'Sometimes I hope I don't wake up': The drug user who started heroin aged just 11

This video contains distressing images
  • Peter Smith reports on Scotland's other "public health emergency"

  • Warning: This video report contains images which some viewers may find distressing

Cheryl Riddick, 43, started taking drugs aged just 10. By 11, she was smoking heroin and age 12 she was injecting.

In front of our eyes, she swallowed 25 of these ‘street Valiums.’

She has lost relatives and friends to drugs and when I ask how many, she says: “Too many to count.”

When I asked her if she ever fears she won’t wake up, she nods.

“I do worry sometimes. And sometimes I hope I don’t wake up.”

'Not going to lie to you, sometimes I hope I don’t wake up': Cheryl speaks outside her apartment after buying more drugs

Cheryl - who's from the north Glasgow town of Possil - spoke ahead of what has become Scotland’s annual day of shame: the day the nation’s drug death statistics are published.

Once again, the numbers are up; once again, Scotland has the worst record in Europe.

1,339 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2020. That’s an increase of 5% from 2019 and the highest number since records began in 1996.

Scotland has a particular issue with what’s known as ‘poly-drug use.’ Essentially people are taking several drugs at once, commonly heroin, cocaine, and fake Valium pills that have flooded the streets.

In 2020 - year of the global pandemic - Scotland’s under-65s had twice as many drug deaths as Covid deaths, reports Peter Smith

While we saw Cheryl pop 25 ‘street Valiums’, she has also been on methadone for 30 years.

It’s a potentially deadly mix, and she wants to kick the habit, but when asked how long she thinks it would take to get help, she simply said: “How long is a piece of string?”

Drugs of various description, on the other hand, can be in her hands in just minutes, she says.

Cheryl started heroin at just 11 - here she talks about how bad conditions are in her hometown

In 93% of the latest drug deaths more than one drug was found to be present in the body.

And it is these ‘street’ pills that are a real concern: cheap, highly addictive, unpredictable, and even more deadly when combined with other substances, especially alcohol.

That’s the killer cocktail involved in the majority of drug deaths here. The ‘street Valiums’ are involved in more deaths in Scotland than heroin.

In the north of Glasgow, we witnessed the devastation they are causing.

The Scottish government has recently announced a £250m investment into addiction services.

More on Scotland's drug crisis

This follows the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon conceding her government “took our eye off the ball” on drug deaths.

But this money follows years of cuts to frontline addiction services, and critics say it is simply plugging a hole the Scottish government created.

There is also disagreement on how the money should be invested and which services can use it most effectively.

While politicians debate what to do about this drug death crisis for another year, Scotland has thousands of drug users still at risk. They keep talking; drug users keep dying.

Cheryl only buried an old friend who died form drug use just in the past week.

"They've just been unlucky, really," she said, before buying another bunch of pills.

If you or someone you know if affected by the issues raised in this article, the following charities offer support:

  • Action of Addiction works across all areas of treatment, research, family support and professional education - 0300 330 0659

  • Frank offers confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law - 0300 123 6600

  • Narcotics Anonymous offers support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs - 0300 999 1212

  • Release offers free and confidential advice about drugs and the law - 020 7324 2989 or email helpline:

  • We Are With You supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family

  • People can also discuss addiction issues with their GP