abuse, and her longest period of sobriety was seven years in her mid-20s.

"I took a mixture of everything really," she said.

"I would take diazepam, any downer really, any sleeping tablets or suppressant.

"I would have sleeping tablets from the doctor like Zopiclone. It would help with the buzz, to block out everything that was going on in life. With losing all my family, I couldn't cope."

Brother - Colin died aged 37

image copyrightFamily Handout
image captionJacquie's brother Colin, 37, died in Glenrothes last year as a result of “multi-drug intoxication”.

Jacquie told BBC Scotland how she has struggled to cope after losing her brother and sister in quick succession last year.

"My brother died in May and I'd only just been speaking to him again for five weeks," she explained.

"We'd agreed that me, him and Emma would all go to bereavement counselling to work through everything we'd lost.

"We would do it, the three of us, so that it would help us bond that brother-and-sister relationship that I desperately wanted and obviously they did as well.

"I got the phone call from Emma at three in the morning. The police had chapped her up to say that Colin had passed away. She was distraught, devastated, screaming down the phone.

"I just spent that day with Emma. She was an absolute mess. Then six months down the line, Emma was gone.

"I've never been right since. I've never been right from any of them but Emma was the worst by far."

Father - Thomas died aged 40

image copyrightFamily Handout
image captionJacquie's father Thomas who died in 2005, aged 40, due to the "adverse effects of heroin"

Jacquie said drug abuse and its affect on different generations of families largely remains a taboo subject but she wanted to speak out to show people what it is like to live with the impact of the problem.

She said: "Even if I can help one more family, then I have done good.

"I just want people to see that we are still a family. We are not animals, monsters or whatever people would call a family of heroin users."

On her own addiction problems, the 34-year-old, who has been on methadone for 15 years, said she was "100% ready to be clean and stay that way" but acknowledged the path ahead for her was difficult.

Sister - Emma died aged 29

image copyrightFamily Handout
image captionJacquie's other sister, Emma, who died from a drugs overdose last year

If you've been affected by issues explored in this article, BBC Action Line has links to helpful resources including information about drugs , emotional distress and bereavement.

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