Waterloo Road actor Richard Mylan has opened up about his secret 20-year drug addiction, in the hope that his candour will help end the stigma.
Mylan, who played deputy headteacher Simon Lowsley in the show, said his drug use was the ‘biggest mistake’ he ever made, revealing he is a ‘recovering heroin addict’.
Speaking to the BBC, Mylan, 48, said: “This could be a career-ending interview but I don't care about that anymore.
"There are so many people out there who would never ever come forward because the stigma is so great."
The star, who also featured in The Bill, described himself as one of ‘many functioning professional addicts’, explaining how he suffered from ‘crippling anxiety’ and started taking drugs at the beginning of his career while performing in theatre in London.
"I was in the West End from a young age and there was lots of alcohol and recreational drugs and that cemented certain negative behaviours,” he said.
Mylan continued: "My personal relationships suffered, my work relationships suffered and it robbed me of my inner ambition.
"I managed to work, I managed around relationships and things to a degree but nothing ever lasted because, ultimately, it was chaos. It definitely took chunks of my life away from me."
The father-of-two eventually sought help with the ‘unconditional support’ of wife Tammie, who had told him they would get through it together.
"I was almost like washed up on a shoreline half dead, thinking I've had enough,” he said.
“I wanted to live and be happy.”
Mylan has now been in recovery for 10 years, and is speaking out to tackle the stigma around drug abuse, saying people are ‘complicated and need help, support and empathy’.
“Everybody will know somebody who is in a similar position to me,” he added.
According to the BBC, the latest official figures show the number of people in the UK receiving continues treatment for heroin abuse was almost 95,000 in 2018, down from almost 114,000 in 2011.
"We must challenge stigma because if we have any chance of fellow addicts recovering, we have to alleviate that because it keeps people down," he said.
"Stigma has kept me from talking until now. Being in recovery doesn't define you and each step forward is a step towards who you really are. My recovery felt a journey back to me."
Mylan now works with south Wales-based substance misuse charity Adferiad, having become part of a new campaign.
An excellent turn out today at our first campaign event!— Adferiad Recovery (@AdferiadRecover) May 11, 2022
We had some great discussions around stigma associated with addiction, along with some great introductions from our Chief Executive Alun Thomas and #OnlyHuman panel member @RichardMylan . pic.twitter.com/5jGhWPmaF0
He said: "Only the right medication from your GP to battle with your depression, anxiety or bipolar can help.
"Addiction is robbing people of themselves. They can never be brought back unless they have the right level of service and support.
"So I'd say to addicts, don't be scared about plugging in to support as they just want what's best for you. That is the reason why I am a successful recovering addict."
Adferiad associate directors Steve Campbell added: "Opioid use across Wales continues to be a serious problem.
"There have been some very positive advances in measures to reduce harm with take-home Naloxone and Buvidal, which have helped to reduce the number of deaths caused by overdose.
"It is also true however that in around a third of opioid-related deaths, there is no known contact reported between the deceased and any support services."