Personal Story: Packie Owens Talks About Addiction Struggles at Drugs Awareness Event


Patrick Owens spoke at the inaugural 'Drugs Awareness Symposium’ organised by the Good Shepherd Centre, Kilkenny, in the Pembroke Hotel in Kilkenny city on Tuesday, June 18th, 2024.


“Here we go again.”


Those words were ringing in Patrick Owens’ ears when he found himself squinting at the writing on the wall as he woke up realising he was locked up in a cell in Kilkenny garda station.


He knew it had to stop. He desperately wanted to change his life and had started to form a plan in his head. His troubles weren’t over but he had made a decision that life didn’t have to be so hard.


When he was sentenced to jail shortly afterwards, he decided to get stuck into the gym and stay off the drugs. “I was 18 stone going in there, I got some fright when I stood on the scales. I got off the heroin, I got off everything.”


Then halfway through his 2.5-year sentence, he almost got sucked back in by the temptation of drugs and started smoking again. He slipped but he knew he needed to get back on the straight and narrow.


Patrick, better known as “Packie”, grew up in Ossory Park and later moved to Bishop Birch Place. There was “nothing else to do” growing up. He started smoking hash as a youngster and drinking in his teens. Once he was 14-years-old, his behaviour intensified. “I found out my girlfriend was pregnant and the responsibility hit me. The drink got worse, I left school and went working on the building sites. I had money so I went to the pub every Friday and spent the weekend drinking. It was the same thing every week, waiting for Friday.”


“I was often on my way home at 5am or 6am in the morning when lads would be passing in the van on their way to work beeping.”


Patrick’s behaviour escalated and he went onto various drugs but admits he never liked “the coke”. It was much harder to get heroin or crack in Kilkenny when he was in his 20s and 30s so he’d have to go to Carlow or Dublin.


He tried to get clean many times. He even attended a methadone clinic in Dublin at one stage. “Imagine, all the way to Dublin to get 40mls but I had to do it or if not, you’d be sick.”


Thankfully, there was a turning point for Patrick Owens after 2017. He had been to the Good Shepherd Centre in Kilkenny over the years after getting out of prison or when he found himself couch surfing. In 2017, he felt supported to stay on a good path. “The way the staff talked to me there, they were different. They weren’t shouting or roaring. They didn’t treat me like a scumbag.”


Patrick Owens warns of a “secret smoking society” everywhere. He says this opened his eyes as there are many people who are smoking hard drugs while their family is downstairs oblivious. “Your body only holds out for so long. You have to be feeding and looking after yourself.”

After getting clean, Patrick threw himself into fitness, running 5kms a few times a week and constantly trying to improve his times. He was also surprised after returning to Kilkenny about how many people were on drugs. The hardest part of staying clean for him was changing the company he was in. “You realise you’re only as good as your next 20 pound note. Everything is about ‘are you getting a bag?’ You’re of no interest to some people otherwise.”


Patrick struggled during this time, as everywhere he went, he could smell “the weed”. He also says he was “never offered so much free stuff” in his life until he was getting clean. After he entered the Good Shepherd Centre, he got fresh hope about his new life. “When Noel Sherry came in, he told me he’d get me a place out of here. He’d house me. I have to say, fair juice to him. I was probably slipping back into the drugs and back smoking a bit of weed but I kept doing the gym and I had enough.”


Patrick regrets that he didn’t prioritise his health 20 years ago. He’s also found huge support in Ardú and recommends that people struggling with addiction locally seek help there. “I’ve been going to meetings there for years. I’d encourage anybody to try it. It’s great for people that they have somewhere to go to talk. I always thought the mad thoughts in my head was only me… it really opened my eyes.”


These days Patrick is 50-years-old and content with his life in his own home.

For more information or to arrange interviews with participants in the Drugs Awareness Symposium, please contact: Eimear Ní Bhraonáin on 086-0200016 or email


Photography by Patrick Browne. Featured image is of Patrick "Packie" Owens and Lisa Robson (HSE).