WHEN Linda Smith's son died he was just 22 - a victim of the drug heroin.

Graham had been introduced to the drug by a friend while at a party in December 1995 and had very quickly come to realise it was controlling his life.

He had already gone through 'cold turkey' - the street name for the symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal - on his own before turning to his family for help.

Four times he tried to beat his heroin addiction, but the drug ultimately killed him.

This week, his mother went to St Mary's RC Comprehensive School in Menston to speak to year 10 pupils about Graham and how his heroin addiction, and then his death, had affected his family.

The 14 and 15-year-olds heard first-hand from Mrs Smith how her son had been introduced to the drug and what she felt about it.

She said: "Graham was a heroin addict for the last 18 months of his life.

"For seven to eight months of that time his father and myself, and his close friends, had known about his habit.

"The reason I am here today is because, in talking to Graham, one thing that was perfectly clear was how concerned he was, but not for himself.

"He did not like the life he was leading. Heroin had destroyed his life and he did not want anyone else going through what he had endured," said Mrs Smith.

She said Graham had told her about going into Bradford to buy heroin and, in the place where he got his supply from, was a nine-year-old boy injecting the drug.

"Graham once told me about going to the house of one of the major suppliers. He lived in luxury. There was no sign of drugs anywhere," she said.

"These drugs barons are evil. I call them evil because they are not satisfied by enticing youngsters with free samples of heroin.

"Not only do they get rich with the heroin but they get rich by taking expensive electrical goods in exchange for drugs," said Mrs Smith.

"This man, a jet-set businessman who earns millions a year, took a £600 camcorder from Graham and gave him £80," she added.

PC Dave Robson, Otley-based schools' liaison officer who had arranged the talk, added: "These people at the top, who are the major suppliers, don't even drink tea or coffee because they have addictive properties in them.

"These men are squeaky clean," he said.

Mrs Smith said she was at the school to tell the teenagers where drugs would lead them.

"You might not end up dead, but I can tell you the sort of life you will lead," she added.

Once the floor was thrown open for questions, the teenagers began by asking Mrs Smith when Graham started taking heroin and how long it had taken for him to become an addict.

She said: "Graham first took heroin at Christmas in 1995. He was at a party where he was with a so-called friend, who was a heroin addict, and he succumbed.

"He decided to 'have a go'. I don't know how quickly he became addicted but only four months later he tried to come off heroin," she said.

The pupils also wanted to know how often Graham was buying the drug and whether or not he received drugs counselling.

"Graham was buying heroin every day. He was spending around £200 a week when he still had money, at the beginning. Then he was spending £40 a day.

"Eventually, because of the drugs, he couldn't work and it was at that point he made the decision to stop taking heroin. He didn't want to start committing crime to feed his habit," she said.

"We went to see our family doctor and also a drugs counsellor and Graham started to wean himself off heroin.

"He wanted to get started on another drug, which chemically cuts out the need for heroin and so he decided to come off straight away and go through cold turkey," said Mrs Smith.

"He had 24 to 36 hours of stomach cramps, fever and chills and the shakes but he quickly came out of it and went on to this other drug," she added.

Graham stayed off heroin for six weeks but, after collapsing in a coma, he died in Leeds General Infirmary's intensive care unit on June 16, 1997.

Katie Dockerty, aged 14, and Chris Egan, aged 15, spoke to Wharfedale Newspapers after Mrs Smith's talk.

Both said they were moved after hearing about Graham's life and how his drug addiction had affected his family.

Katie said: "I thought it was really brave that a mother, who had lost her son, could come in and talk to a group of teenagers about her experience and what she had gone through."

Chris agreed. He said: "It is a lot more relevant and heartfelt than if it had been told to us by somebody like a police officer or a teacher.

"You get the facts but you also get a feeling about it. It was hard to cover everything in such a short space of time," he added.

Katie said: "Mrs Smith did not get emotional about it and it did have an effect. That you were listening to someone who had been through that experience."

Chris said he thought Mrs Smith's talk was more affective than one from a drug addict would have been.

He said: "Whereas an addict would maybe be biased towards drugs, saying they were good at the time, Mrs Smith told us that heroin was never a good thing at any time.

"Hearing about Mrs Smith's experiences with her son when he was going through cold turkey and what he went through to try to get off heroin was very effective," he added.

Both teenagers said they had come across drugs while on a night out and they agreed that taking drugs seemed to be more socially acceptable to teenagers these days.

Chris said he thought teenagers today had more of the facts on drug abuse than at any other time.

"But there are some people who will not take any notice no matter how much information they get," added Katie.

PC Robson and Mrs Smith went to St Mary's as part of a tutorial programme being run at the school.

Teacher Francesca Childs said: "The programme is designed to give pupils information, advice and the opportunity to discuss important issues.

"Some of these include drugs, alcohol, smoking, diet, dealing with prejudice and bullying, analysing the media, learning about Government, politics and careers," she said.

"PC Robson has always been ready to help us by talking to the pupils.

In the last few weeks, both pupils and staff have particularly appreciated Mrs Smith coming into school to tell us about her sad experience," said Mrs Childs.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.