Pain ‘I’m in a wheelchair and I’m only 33’ – Man who lost leg due to heroin warns of dangers
‘I can’t shake the feelings of shame and embarrassment. I was well known and well respected, I’ve lost my pride’
December 23 2021 06:00 AM
A recovering heroin user who had his leg amputated because of his addiction has urged young people not to destroy their lives with drugs.
Respected car mechanic Steven Duggan says he’s speaking out about his crippling addiction to the deadly drug in the hope someone might see how heroin has destroyed his life and think again about taking it.
The 33-year-old from Coleraine revealed this week how he turned to heroin after a prescription for painkillers for a sore shoulder was withdrawn by his doctor when he became addicted to them.
He says he was spending £500-a-week on heroin and, after becoming depressed with the cycle of addiction, he tried to take his own life by injecting a massive dose of the drug into his groin.
“It should have killed me, I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t want to live anymore because I was working a full-time job just to feed my heroin addiction to keep the pain away,” says Steven.
“I wasn’t injecting heroin, I only smoked it so I was still working until a couple of years ago but it was a vicious cycle of working just to get money for heroin.
“About 18 months ago I decided I’d had enough so I injected two grams straight into my groin because I have tattoos on my arms and couldn’t find any veins.
“At the time I was living with my granny and I collapsed on the floor in her bathroom. It was more than enough to kill me but for some reason I survived.
“I was lying the whole night nearly dead and the way I was lying unconscious it had cut the blood supply from my leg so they had to amputate it from above the knee.
“Look how it has left me. I’m in a wheelchair and I’m only 33. I survived but my life has been destroyed by drugs and addiction. I would urge any young person out there who’s thinking about turning to drugs to think again.
“Drugs like heroin won’t solve any of your problems, they’ll just give you a whole load more problems.”
Steven says he doesn’t remember anything but remembers waking up in intensive care and his leg had already been removed.
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“Luckily they were able to save my arm but my kidneys were badly damaged and I had to get dialysis which was really strange, you can feel the blood going back into your body and it left me feeling freezing cold.”
And he says he was lucky to have done his cold turkey from heroin while he was in the intensive care unit at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.
“I was in intensive care for five weeks so I wasn’t really conscious of the withdrawal symptoms. It has made it easier to get off but it’s still a struggle every day.
“I have to take loads of medication for the damage to my kidneys. My whole life has changed but I’m definitely glad I’m still here.
“I owe so much to the doctors and nurses who looked after me. My whole family have been so supportive, especially my mum. She’s been brilliant. She works so many jobs and she’s always there for me.”
Steven was a highly respected mechanical engineer in the Coleraine area and had a full-time job working for a rally team.
He’s starting to get back into fixing cars and says he’s hopeful he can get back to working full time one day.
“I was working with a rally team on Mark 2 Ford Escorts, I lived for working on cars,” he explains.
“I still have people bringing their cars to me to fix because they trust me. It’s all I want to do but because of drugs I lost my full-time job.
“I’m in a better place now so I hope I can get back to it soon.”
Steven says he remains riddled with feelings of shame which came to the fore recently when a court case, which had been postponed because his suicide attempt and subsequent amputation, finally took place.
Antrim Magistrates Court heard how Steven had been found slumped at the wheel of his car in 2018 at a McDonald’s restaurant in Ballymena.
He was sentenced to charges of possessing diamorphine (heroin) and Diazepam and being in charge of a vehicle whilst unfit to drive.
District Judge Nigel Broderick described his record as being “a very poor”.
He added: “I do take into consideration, significantly, the recent surgery you have had and no doubt that has had a profound impact on your life.”
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He was given a five-month prison term, suspended for three years and was banned from driving for five years.
“That happened almost four years ago now but it’s extremely embarrassing,” says Steven.
“I’d pulled into the McDonalds to park up as I thought it was safer to do that.
“I had prescription drugs in me but I hadn’t actually taken any heroin. I hadn’t even opened the bag. That’s the other thing young people should know about drugs and particularly heroin – you will end up in and out of court.
“I have loads of convictions mostly for possessing drugs but they will stay with me for ever.
“It’s embarrassing because people didn’t know about my heroin addiction because I was smoking it and still working, I was functioning so it was a shock to people in the car game who knew me.
“I can’t shake the feelings of shame and embarrassment and I still feel like people are still looking down on me. I was well known and well respected around Coleraine, I’ve lost my pride.
“What makes me so angry is the fact I’d gone to the doctors and asked for help. I begged for help with my addiction, with my mental health problems.
“I only started taking prescription painkillers because I’d injured my shoulder when riding a Motocross bike. That’s how it all started but I asked for help and it wasn’t there.
“The powers that be need to do more for addicts when they ask for help.”
If you would like to find out about drug and alcohol addiction services in your area got to https://services.drugsandalco holni.info/treatment-support
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