Heartbroken mum speaks of son’s drug death

The mother of a student who died after overdosing on methadone has spoken movingly about her son’s final days.

Teresa Burke, whose son Kealan spent a year in a nursing home after overdosing on the heroin substitute, wants to deter people from taking drugs.

She hopes that images of Kealan’s struggle in the last few months of his life will “show the reality” of drug abuse.


Kealan’s addiction to drugs began when he started smoking cannabis aged just 17.

He was cautioned by the police for taking ecstasy and became addicted to prescription drugs, including diazepam, by the time he was 21.

He was in the second year of his course at the University of Ulster when he was left in a vegetative state after taking methadone.

“Devastated families”

Mrs Burke described her son’s final months as “awful”. He spent twelve months receiving round the clock care.

She said: “He was doubly incontinent; a quadriplegic; he couldn’t swallow; couldn’t hear and he couldn’t see. We don’t think he could feel anything either”.

She added: “Drugs might make you feel good for a short time, or even a long time, but they can kill you and leave devastated families behind.”

Complete ban

Mrs Burke is amongst a group of bereaved parents who are speaking out against drug abuse on both sides of the Irish border.

Karen Vandersypen, from Letterkenny in County Donegal has called for a complete ban on legal highs following the death of her son Jimmy.

He suffered a massive heart attack after smoking synthetic cannabis in October last year.


The mothers’ comments come alongside claims by Swedish researchers that smoking cannabis at 18 could leave men more likely to be disabled in later life.

They found that men who used marijuana more than 50 times before the age of 18 were 30 per cent more likely to claim disability benefits between the ages of 40 and 59.

The researchers analysed data taken from a large study, involving almost 50,000 men born between 1949 and 1951.


Anna-Karin Danielsson, the study leader, described marijuana as a ‘gateway’ to other harder drugs.

She said: “It may be the case that adolescent cannabis use may lead to a series of negative life events such as, for example, subsequent illicit drug use”.

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