WHEN it comes to drugs the generation gap has never been wider. For every youngster hooked on drugs there are horrified parents left standing in no man's land wondering what went wrong. One Lancaster mother has watched her much-loved son turn from a happy, bright-eyed lad into a gaunt, troubled figure who now only communicates in lies and denials.

And, having lived through the trauma of watching her son turn into a junkie, she's now set up an informal support group for families blighted by drug addiction.

"The heartache of living with a child on hard drugs is unbelievable," says the mother, who has also found herself stigmatised as a 'junkie's mum.'

"All I knew about heroin was what I'd picked up from television. Looking back, I can see that the signs were there but I pushed them to the back of my mind. No mother wants to admit that the child she loves and has brought up the best she can is on drugs."

Although there are many services to help drug users cope with their addiction, often families are left in the dark.

"You call drug helplines which are distant and just give professional advice. You go to the doctor who just gives you drugs to calm you down. Even members within the family don't really want to talk about it. You are left to deal with someone who has turned into a monster."

Heroin use is increasing even in places like Lancaster and Morecambe and there are fears that the users are getting younger. One drug worker, who has moved to the area from London, has been shocked at the extent of the district's drug problem and the average age of hard drug users.

But, what are just statistics for some, are real life tragedies for others. "What do you do when your son is lying to you, staying up all night, stealing from you?" asks the Lancaster mum. "What do you do when you ask why they're on drugs and they reply, "Because I like it." I've even given my son money to feed his habit so that he won't go out thieving. You feel so guilty and ask why it's happening to you. Then you feel hurt and angry that you are being put through this. Every parent thinks it won't happen to them but these days it can happen to anyone. I know there are others out there who are affected and, at the very least, we can get together to talk and offer support."

The group is aimed at parents and close family and will meet confidentially once a month. For more details call 848531 or 423111.

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