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Drugs turned my son into a 'monster'

PUBLISHED: 12:55 17 June 2008 | UPDATED: 19:35 10 March 2010

Julie Sheppard and daughter Georgina

Julie Sheppard and daughter Georgina

GRIEF stricken Julie Sheppard knows all about the horrors of drugs.

Jack Sheppard

GRIEF stricken Julie Sheppard knows all about the horrors of drugs.

Today her once cheerful and happy go lucky son, Jack, is dead after years of drug abuse that led him into a downward spiral of psychosis.

In March at the tender age of 17, the teenager died after taking an overdose of sedatives but his anguished mother will never know what really happened to him after an inquest into his death returned an open verdict.

Mrs Sheppard, 50, watched helplessly as Jack went from being a cheerful young boy who dreamt of becoming a professional wrestler to suffering from such overwhelming paranoia that he refused to even answer the front door.

On March 12, he took a fatal dose of sedatives prescribed to ease his psychosis after developing mental health issues through using cannabis and other recreational drugs.

Mrs Sheppard said: “He started smoking cannabis when he was 13-years-old and it led to other drugs. He was getting involved with the wrong people and began taking crack, ecstasy, anything he could get hold of.

“When he was 16 he managed to get himself off everything but he became a bit of a recluse. He was always very down and depressed.

“A year later he told me that he had gone off one night to the BMX track to hang himself. I was so concerned I called the doctor and that's when the mental health team came in. He was diagnosed with drug induced psychosis.”

Jack displayed symptoms consistent with psychosis, including hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and the belief that people were watching him.

The problem escalated in February, shortly before his death but his mum had noticed a change in his behaviour long before then.

Mrs Sheppard said: “He changed from being a very happy, loving, kindhearted little boy into a monster and I had to put up with a lot of verbal abuse from him.”

She said he was prescribed sedatives and told by a mental health team to wait and see if he became more stable.

Mr Sheppard's sister, 15-year-old Georgina, had affectionate memories of her brother before the drugs took hold.

She said: “When he got off everything he had a spell when he was just like he used to be but then he became paranoid.

“We fought a lot like most brothers and sisters but I remember the good times with him. We used to go outside and play cars together.”

Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust spokesman Nicola Brown said: “We were sorry to hear of Jack's death, and our thoughts are with his family at this time.

“We did carry out an internal review following his death, which concluded our staff had followed all the right procedures.

“However, that's not to do down the fact that a young man has died. We would be very pleased to talk to Jack's family, if they would like to, about any aspect of the care he received from the Trust.”

- THE inquest into Jack's death heard how he had taken a fatal dose of sedatives prescribed to ease his psychosis.

The court heard how he started to develop mental health issues following his repeated use of cannabis and other recreational drugs.

It was also revealed Mr Sheppard had recently separated from his girlfriend.

At 1am on March 12, Mr Sheppard was with his mother when she heard a cry. Paramedics attempted to resuscitate him when he stopped breathing after suffering a heart attack.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean, who recorded an open verdict, described Mr Sheppard as someone who had been “troubled by the psychological complaints he suffered and the problems arising out of the psychosis”.

He said of the prescription drugs found in his system during the post mortem: “We don't know if it was taken intentionally to take his own life, to damp down the voices, or possibly accidentally.

“This could have been a deliberate act but I have to be certain he intended the consequences of his actions.”

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