Since losing one of her twin sons Elizabeth Burton-Phillips now dedicates her time to raising awareness of the horrific impact of drug addiction on families and ensuring that those affected by someone’s drug use receive adequate and timely support.
Elizabeth (pictured right with her son, Simon) is perhaps best known as the author of ‘Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? What drugs did to my family’; a story that has now been read by over 65,000 people in the UK and translated into five languages. The book describes how an “ordinary, middle-class” family was devastated by drug addiction which drove Simon’s twin brother, Nick, to end his own life in 2004, aged just 27.
Following its publication in 2007, Elizabeth has received over 25.000 letters, telephone calls and emails from families around the world, express their gratitude for sharing the story. Comments have included; “Reading your book has been an inspiration to me. My son was a crack and heroin addict and is still serving a four year prison sentence for dealing. You have shown me that as a mother I am not alone with this problem” and “your story is our story, it mirrors everything in our own lives and we too are waiting in dread for that knock on the door that you had one night from the police’’.
Following Nick’s tragic death, Elizabeth has campaigned continuously to raise awareness of the harm caused to families by drug addiction and to influence policy and practice so that the needs of families are better recognised and met. Elizabeth founded the charity DrugFAM in 2006, which now helps thousands of people who are affected by someone’s drug use, including those who have been bereaved by addiction. DrugFAM now has support groups located across Southern England and plans to expand these nationally over the next ten years.
In 2012, “Mum, can you lend me £20?” was adapted into a Theatre in Education stage play for schools, police training and prisons, and DrugFAM celebrated the 100th performance in October 2015 at the Palace of Westminster by invitation of Theresa May, the then Home Secretary. A podcast and audio CD of the play are also now available as free educational resources for schools, practitioners and the wider community.