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Why I set up a drug awareness initiative in memory of my daughter

Janine Milburn set up Georgia Jones Don't Go With The Flo after the death of her daughter.

AndGeorgia was a typical 18-year-old. She was the youngest of three girls and she also had four step-siblings whose ages slotted between them.

She was very loud and spoke at 100 miles an hour. And she loved our pets, ponies, dogs, cats. Georgina had lots of different groups of friends. She was very sociable and would speak to anyone. If she met you once you would then be a friend. She loved going to the cinema or out for meals with friends. Her favourite films were The Goonies and Labyrinth. She loved her job; she worked at a home for people with learning difficulties.

The day that changed everything

Georgia got ready at home with her sister. They got picked up at midday, and I went out the front said ‘be good, be careful, love you lots’, which is what I always said to them.

We got a call from her sister at about 4.30pm saying ‘mum, mum Georgia is fitting, she’s taken some pills,’ and they handed the phone to the paramedic. He said she was uncontrollably fitting, they were struggling to calm her, they were getting ready to take her to hospital and I was to meet them there.

Read more: Dealing with grief and loss of a sibling

Whilst on the phone a friend turned up and took me straight to the grounds. We got there just to see her feet go into the ambulance. I got in the front and we left.

They told me it was bad but I just thought a few days in hospital or at worst a coma whilst she mended, you hear of that. When we arrived I went into a family room and she was taken through so they could work on her.

Georgia Jones, whose mum Janine set up a drug awareness campaign after her death
Georgia Jones, whose mum Janine set up a drug awareness campaign after her death

She had taken MDMA

After a while, the consultant came out to talk to me. He asked if I knew exactly what she had taken and if it had all been explained to me. No was my answer to both.

He explained to me that she had taken MDMA – a pill (she had taken two). They work by raising the body temperature. Hers had gone off the scale at one point, and because of the high temperature the body starts to struggle and she started to fit. Her fitting lasted just under 50 minutes. Because of the continuous fitting, the body starts to shut down. It does this first by dissolving muscle, and this turns the blood acidic, which goes around the body affecting everything.

By the time she reached the hospital her heart had stopped three times. Because of the fitting, the brain gets starved of oxygen. So again, by the time she reached the hospital she had also suffered permanent brain damage. He went off and I made some calls.

He came back about 40 minutes later and asked if I had managed to find anything out about the pills. No was my answer.

Her heart stopped again. The hospital were making calls to see if they could find anything else to try to settle her. He said I should think about getting the family down. I got on the phone and most of the family got down by the time the consultant came back. He said her heart had stopped again for the fifth time but she now had her lungs filling with blood, fluid and stomach acid. There was nothing else they could do. It was time to turn everything off.

Saying goodbye

We went down and said goodbye and she was pronounced dead at 8.20pm. We later found out that she had been found wandering by two other friends and had seen her sister. It was them who had got all the help.

She wasn’t able to talk or walk properly and fell unconscious. It was during this time that she said she had taken two pills.

We don’t know and probably won’t ever know who she was with, how or who she got the pills off, but I do know it would have been her choice, although peer pressure may have been involved.

At her inquest, we also found out that her pills were pure as no other drug was found in her blood. They were extreme strength, the highest levels the pathologist had ever seen.

Drug awareness

I set it up Georgia Jones Don’t Go With The Flo because as I started talking to various people I was learning so much about young people and drugs in our society.

It’s an issue that I never realised had grown so much. I’m not naive but I didn’t have a clue.

Because of this, I started sharing what I was learning and sharing her story showing what can really happen. I feel that as parents we should know the risks our children are facing. She knew lots of people so it makes it real for so many.

In a weird way, it has and still does help me with my grief. I suppose it means I can talk about her lots, keeping her with me always.

Talking about drug use

My main aim of Flo is to get people talking about drug use. To help get rid of the stigma attached to it. People are never going to stop taking drugs (many people drink alcohol, which is a drug) and ‘just say no’ doesn’t work. It never has.

So what do you do? You educate. With knowledge you can make informed choices, with truth you can keep yourself as safe as possible.

Georgia made every mistake you could make, she never knew that. She didn’t want to die. Maybe if she had been armed with the knowledge she might have stood a chance.

She took two pills, she should have started with a quarter. That was one mistake.

As adults in society, we sometimes overlook technology. I know I don’t have a clue. Again it is used by dealers, and young people are flooded with images of people taking. It’s made it a normal thing to try. It’s even easier and cheaper to get than alcohol and gets delivered to you. So drug awareness and harm reduction education is very much needed.

Georgia Jones, whose mum Janine set up a drug awareness campaign after her death
Georgia Jones, whose mum Janine set up a drug awareness campaign after her death

Naming drug awareness campaign after Georgia

Georgia was always called Flo at home, almost from day one. We all know the saying ‘go with the flow’, well I don’t want people to just go with the flow.

And I thought it needed her name, so it would be easy to find. Yes, it’s a bit long-winded but that is how ‘Georgia Jones Don’t Go With The Flo’ was born.

I want young people and adults to talk about drugs. To try to make it less scary.

People should understand the dangers

I want people to listen to truths, to realise the dangers. We have all heard the scary stories but we have all also heard of the thousands who take drugs all the time and are fine. So we forget the bad stuff.

The danger now is that street drugs are the cheapest they have ever been, but along with that, they are getting purer and stronger. For example, an average adult dose of MDMA would be about 80mg, that is also the strength they were sold at, they are tested regularly now between 250mg to 450mg. Twenty years ago a pill may have cost around £30 now they are £5 to £10, they can even be on offer at festivals.

These are the things I want young people to learn. Many people at home who are regular users also test, as dangerous ingredients is also a huge issue. I want young people to be able to ask questions and ask for advice. I want them to think carefully about taking something and look into what to expect and how to take. And I want them to test and do all they can to make sure they come home every night, to enjoy their lives. But be aware and know the real risks.

Looking ahead

We have got lots of things happening this year which I am very excited about.

If anyone would like any information on ‘Let’s talk drugs’ our bespoke harm reduction education talk, please contact me. Even if it’s a private in-home talk to a small group. I always try to keep things free or ask the smallest of donations so I can just cover costs.

I’m learning more and more all the time about drug awareness, and it is ever-changing. I will do all I can to try to stop this from happening to others out there.

This problem will not go away, but we can defend ourselves and our families with knowledge.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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