'Jellies' have ruined thousands of lives

John Arlidge talks to a former addict in Glasgow

John Arlidge
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:55

Like thousands of young Glaswegians, Eamon Doherty's life has been ruined by a threepenny sleeping tablet which has become the most widely abused drug among a generation of Scots.

Mr Doherty, 27, started taking temazepam when he was a teenager. He began by experimenting with cannabis and LSD, and then moved on to heroin and temazepam - "jellies" - when the two drugs flooded into Clydeside in the Eighties. "At first I was just curious. I wanted to try things," he said.

"But soon the drugs began to control me. I liked the heroin but I built up a tolerance to it. So I started mixing it with temazepam to get a bigger buzz. I would combine the two and inject them. It was then that I knew I was an addict."

He soon lost his job as a painter and decorator, and throughout his teens he shoplifted and stole from his family to get the pounds 100 a day he needed to buy his daily fix.

"Jellies and heroin became my life," he said. "I didn't think about anything else. When I was awake I was either jagging or stealing to get money to jag. When I slept I dreamt about drugs."

After serving one year in prison for shoplifting, he nearly died when he contracted blood poisoning at 18. "All the junk I was injecting into my veins clogged up the valves around my heart. I spent eight weeks in hospital," he said. But as soon as he was discharged, he was back on drugs. "It was all I had. I told myself I would give up. But I couldn't."

In desperation, he enrolled on a "detox" programme at the Calton Athletic drugs recovery group in the East End of Glasgow. After two months of cold turkey, he is now "clean" but he still suffers blood problems.

Strathclyde is the centre of Britain's temazepam epidemic. Some 97 young people died last year after mixing "jellies" with illegal opiates such as heroin. This year the figure is set to top 100 for the first time.

As the death toll rises, temaz-epam-related crime has mushroomed. Strathclyde Police blame the drug for half of all street crime in Glasgow, and as the "jellies" market expands, dealers increasingly turn to violence to protect their territory and profits. Gang warfare is rife.

Earlier this year five men were murdered in Paisley, near Glasgow, in shootings and stabbings orchestrated by those implicated in the temazepam trade. Overall, 10 men have died in drugs killings this year.

Yesterday Mr Doherty welcomed the Government's decision to reschedule temazepam as a controlled drug, but expressed doubts that it would curb abuse. Although it would be easier to prosecute dealers, the demand for sedatives was so great that many would continue to supply it, he said.

"Thousands and thousands of youngsters in Glasgow crave jellies. They are cheap, easy to take and give a big buzz. As long as there is that kind of demand, there will always be a supply. It stands to reason."

The real challenge, he said, was to address the deprivationin Strathclyde that led to drug abuse. "Restricting supplies of a single drug is not the answer. Most people get hooked because they have nothing other than drugs to look forward to."

One of the victims was his brother, who died of an overdose last April.

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