Mum died of a cocaine overdose, she’d take me shoplifting as a kid & dealers came knocking – but she looked respectable

WHEN most toddlers were colouring in or watching cartoons, Marisa Baker was being taken shoplifting by her mum.

Drug dealers knocking on the door and tables covered in needles are some of her earliest childhood memories, as Marisa’s mum Lindsey spent her life battling drug addiction.

She died of a cocaine overdose in 2019, something which is becoming increasingly common among women.

A recent Office of National Statistics (ONS) report showed a 26.5 per cent increases in deaths for females who have used cocaine compared to a 7.7 per cent rise amongst men, which is why Marisa is speaking out.

"No one else should lose their mother to cocaine use like I did," says Marisa, 34, a senior account manager, from Northampton. 

"It could you be your sister, your friend, your aunty, you. We need to work together to help women get off this drug. It had become a lifestyle for mum. She just couldn't break the cycle. You wouldn't walk down the street, look at mum and think she was taking cocaine. She didn't look like a stereotypical addict. 

"She was proud of her appearance, she always had her hair done and she loved make-up. But behind the scenes she was stuck in this murky world she couldn't get out of. She would get texts from dealers offering her cocaine several times a day. 

"It was devastating losing mum and when it happened it was a shock, but really it was inevitable." 

Lindsey, 51, was found dead in September 2019 after her family became concerned and police went to check on her at her flat in Colchester, Essex. She'd been using cocaine for years but it became more frequent in the four years before her death. 

"Mum didn't have a great start in life and was taken into care when she was young," Marisa says. 

"When she was nine, she got a foster placement with a lovely couple who were both teachers. They wanted to help mum but she got into trouble at school and social services insisted she move on. She was moved to child home where she had many issues through her teenage years." 

Lindsey took heroin initially but after being put on a methadone programme in her mid 40s, she turned to cocaine. 

“For mum, everything revolved around her habit,” Marisa says. “She sold prescription medication in return for cocaine and would thieve and rob in desperation.” 

Before they took me in, it was hard living with mum. I remember drug dealers coming to the house, needles left lying around.

Marisa was taken into care aged four and eventually fostered by the same couple who had wanted to help her mother. 

"They are incredible people and helped to make sure my life didn't go the same way," she says. "I'm proud to have broken the statistic by not following in my mother's footsteps. 

"Before they took me in, it was hard living with mum. I remember drug dealers coming to the house, needles left lying around. She'd take me shoplifting with her and we'd get picked up by police. 

"Sadly, mum never turned things around. It was a lifestyle she’d been living for years and when she died, while it was hard, it wasn't unexpected.

“It was only ever going to end one way. She did love my sisters and I and there were times she really tried to turn things around but it was hard to break the chain.” 

Eventually Lindsey's deadly habit progressed to crack cocaine and on the day she died she'd been handed a social fund loan of around £300 to make improvements to her flat. 

"It's still a real bug bare to me that she was handed that lump sum in one go even though she was an addict," Marisa says. "She would have said it was for carpets or paint. The Government need to implement stricter measures on who they hand this money to.” 

Marisa and her sisters Dionne, 23, and Holly, 18, didn't hear from their mum for five days and eventually called police. 

"Officers went to check her flat and found her on the sofa, she'd probably been deceased for five days," Marisa says. "That is the saddest part for me, that she had been there that long, all alone. That is no way to die. 

“We used to say 'Mum, if you don't stop you are going to end up in a box'. We didn't want to go and identify her body. But that is exactly what happened the day after they found her. No child should have to identify a mother's body.” 

Lindsey kept a diary and often wrote about her drug use. It was clear she desperately wanted to break the habit, but never found the strength to do so. 

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"She would often write about how taking cocaine made her feel," Marisa explains. "You could tell she hated it and hated what people thought of her, but she couldn't stop. The diary shows that every day for her was a battle. In one entry she says she wishes she had the strength to take her own life." 

Marisa is not surprised by a rise in female deaths after cocaine use. 

"It's far more accessible than most people imagine," she says. "When most people imagine cocaine, they might picture high-flying professionals taking it in London. The market has changed now.

"It's scary. Most people wouldn't have to go too far along their own streets to find someone using it. It scares me for my children growing up. Sadly, my story isn't unique. It's happening everywhere." 

Marisa – who has three children – hopes to set up a charity to help the children of addicts or those in recovery. 

"The Government has a lot to do right now so cocaine addiction is probably not very high on the agenda," she says. "But it's important this deadly issue is acknowledged as it is costing our economy millions in taxpayers' money. 

“It's going to take individuals, like me, to do something to try and make a difference. If I could change just one life then it would be worth it. I'd love to stop others going down the same path." 

Sadly, many women like Lindsey end up hooked on cocaine. A Home Office survey for 2018/19 found that one in 20 adults aged 16 to 59 had taken drugs in the last month. 

Experts believe cocaine has become more prevalent as it has become more affordable. 

Am I addicted to cocaine? The signs and symptoms of addiction

Cocaine is highly addictive and what can start out as a one-off can quickly turn into a habit.

Regular use of the drug changes the way the brain releases dopamine – a chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy.

But the high is short-lived so often users will take more to feel the desired effects again.

Over time, the body and brain can become too used to cocaine that it builds up a tolerance, which means you have to take more to feel the same high.

If you recognise any of the following behaviours in yourself, it might mean you've developed an addiction to cocaine:

  • You're taking more of the drug to feel the effects
  • When you stop or reduce your dosage, you feel agitated, restless and depressed
  • You're struggling to cut down or control how much you take, even if you try to
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to get cocaine
  • You're disregarding family, friends and work in favour of taking cocaine
  • You know the damage it's doing to you, but you can't stop taking it

"When cocaine was first widely used in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s it was extremely expensive, meaning its use was limited to those who could afford it, namely the rich and famous and people in the financial sector," says Sarah Humphries, service manager at the drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You. 

"Now it is more affordable to a greater proportion of society. Research has shown that women who use drugs problematically are eight times more likely to have experienced abuse than those who haven’t. 

She'd [mum would] take me shoplifting with her and we'd get picked up by police.

“Women are also more likely to be introduced to drugs by a partner whereas men are more likely to first use with friends and women progress from recreational to problematic use much quicker than men, a process known as telescoping. 

"Cocaine provides a powerful short term self-esteem boost which, when faced with issues like abuse or mental health problems, can offer some brief respite." 

Phillippa Leslie started using cocaine when she was just 16 and admits it boosted her self-confidence. 

"It was a very easy habit to slip into," explains the 27-year-old mum-of-one from Aylesbury, Bucks. 

"There was something comforting about using cocaine. I found it gave me courage to talk about things I'd never usually talk about. It boosted my confidence and I always felt a weird release where I didn't have to hide anything. I could be whoever I wanted to be." 

Phillippa's parents split up when she was 14 and looking back, Phillippa believes she never dealt properly with the emotional fall out of their divorce. 

"I moved to Milton Keynes with my mum but I hated it," she recalls. "I'd always been a daddy's girl and the day I turned 16 I moved back to Gloucestershire to be with him. I started at college but I fell in with the wrong crowd.

"I started taking cocaine and dabbled with other drugs too. I'd spent years bottling up my emotions and this became a way of releasing them. I think that is why it was so addictive for me. 

"But taking the drug completely changed my personality, I became someone I didn't recognise any more." 

There was something comforting about using cocaine. I found it gave me courage to talk about things I'd never usually talk about.

When Phillippa finished college, she had to keep three jobs to fund her habit. 

"I was fully functioning, no one would have guessed I was using," she says. "I worked two cleaning jobs and did some dog walking to pay for the drugs. But I didn't look like a 'druggie'. It was always easy to get hold of. Cocaine is everywhere. I was paying £300 a week for hits." 

Aged 17, Phillippa had a fight with her dad and confessed to her mum that she'd been using cocaine. 

"Mum made me move back in with her and she helped me get clean," she recalls. "It wasn't easy. I still felt there were a lot of people around me using cocaine and the temptation was always there. I did slip up. By the time I got clean I was in £8,000 debt." 

Aged 21, she moved to Manchester seeking a fresh start. 

"I got an amazing job in a pub in the city centre," she says. "I wouldn't associate with anyone who uses and suddenly it became easy to say no. I met my partner and life was great. I didn't need the drugs any more. We had our son in March 2019 and now, I'm loving life. I'm glad I found the strength to turn my life around." 

Many women who use are frightened to admit they have a problem and can be reluctant to seek help, Sarah Humphries adds. 

"Often women who use drugs are understandably fearful about disclosing their uses," she says, "They may be mothers, afraid of losing their children or scared of the implications at work. It's important women know treatment services are warm, non-judgemental and confidential spaces." 

One mother from Basingstoke, Hants – who could not be named – used to take cocaine when her two children, aged nine and six, went to school. 

"At the time, I didn't see it as a problem," she says. "I wasn't hurting anyone. I still got up in the morning, dressed my kids and took them to school. I did the chores. But I was bored with life. I'd had a good job as a personal assistant before having children but after my eldest was born I couldn't find work that fitted in around school hours. 

"I had a friend who used and she lost her job. Occasionally we'd use on nights out but somehow it progressed. We ended up doing lines at home during the day." 

The 25-year-old said her friend ended up in hospital in August 2019 after an overdose and she knew she had to stop. 

"It was a real shock to the system," she admits. 

I had a friend who used and she lost her job. We ended up doing lines at home during the day.

"We hadn't taken any more than we usually would so this must have been cut with something different. She fell unconscious and I had to call an ambulance to get her to hospital. I had to ask my mum to pick up my kids so I could go with her. It was very serious and for a while I didn't know if she would pull through. She survived but both of us have now been clean for over a year. 

"What happened made me get help. I saw a local addiction counsellor and  haven't looked back. It wasn't an easy process. I realised I had more of a problem than I thought. I find it easy to say no now. That is not a life I wanted for my kids." 

"To any women using cocaine or considering using it, I would ask them to think about why,” adds Sarah Humphries from the charity. 

“If it’s a way of dealing with an issue like mental health problems, stress in their lives or a difficult relationship then I would implore them to reach out for some support. Cocaine provides a really powerful short term self-esteem boost, but in the long run it exacerbates issues like anxiety and depression." 

Addiction specialist Dr Robert Lefever says women have exactly the same propensity for drug addiction as men. 

"Women gamble too," he says. "They do it online rather than in betting shops or casinos but they lose just as much money. Now they are also using drugs in a way that they never used to and sadly, that is reflected in these figures. 

"When the book of Alcoholics Anonymous was written 80 years ago, it was addressed only to men assuming that women didn't do that sort of thing. That was wrong then and it's wrong now. Women are just as likely to get addicted, but they feel greater shame. 

"Addiction is often genetically-inherited," he adds. "If a relative has an eating disorder or alcoholism, a woman is far more likely to develop some kind of addiction herself to drugs or otherwise.

"They shouldn't be afraid to seek help when they need it. If they want to stay out of those statistics, they have to find the strength to find the right path." 

Previously, we shared a grim photo of how cocaine destroys the roof of your mouth after man, 38, is left with gaping hole.

And a beauty boss who lived party girl lifestyle before she was caught with £1.5m of cocaine is ordered to repay just £41.

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