Patrick Walden was a founding member and former guitarist of Pete Doherty’s band Babyshambles
He was “too scared to live and too scared to die,” recalls Patrick Walden, founding member and former lead guitarist of Pete Doherty’s band Babyshambles.
After years of heroin and cocaine addiction Patrick had thought designer drugs, easily bought online and delivered by post the next day, were a better option than the street drugs he had taken for almost 20 years.
But the 38-year-old session musician, who has also worked with James Blunt, became addicted to synthetic drugs – sometimes known as research chemicals – as he attempted to wean himself off street drugs two years ago.
“If you take ecstasy or LSD you are aware you are on drugs,” he says.
With the new drugs there was no line between fantasy and reality. I was in a terrible alternate world
“With the new drugs there was no line between fantasy and reality. I was in a terrible alternate world. The sky would be playing songs at me spelling out my name. I was so petrified. Sometimes I would think I was being shot at by snipers and I would see an infrared rifle sight on my chest.”
Patrick, now drug-free, wants to warn others about the dangers of these drugs which many young people think are a safer alternative to crack, heroin and cocaine.
These synthetic compounds, which can have powerful hallucinatory effects, were known as legal highs until recently.
Laws passed in May last year made them illegal to import and export yet they are not illegal to possess and remain easy to access on the web.
Patrick left the band in 2006 and had managed to wean himself off drugs by 2014
Shockingly, Patrick says these had a far more devastating effect than any of the hard street drugs he had previously used.
He became totally paranoid, delirious and ached for more.
At one point he found himself throwing imaginary hand grenades out of his house that he believed were thrown at him by an “enemy”.
He was desperate for help. On several occasions he woke up to find paramedics resuscitating him after friends had dialled 999.
Patrick, who began taking soft drugs and alcohol while at a Surrey boarding school, says the chemicals were so addictive he found it hard to take on any responsibilities or “manage” his life.
Last February he was found by neighbours at the bottom of a flight of concrete steps near his home off Abbey Road in Swiss Cottage, north London.
He was covered in blood and despite being 6ft 2in weighed only 9st 4lb.
After fellow musicians Adam Ficek, former Babyshambles drummer, and Liam Gallagher’s guitarist Mike Moore heard the news they put a call out on social media and gathered funds to fly him for treatment at The Cabin celebrity rehab centre in Thailand.
Patrick Walden credits The Cabin rehabilitation retreat in Thailand for saving his life
Adam runs Music And Mind, a therapy service for musicians, and heard about The Cabin after Babyshambles’ Pete Doherty, formerly lead singer of the Libertines, had been sent there for rehab in 2014.
The centre, based among the jungle gardens of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, has also treated comedian and presenter Michael Barrymore and actress Gail Porter.
Last month Patrick returned to London after spending nine “life-transforming” months at the revolutionary treatment centre, which uses exercise, mindful meditation counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and clean eating to wean addicts off their dependency.
Patrick became “obsessed” with playing guitar aged 13, when his estranged father gave him a guitar and a book of Eric Clapton songs: “It became my whole focus. My school work fell away.”
Described by Pete Doherty as “the best guitar player I ever worked with,” his gift for music and performance led him to a social circle awash with drugs and by the time he left school he was exposed to them in the many bars and clubs he was playing and working in.
He first took heroin at a party in 1997, aged 18.
Extremely drunk, he agreed to be injected, not really knowing what he was doing, when an acquaintance offered him the drug.
“At school I had always had a fear of needles and was at the back of the queue when it was time for vaccinations. But in a moment of alcohol-fuelled madness I just lost all fear and inhibition,” he says.
The Cabin combines exercise, meditation, and cognitive behavioural therapy to treat addiction
The heroin shot was a turning point.
“I liked it so much. I had no tolerance for it at the time. I was sitting there being sick but feeling so good. In hindsight it’s just so sad.
“I did it again two weeks later and before I knew it I was asking someone to get it for me. I had to buy them some a few times and then they would introduce me to someone who could sell it.”
After four months he became reliant on the drug.
Pete Doherty is the lead singer of Babyshambles and has also struggled with drug addiction
“I lived hour to hour. I disconnected from my family. I wanted to be away from them. I was horrible. My world had become dark.”
Desperately struggling with his addiction he tried to save himself but his efforts came to little.
The public treatment services provided the heroin substitute methadone, which he says “is more addictive than heroin and with far longer-lasting withdrawal. I was distraught, aching and erratic, for many years.”
Several times Patrick found himself in psychiatric hospitals where he was given “unhelpful” anti-psychotic drugs to help him cope with the side effects of the street drugs.
“The prescriptions didn’t help. My family used to visit me but they were so upset.”
When Patrick met Doherty, former partner of model Kate Moss, in 2001 he had started to get clean.
Quickly the pair realised their musical talents created a spark but Pete was also into drugs.
“Pete is really charming and I felt he had a romantic idea of drugs. We would write songs for days on end with minimal sleep, propped up with heroin and crack. We wrote songs so easily together. Creativity was pouring out of him.”
Patrick left the band in early 2006 and by 2014 had managed to wean himself off drugs but he was still mentally and physically unwell.
“I had not learnt the tools to have a proper recovery,” he says.
One day that summer he started looking for a “healthy” opiate substitute online to settle his restlessness and began using a natural opioid, Kratom, which was finally banned in the UK last year.
The drugs would arrive through the post the next day in a brown envelope.
The leaf-based substance from Asia is very powerful but Patrick reassured himself that it was natural and therefore safe.
“My warped thinking was, ‘as long as it’s natural it isn’t heroin’ and ‘if I’m not sticking needles in my arm it’s OK’.
“I would mix the powdered leaf in a juice and drink it. I was soon consuming vast amounts and realised the withdrawal from these was awful. I would be very ill and shaking.”
Further online discoveries included designer or “smart” drugs, also known as nootropics, which are made of synthetic chemicals.
“They were super-potent but I didn’t realise how dangerous,” he says.
These drugs, linked with breathing and heart problems, mental illness and liver toxicity, caused him to develop acute psychosis.
Worried, his friends urged him to stop using but he was hooked.
“I would sometimes black out for days. Before I went to The Cabin I was talking to people who didn’t exist but they seemed real in my mind. I was itching so much I would scratch my legs and face until they bled. I was dicing with death.”
Patrick now regularly exercises, eats healthily and has started to write music again.
“The research chemicals put me in a terrible and terrifying world,” he says.
“I am so worried about the dangers they pose to others and I don’t want to hurt my friends or family by using them ever again.
“The Cabin changed everything for me. The staff went above and beyond to help. I would be dead without them and now I feel I am starting my life all over again.”
Alastair Mordey, 45, a former addict and programme director of The Cabin, says: “The current public system is failing people by giving substitute drugs. Every addict will want that. It won’t work. Drug addiction is an illness and needs to be treated as such.”