In June 2009 Aileen Worswick suffered every mum’s worst nightmare.
Her bubbly son Lee was found collapsed face down in his bedroom at their home in Lostock Hall.
By the time Aileen, now 50, arrived home after a frantic call from Lee’s dad Steve, the outgoing 25-year-old was dead.
A post mortem examination showed he had died after taking GBL, something used as a stain remover, rust remover, alloy cleaner, superglue remover and paint stripper.
Once in the body it converts to GHB, which can produce euphoric feelings but cause unconsciousness, coma and tragically as in Lee’s case, death.
Remarkably, at the time, this killer chemical was not illegal, one of an exploding number of substances called legal highs.
Within six months of becoming addicted to the substance, after being given it by friend on a night out, Lee had been hospitalised.
Six weeks after leaving hospital he was dead.
His devastated family found he had been seeking help to withdraw from it on online forums, hours before his last fatal hit.
Mum-of-three Aileen, a civil servant from Morris Crescent, Ribbleton, recalls: “The first time I heard of GBL was in April 2009 when he suffered a severe withdrawal. He was in hospital for four days but the doctor didn’t know how to treat it properly and were trying to research it.
“He texted me and asked me to come to the hospital. he looked so vulnerable and lost. He kept saying he was going to die. I was in absolute panic.
“When he was withdrawing was hallucinating, looking into plug sockets and saying: “’Mum they are looking at us’. It was scary. He once pushed me, he didn’t know what he was doing.
“He had given from being the life and soul of the party to being violence and confused.
The chemicals, engineered by experimetal amateurs in a lab, mimic the same effects as hard street drugs and carry deadly health risks, but their makeup change so quickly that legislation cannot keep up with them.
It means young children can easily obtain them as shopkeepers peddle them, under the labels of plant food and bath salts, online and in seedy shops.
People are able to buy containers to inhale them.
The Government is hoping to tackle the issue with the Psychoactive Substances Bill introduced in the House of Lords on May 28, which will eventually make it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances capable of producing a psychoactive effect. But critics believe it will be difficult to enforce.
Lee, a former Fulwood High School pupil, had good prospects.
His mum soon realised after his hospital episode that he was back on GBL after bumping into her youngest son on a night out in Preston, who had seen Lee.
Lee had returned to his flat in Watling Street Road after his illness but had to move in with his mum after a blaze in a neighbour’s flat.
At 5.30pm one summer’s evening, Aileen was enjoying a meal with her new partner and his children when she received a phone call that would change her life.
Lee’s dad told her he had collapsed at her home.
She explains: “I’m remember thinking’ I’m going to kill him’ as I raced home. But I pulled up on the drive and things became vivid. It will haunt me forever. “The rapid response ambulance was there. My ex husband just said: ‘It’s not good’. He had found my pet dogs roaming at the front of the house and had been shouting Lee, but there was no answer. He found him on the floor”
An inquest was held and Aileen, who has six grandchildren, recalls: “The worst thing was having to ask myself did he mean to do it, but a verdict of accidental death was recorded.
“I went on a long journey from there. I was a mess, I had a breakdown.
“I banned the friends who introduced him to it from his funeral.”
Lee had been getting GBL with ease off the internet. Since Lee’s death GBL - the substance that converts to GBH in the body - and a number of other substances including mephadrone or bubble, have been reclassified as illegal drugs.
But for every newly illegal substance, there are ten more new legal highs to replace them.
Aileen says: “ When he died we wanted to keep the way he died quiet - some of it was shame, and some of it was protect him and his memory. Memories have helped to get me through - the Christmas before he died we had a brilliant time.
“I felt ashamed because he wasn’t dragged up, he came from a good respectable home. But I’m scared for other parents.
“These deadly substances are cheap, easily available and legal.
“I realise now that telling Lee’s story might just stop one person from taking a legal high and ending up like him. They could be just two clicks from death.”