This blog was written by Cara, a film maker and a member of Anyone’s Child
Three years after her son died from an ecstasy related drug overdose, a grieving mother speaks out.
This month, 15 year old Shakira Pellow died after taking what she thought was an ecstasy tablet. Shakira’s parents published a picture of her as she lay dying “as a warning to others”
Over 20 years ago, 18 year old Leah Betts died after taking ecstasy. Her parents published a very similar photo of their daughter, also to illustrate the ‘’dangers of drugs’’.
Yet three times more people died from ecstasy related overdoses in 2015 than in 1996, the year Leah Betts died.
In 2015, Nadia Rees’ youngest son Ben was one of them. He died, aged 23 after taking what was sold to him as ecstasy. Heartbroken Nadia’s response has been somewhat different.
“Nadia knows that the contamination of Ben’s drugs was a direct effect of ecstasy being banned: he did not know exactly what was in the tablet that was sold to him.”
As a former drugs worker herself, what Nadia understands is that the truth about Leah Betts is that she died from lack of education about the drug she was taking. She had heard that it is wise to drink water when taking ecstasy, but not what quantity. She drank too much and died from water poisoning.
Her death was a direct effect of her drug of choice being banned: it meant real and useful education about how to stay safe when taking drugs was inaccessible to her.
Leah’s death was entirely preventable.
Nadia’s son Ben, a graduate who worked at the University of Swansea, thought he was buying ecstasy, but was actually sold PMA, a drug which delays its effects meaning people take more and are more likely to overdose.
Nadia also knows that the contamination of Ben’s drugs was a direct effect of ecstasy being banned: he did not know exactly what was in the tablet that was sold to him because the drugs can only be sold by criminals and Ben had no way of testing what was in them.
Ben’s death was entirely preventable.
In this short film, Nadia, now a member of the Anyone’s Child group of families who campaign for a different approach to drugs in order to save lives, shares what happened to Ben and how she believes we can stop this from happening to other young people.
It’s too soon to know exactly why Shakira Pellow lost her life and our hearts go out to her family in their shock and grief. We, the Anyone’s Child families who have lost loved ones ourselves, know better than most what they are going through. We understand their desire to spare other families from the same experience.
Many of us tried warning our relatives about the dangers of drugs, but the warnings fell on ears that heard their peers talking about how much fun they were having taking drugs without serious health consequences.
If you’re reading this as a young person, you almost certainly think this won’t happen to you. If you’re reading it as a parent, you are hoping that it won’t happen to your children and trying not to think about it. You can live on hope and avoidance or you can do something to make all our children safer. You can get behind the campaign for reform of our drug laws.
Cara Lavan is a film maker and a member of Anyone’s Child, after losing her partner to an accidental drug overdose in 2014.