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Issues - drugs

Days in the Death of Francis X

A Linguapress interview

    He was a student at one of England's top public schools, when he first got on to drugs. At first he found it stimulating, but after that, life, as he says, became just one long downhill. When he gave this interview to Linguapress's Spectrum magazine, he was 25 years old and his doctor was giving him just three months to live. Here is Francis X’s story.

Francis X
.Francix X

SPECTRUM: So Francis, how long have you been on drugs ?

FRANCIS : I've been using drugs now since I was fourteen.

SPECTRUM: How did you get on to them ? 

FRANCIS : Young kid’s rebellion, you know, and then I found I couldn’t stop.

SPECTRUM: What are you on at the moment ?

FRANCIS : I get, um, a prescription, a daily prescription from the general hospital, of the equivalent of ten diconal tablets in a liquid form, a syrup form called dipipenone, which is a morphine substitute. And I get 25 ml. of methadone linctus, which is a heroin substitute. Plus 1 get 50 valium tablets a week, and other odd sedatives and so on, to keep me going.

SPECTRUM: You were shooting speed and morphine and...

FRANCIS : Yeah everything. I haven’t had an injection in over 2 years — not for want of trying, but because I’ve wrecked all my veins. This time I’m going in for rehab: 6 or 7 weeks it'll be now. I’m goin’ in, and this time I’m gonna come off. If it's not too late.

SPECTRUM: You really think you‘re going to come off this time.

FRANCIS : This time it has to work ! But it will need a miracle.

SPECTRUM: What would you say to other people who're starting off on drugs ?

FRANCIS : I'd say there’s nothing wrong with pot; and there’s nothing wrong with a pint of beer with your lunch, or a couple of pints at night; but anything you need to take you through the day is wrong. And... you know... heroin doesn’t get rid of trouble, it just amplifies it — yeah — and heightens it. So when the heroin wears off, the trouble, that you had before it, comes twice as big as it was, and so on and so on... you know, I’ve never had a full-time job for more than 3 months.... because of drugs. I went back to college and studied for A levels (I got economics and maths): that was at 18, so I was 20 then (when I got my A levels). I still can’t get a job, with a drugs record....... You can say «no no» when they ask you; and then they find out, and you get the sack — which is what happened on one occasion — Or you tell the truth, and they say «Sorry the job’s filled». So drugs..... it's one way only. It goes up for the first bit, and then it’s down; and when you reach the bottom, there’s no way up.

SPECTRUM: Do you think you've reached the bottom ?

FRANCIS : I've really reached the bottom. I’ve been given three months at the most to live — by the doctors — That's why I’m going in for 6 or 7 weeks. There's just a small chance they can save me. 

SPECTRUM: You're going into hospital ?

FRANCIS : My stomach’s ruined, my veins are ruined, I've got thrombosis. I’ve got a varicose vein. I’m covered in scars. I’m ashamed of what’s underneath all these clothes. I mean, look at the clothes I’m wearing on a day like today !

SPECTRUM : How old are you ?

FRANCIS : I'm twenty-five. I’ve been using hard drugs for  7 years. I’ve done just about everything that a human being can possibly do. It’s despicable....

SPECTRUM: O.K, well let’s hope that this time.....

FRANCIS : I know things‘ll get worse and worse and worse, and living on the dole in bed and breakfasts, it’s a trap in itself, because you can’t move anywhere for more than a week. You’ve got to come back and sign on again. And I’m in a worse trap. I’ve got to be here every day to pick up my dose of medicine. I can’t even go as far away, you know, as London, ‘cos then I’m stuck. I’ve gotta come back for my prescription every day, 'cos they can’t transfer it. So my advice is, yes, steer clear ! Alcohol too ! It’s not funny, and it’s not clever, and it’s not big. And I certainly don’t feel proud of the mess that I’ve made of myself, or the grief that I’ve caused my family and friends, who’ve seen me go down from 70 kilos to fifty, this time round, inside two years.

SPECTRUM:  Well let’s hope you manage all right this time. 

FRANCIS : Thanks a lot ! But it will need a miracle. God bless !

 Public school : private school - prescription : a note from a doctor - linctus : syrup - sedative: tranquilizer - shoot : inject - speed : an amphetamine mixture - for want of : because I don't have - wreck : destroy -rehab: rehabilitation, treatment to stop drug dependency -  pot: cannabis - A level : final school diploma - get the sack : lose your job - varicose vein : a disorder of the blood system - scar : sign of an old cut or wound - despicable : terrible - on the dole : with no work - steer clear : do not touch (drugs) - mess : bad situation.

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Days in the death of Francis X

From interview to article

Imagine that you are the journalist who has just interviewed Francis X.  Using the information in the interview, write a newspaper article entitled "The sad case of Francis X - a heroin-addict's story".

   Your article should be between 400 and 500 words, and include the following words:  school - family - cannabis - heroin - work - job - hospital - die.  The verbs indicated can be in any tense.

True or false

Say whether each of these statements correctly reflects what Francis X said.

  1. Francis uses heroin every day now. (T / F )
  2. Francis believes that heroin has several good effects.  (T / F )
  3. Francis does not think that he will live much longer.  (T / F )
  4. Francis has never had a job.  (T / F )
  5. Francis would like to visit London, but cannot do so.  (T / F )
  6. Francis has lost weight because of his drug-taking habit.  (T / F )

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Advanced level English resource

Readability - easy
Flesch-Kincaid levels:
Grade level:  4  
Reading ease level:  50
CEF level: B2
IELTS Level  5 - 6

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First published in Spectrum, the advanced level English newsmagazine.
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