As concerns grow that the class A drug will soon be readily available on UK streets, Michelle O’Dwyer reveals how it’s robbed her of her looks and health
Originally published: 26 July 2011
As a child, Michelle O’Dwyer dreamt of getting married and having a family. However, after 18 years of drug taking, her wishes seemed unlikely to be fulfilled. But last week, as she finished a gruelling stint in rehab, she took her first tentative steps to getting her life back on course.
Michelle says: “If I can stay off drugs, I’ll make my family proud. I want to be able to go out for a meal with friends and not think about what I’ve got hidden in my handbag.”
She’s now desperately trying to stay clean of crystal meth – the drug that has damaged her health, cost her her job and alienated her from family and friends.
Revealing she suffered from constant diarrhoea, sweats, vomiting and terrifying hallucinations, Michelle, 38, was released after three weeks – clean, but facing an exhausting battle to stay away from drugs.
Michelle from Croydon says: “Crystal meth has ravaged my body and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to have kids. All my dreams have been lost.”
Twice as addictive as heroin, crystal meth causes sores, rotting gums, kidney failure and internal bleeding. It has already swept across America and is becoming readily available across the UK.
'Crystal meth has ravaged my body and it's unlikely I'll be able to have kids'
Last month, a newspaper investigation revealed dealers in Liverpool could get undercover reporters a kilo of the drug worth £18,000 – following the seizure of Britain’s largest ever haul of crystal meth worth £1.5million in Tower Hamlets, London. Another bust by UK border police recovered £30,000 worth of the drug.
Michelle’s life now is a far cry from her loving upbringing.Her dad died when she was one, and she was raised by her mum. “Mum taught me nice manners and I got good grades at school. I worked with disabled children during my gap year. I never wanted for anything,” she says.
But aged 20, Michelle fell in with a drug-taking crowd – who were all respected professionals – and developed a habit, using marijuana and cocaine on clubbing trips. She admits: “I liked the feeling of getting high.”
Then, in May 2006, a friend asked if she’d like to try crack cocaine. She remembers: “It made me feel so confident.”
Michelle’s £70-a-weekend habit quickly escalated. She reveals: “I was a functioning addict. I hid it from everyone except my clubbing mates.”
Michelle was soon struggling to pay her bills, so she was keen when a friend suggested she try crystal meth – which cost just £30 for a week’s supply.
“I was excited to try something new that was cheap,” she reveals.
Michelle smoked it with a friend for the first time at home in November 2009. Revealing she felt “warm and tingly” she was hit by a wave of energy and reveals: “I felt so sexy and alive.”
After just three days – without sleeping or eating – Michelle was hooked and within four months, she’d been sacked from her job in a catering firm. Unable to pay her rent, she ended up in a council flat. She says: “I’d wake up feeling sick, had no energy, got regular diarrhoea and ached all over.”
Within months, her teeth were rotting, she’d developed sores on her face and chest and her periods had stopped.
Reliant on benefits, and spending up to £40 a day on drugs, she says: “I kidded myself I could give it up at any time.”
'I'd wake up feeling sick, had no energy and ached all over'
The appetite-suppressing drug also made her drop from a size 14 to a tiny 4. She says: “I got by on one sandwich every other day.”
The drug also lowers sexual inhibitions and Michelle slept with up to 30 men – often without contraception. She says: “I did it with guys I hardly knew because they had meth. I didn’t feel like I was prostituting myself – meth just made me feel sexy.”
Michelle started to shoplift and steal from friends who weren’t into drugs to pay for her habit.
“Slowly they all dumped me. They told me I needed help, but I ignored them,” she admits.
And her heartbroken mum was at her wits’ end. “She begged me to get help,” Michelle remembers.
Sadly, Michelle last saw her mum a year ago as she felt unable to face her while she was using drugs. She says: “Mum told me I had to change.”
By January this year, Michelle had sold all of her furniture, and had just a mattress. And her health was quickly deteriorating. She says: “My heart beat so fast I felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I hated myself so much, I had to sort myself out.”
Michelle went into an NHS-funded detox programme last month for three weeks, where anti-anxiety medication was used help to wean her off the drug.
She describes it as “sheer hell” and adds: “I pleaded for a fix, had vivid hallucinations and felt like I was being eaten by fleas.”
Having now returned home to her flat, Michelle is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She says: “People say ‘take one day at a time,’ but, for me, it’s one hour at a time. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Revealing she now hopes to repair her relationship with her mum, Michelle adds: “I need to make amends. If I don’t stay clean, I know I’m going to die.”