We lost my nephew in January this year, when he accidentally overdosed on heroin. Losing him, and the circumstances of it, have devastated his family and friends. This is how it affects me,  I’m not speaking for anyone else affected by his death because it’s different for each of us.

My nephew was always thoughtful, quiet, a watcher of situations, with his own logic even as a child. He was such an artistic creative boy, in love with life, deeply sensitive. We never knew what he was doing with drugs, the risks he was taking. His Mum knew a bit of it, but he always said he was in control, knew what he was doing, and he hid so much from her, so she never knew all of it.


He was mixing with people who used drugs, took pills, sold him pills, and his closest friends used drugs recreationally. It’s easy for things to escalate, people know others and so it goes on. For him, it was mixed in with his friendships, his music, everyone he hung out with, it’s not easy to untangle that.


He was secretive about it because he didn’t want to hurt people, and also, I suspect he didn’t want to stop. The drugs that killed him were unusually pure, or he misjudged the dose, there’s no way to know. He truly believed he was in control and knew what he was doing, but it didn’t turn out that way.


I wish we could do things differently, so that drugs weren’t sold on the streets but regulated, and users got help and medical advice. It’s a bit like ‘just say no’ instead of sex education, kids do sex and they do drugs. If we don’t let them do those things with our knowledge, they will do them anyway, with far more risk. At least can’t we keep them as safe as possible.


My nephew should have come through to live the life he wanted, maybe with a loving partner, with a family of his own,  that is never going to happen now. How we are with drugs really needs to change, to take away the secrecy and the stigma. If users could get safe (unadulterated) drugs, the best advice, maybe it would be different, at least for some. I will never know if that would have helped him, but it must be worth a try, for all the others like him.