Mother says safe injecting centres 'would have helped' her daughter who died from overdose

Brigid Sugrue, whose daughter Fiona died from an overdose, told Pat Kenny about her experience

Mother says safe injecting centres 'would have helped' her daughter who died from overdose

Image: Peter Varga, Humans of Dublin

A mother whose daughter died from a drug overdose has said she believes her daughter 'would have been safe' if she had access to injection centres.

Campaigners have long argued for the introduction of safe injection centres in Ireland, amid estimates that there are around 3,000 injecting drug users in Dublin. Advocates argue that the facilities are significantly safer for drug users as well as the wider community.

The Government is due to publish legislation introducing safe facilities in the coming weeks, and Catherine Byrne TD - the Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy - has indicated that the first supervised injecting facility (SIF) will open in Dublin next year.

The Cabinet push for the introduction of SIFs was spearheaded by former Labour junior minister and current Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) and the Humans of Dublin are currently raising awareness of the importance of SIFs with their #SaferFromHarm project.

Tony Duffin, director of the ALDP, says the introduction of SIFs "cannot come soon enough," with his group having been working to get them in operation since 2012.

Brigid Sugrue, mother of Fiona who died from an overdose, joined Tony on the Pat Kenny Show to talk about her experiences.

"I don't know who introduced her to heroin, but she did get an awful lot of friends around the age of 14 to 16," Brigid recalled. "[She] injected it straight away. She went straight to injecting at 16.

"Certainly there was a huge personality change between the ages of 14 and 16. A completely different child emerged [...] I don't know who introduced her to heroin. She did get an awful lot of new friends around the age to 14 to 16.

"I still have no answers as to why that happened to Fiona. No idea whatsoever." 

"She would disappear for several weeks at a time"

Brigid explained to Pat that Fiona entered rehab on several occasions.

"She did want to get clean, and the maximum she ever stayed in the treatment centres was four days at the very most. [Then] she had to leave herself."

Fiona's life was 'chaotic', and to earn money resorted to shoplifting and begging. "She always had somewhere to stay [...] But she would come to the house and she would cause an awful lot of trouble," Brigid said.

"Fiona get pregnant at 18, and she changed her drug to cocaine. The baby was subject to cocaine in the womb every day of the nine months - and he was born perfect. He's 14 now, and he still remains the light in my life.

"But he was taken into care when [he] was three-and-a-half months to a wonderful foster home - and Fiona went downhill very, very much after that [...] She would disappear for several weeks at a time."

Brigid told Pat about her last encounter with her daughter.

"Eventually she came up to the house one Monday evening and caused absolute mayhem in the house - the worst ever," she said. "Unfortunately that was the last contact I had with Fiona, because she died the following morning [from] a massive methadone overdose."

Brigid believes that having access to a safe place to inject could have helped protect her daughter.

"It would have helped Fiona, and it certainly would have helped me," she observed. "When Fiona was linking in with the different centres - like Merchant's Quay and Trinity Court - I knew Fiona was safe.

"I know that if there were safe injecting centres, Fiona would have used them and ultimately she would have been safe. Instead of that she died all alone," she added.

For Brigid, the issue of drug abuse and addiction is one we need to talk about in public more often.

"Nobody wakes up on a Monday morning and decides they're going to be a drug addict the following week. It's insidious - nobody plans for it to happen. And I think everybody deserves a chance, and I think it's something that should be talked [about] in communities to help the people that are living there."

You can listen back to the full interview via the podcast below: