Her daughter died from an ecstasy overdose. So she's calling for the drug to be legalised.



Martha and her mother, Anne-Marie Cockburn.




15-year-old Martha should be sitting her school exams right now.

But the bright, effervescent teenager — who was already thinking about studying engineering at university — will never make it back to school.

Tragically, she’ll never grow into adulthood. Because last July, Martha took half a gram of ecstasy on a Saturday afternoon with some friends– and within two hours, she had suffered a fatal heart attack.

The teenager collapsed in a park in Oxford in the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail reports, and paramedics attempted CPR on her slight body as horrified sunbathers watched on.

Her mother, Anne-Marie Cockburn, later wrote of the tragic incident that she knew Martha “was already dead on arrival at the hospital.”

“They elevated her arms, but I don’t know why: her eyes were half-open and she was way beyond the clouds and stars already,” Ms Cockburn wrote.

Now, 11 months after the shocking death, Ms Cockburn wants to see some change to the UK’s drug policy — but not the changes you’d think. Rather than calling for tougher penalties for drug possession and distribution, as might be expected, the devastated single mother believes drugs need to be legalised so they can be responsibly regulated.


“I would like to… start a sensible dialogue for change, from prohibition to strict and responsible regulation of recreational drugs,” Ms Cockburn said at the inquest into her daughter’s death earlier this month.

“This will help to safeguard our children and lead to a safer society for us all by putting doctors and pharmacists, not dealers, in control of drugs,” she said.

Ms Cockburn’s beliefs challenge the hard-line prohibition on recreational drugs popularised by the “war on drugs,” a policy announced in 1971 by US president Richard Nixon. The prohibition approach, Ms Cockburn told The Guardian, “had its chance and failed.”

“Martha is a sacrificial lamb under prohibition,” she said .


“The question is: how many more Marthas have to die before we change our approach? It’s not acceptable to allow the risks to remain.”

One of the problems with the war on drugs, she believes, is that buying drugs is a secretive and therefore risky business. Martha, for example, reportedly swallowed a single tablet of PMA (also known as “pink ecstasy”), which is similar to MDMA and is often sold as ecstasy, The Telegraph reports.

What Martha didn’t know is that PMA is much stronger than regular ecstacy and, like MDMA, can cause a fatal rise in body temperature.

Martha as a toddler with Anne-Marie.

She had no idea that, as the Coroner later found, the tablet she swallowed was 91 per cent pure compared with an average street level of 58 per cent.

“Had Martha been able to access drugs that had been legally produced and labelled accordingly, she would have been able to make a more informed decision,” Ms Cockburn says in a website set up in Martha’s memory.

“In fact, I’d go as far as to say that she might still be alive.”

It’s not just legalisation and regulation Cockburn believes in: the bereaved mother is also calling for improved drug education programs, believing  insufficient drug education left Martha “vulnerable and in danger.”

As she said at the inquest into Martha’s death earlier this month: “I wish the drug education she received had enabled her to make a more fully informed decision.”

“Free drug testing facilities should be widely available in order to fully educate young people and, by putting some safeguarding measures in place, levels of harm are significantly reduced,” Cockburn elaborates on the website.

“The world is not the same for me now,” Ms Cockburn added in an interview with the Sunday Times, a month before the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.

“But if someone like me can pave the way for change, that would be good,” she said.

You can donate to the What Martha Did Next Fund, or learn about Anne-Marie Cockburn’s book 5,742 Days: A Mother’s Journey Through Loss, at the What Martha Did Next website here. If you need help, you can visit Family Drug Support Australia here or the Australian Drug Foundation here.

Do you agree with Anne-Marie Cockburn that recreational drugs should be legalised and regulated?