Grieving mother believes son would still be alive if drugs were decriminalised

  • ITV Wales' Daniel Bevan reports

The mother of a man who died from a heroin overdose in Carmarthen believes her son would still be alive if drugs were decriminalised.

On 13 December 2017, Pat Hudson's life changed forever when her son, Kevin Lane, fell unconscious in a locked public toilet following drug use and passed away just two days after his 32nd birthday.

Kevin was in recovery at the time of his death and had begun a successful career as a tree surgeon.

She said: "[Kevin] was a hair's breadth away from life and death.

"The fact that he was locked away was because of the criminality of what he was doing and the stigma attached to that.

Pat Hudson wants people to make a distinction from drug users and drug dealers. Credit: ITV Wales

"But I think if there wasn't that stigma and possession for personal use wasn't a criminal offence, he would have sought treatment earlier."

Pat has since dedicated her life to fighting for drug policy reform in the hope of saving lives.

But she wants people to make a distinction between drug users and drug dealers.

She said: "If it's a question about selling the stuff, especially in large quantities, and supplying it, I wouldn't shirk from very serious punishment for people involved in that.

"They don't care how young or vulnerable the people they sell this drug to are."

Kevin was in recovery at the time of his death and had begun a successful career as a tree surgeon. Credit: ITV Wales

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of those who have lost someone to illicit drugs which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities.

“We are working to tackle the supply of illicit drugs through relentless policing action.

"Since the start of the Drug Strategy, we have successfully disrupted more than 4,500 organised crime groups and continue to build on our treatment system to turn people’s lives around."

A poll conducted by YouGov for ITV Wales found a very low appetite for changing the laws for possession and selling of various drugs.

More than 1,000 people in Wales were asked which statement they felt was most in line with their beliefs.

Cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and ketamine all received strong support for keeping the sale and possession of the drugs illegal.

Marijuana was an outlier in the poll, with more people supporting full legalisation than lesser punishments.

New data, released this week by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), shows an increase in the number of people taking illegal drugs in Wales and England compared to 10 years ago.

In the year ending March 2023, an estimated 9.5% of people aged 16 to 59 years (approximately 3.1 million people) reported any drug use in the past 12 months. 

In total, 70% of the people who reported using any drug in the last year were infrequent users.

But if substance users wanted to go drug-free, they may find rehab and inpatient services hard to come by, leaving a void often filled by charities and community groups.

Adferiad provides help and support for people with mental health, substance use, addiction and other complex needs in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot areas.

Samatha Droham works with substance use and addiction recovery charity Adferiad. Credit: ITV Wales

Samantha Droham has worked with thousands of drug users over the last two decades and she believes a health-based approach is the way forward.

She said: "Most substance users are regular people with regular families. I think many of them want to get well, and many of them don't want to be dependent on substances.

"Going to prison, having prison sentences reinforces that negative stigma attached to substance use.

"It can trap people on that constant cycle, where they feel it's much harder to break out from."

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