Irish folk legend Christy Moore has spoken about suffering a heart attack in a candid interview about drug use.
The singer, who has had a long battle with cocaine, called for a fairer approach for drug users who are caught in possession of small quantities for personal use.
He also admitted that even after his near-death experience he was unable to stop using cocaine.
Moore said: “I certainly encountered cocaine for a period of my life and there was a period of my life where I would have been very familiar with it.
“I had a heart attack. I said ‘Well, that’s it now, that’s me sorted, I’m going to give up’ but within a very short period of getting out of hospital, I was back on that road again.
“And that’s when I knew I was beaten. If a heart attack is not going to stop me, I need help, I’m in trouble.”
Thankfully, Moore’s family rallied around him and he was able to get clean.
He is now supporting the #SaferFromHarm campaign which encourages compassion in dealing with drug problems in Ireland.
He said: “We need to try and take more care, to try and embrace those who seem to be just falling through the cracks of our society.
“Not to be always turning the other way, to try and offer a little bit of compassion at every level, from government right down to us walking down the street.”
It has been a crime to be in possession of drugs for personal use for decades and during that time the number of people using drugs and the amount of harm being done has risen dramatically.
Moore believes we need to find a better understanding of addicts so we can respond to their needs in a more productive manner.
He said: “One of the problems is that when it comes to the criminality, the person in addiction has to be separated from the criminal behaviour of some people who are in addiction. They’re two separate things.
“I see people everyday in my life who you can tell by their very demeanour, and by the look in their eyes, they need a bit of love and they need a bit of help.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to even offer it because they’re so paranoid, they’ll reject the helping hand.
“But, for someone to be criminalised purely because of their illness, or their sickness, it’s a bad situation.”
Research from the Ana Liffey Drug Project shows that 80% of Irish people would prefer to see loved ones receive professional help rather than face prosecution if they were using drugs.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalised use of all drugs. The result has been a vast reduction in overdoses, HIV infection and drug related crime.
Ana Liffey Drug Project CEO, Tony Duffin said: “Families across Ireland, just like Christy and his brother, have experiences with drug use. And those families recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.
“We know this to be true and it is time we matched our actions with our beliefs.
“By choosing to respond in a compassionate and pragmatic way, we have the chance to rebuild lives and reduce crime.
“Time after time, the people of Ireland have demonstrated that they are fair and empathetic, embracing those who have sometimes been left behind in our society.
“We now have the opportunity to respond with kindness once again, by lifting up those who have fallen through the cracks.”