She became an addict at just 14 years old after her alcoholic mum gave her drugs — telling her they were "sherbet dip".

And by 28, with three failed marriages and years of drug abuse behind her, Kerry Katona was suicidal, The Sun reports.

It was only the thought of her five children — Molly, Lily, Heide, Maxwell and Dylan-Jorge — that pulled her back from the brink.

Kerry, 38, who shot to fame with girl band Atomic Kitten in the late 90s, says for years she used cocaine as a crutch to help her with mental health issues and personal problems, but that it only made things worse, news.com.au reports.

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"I call it devils dandruff because it's toxic, it's manipulating, it gives a false sense of security, it's not really there for you, it's ruining you," she says.

"It's an escapism. Taking coke is better than facing the scariest thing going on in your life. "You're constantly chasing that buzz and you don't want the come down. The downers are awful.

"After taking drugs I used to have fits. My eyes would roll back and I'd be frothing at the mouth. I could have died, I could have choked on my own tongue, my own saliva."

After years of drug abuse, even Kerry is shocked she's still alive and is conscious that she's one of the lucky ones.

Tragically, it is too late for her ex-husband George Kay, 39, who was found dead at the weekend after a suspected cocaine overdose — just days after Kerry gave this interview passionately warning of the dangers of cocaine.

Devastated Kerry — who shared a daughter, Dylan, 5, with George — is now supporting George's family and has visited his body in the morgue.

Kerry Katona with her ex-husband, George Kay, who tragically died this week. Photo / Getty Images
Kerry Katona with her ex-husband, George Kay, who tragically died this week. Photo / Getty Images

George was suffering from mental health problems including anxiety and depression, and Kerry is now more desperate than ever to warn people off cocaine.

She explains how her own drug addiction started at 14 — an age when the strongest thing most kids would have tried is a cigarette.

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"My mum was a lesbian at the time and she was with her girlfriend in this pub and she had this bag of white powder," Katona said.

"She said 'it's sherbet', dipped her finger in the bag and put it in my mouth. It was speed.

"I went back out and sat with my mum and everyone was dead happy and I got this massive rush of adrenaline — I thought this is what people must do.

"I did cocaine every weekend after that, I just thought that's what everyone did.

"I'd save my pocket money off my foster parents and go and get a bag of cocaine. I actually thought people who don't do drugs were snobs."

Cocaine use among young people in the UK is on the rise, with 20 per cent of 16-24-year-olds admitting using in the last year.

Both British Love Island stars Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon had cocaine and alcohol in their systems when they took their own lives.

Kerry continued to take cocaine during her days in Atomic Kitten — using it to help with a fame she says was overwhelming — but managed to get clean after her marriage to Westlife star Brian McFadden in 2002, moving to Ireland with him and having two children, Molly and Lily.

However, their marriage broke down 2004 and Brian went on to date Aussie singer Delta Goodrem after their divorce.

The Atomic Kitten girls. Photo / Getty Images
The Atomic Kitten girls. Photo / Getty Images

Kerry had a nervous breakdown and ended up back on cocaine.

"I felt suicidal, I felt dirty, I had no friends. I was constantly in another world all of the time," she says.

"When I finally realised what my habit was doing to me I had to fight against it."

Against all the odds, Kerry managed to get clean ten years ago.

She says she hit rock bottom sitting in a car park with her mum, doing lines of cocaine.

"I was going 'I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want it'. I wanted to get out of my skin," says Kerry.

She checked into a fitness bootcamp with her mum before going to rehab in Arizona and has been clean ever since.

"My biggest achievement apart from my children is the fact I did turn my life around," says Kerry.

But while she was lucky enough to escape her addiction, she can see how other young famous people might not be so fortunate.

She explains celebrities often end up taking cocaine while being paid to make personal appearances at nightclubs — so they can stay awake all night and party with people who have come to see them.

"When I was in Atomic Kitten we all got offered drugs all of the time," she says.

"When you're new in the circle, you think 'Oh well I want to be like those other celebs who are getting off their head'.

"Everyone's trying to make a quick, fast pound off them and they're getting booked for as many PAs (public appearances) as possible.

"At those events you're constantly drinking and you end up turning to coke or whatever drug it is to kind of keep you in the game a little bit and make sure you can stay up all night because that's what people expect of you."

But Kerry warns that once cocaine has you in its clutches, there can often be no way back.

She says that she'd take so much coke she foamed at the mouth and passed out and then start all over again.

"I'd get straight back up afterwards feeling like I was re-born. It was an amazing feeling. I would get straight back up and have another line," she says.

After a stint in rehab in Arizona 10 years ago, Kerry got tattoos to stop herself committing suicide.

"When I went to Arizona to rehab, when Brian left me, when they asked me about my childhood … When I talk about my childhood I used to say it as if it was scripted and I'd make jokes because it was a defence mechanism," she says.

"But in rehab, they really peel the layers back and they got really deep and it really affected me."

Kerry says her first memory is of her mum attempting suicide when she was three years old — something that continued for Kerry's whole childhood.

"When I got educated on mental health I even went to Oxford University, not to study, as a guest, and we did a bit of research into whether it's DNA, whether it's learnt behaviour, or if it's genetic.

"I sat there in rehab and I have a Biro, and I wrote Molly and Lily's names on my wrist because I thought, it is genetic, and if I do go to self-harm, it's a reminder of how I felt when my mum wanted to take her own life, because I felt worthless."

Kerry sympathises with modern celebrities who are catapulted to fame — and then see their stars fade just as quickly.

"The thing with people like (Love Island contestants) Mike and Sophie is that they've been thrown into the industry and then are suddenly just left behind after they've had their 15 minutes of fame," says Kerry.

"But once you've got a taste of that fame — being invited to all the best parties and having people want to take your picture all the time — and then all of a sudden everything stops, it's sh*t.

After years of drug abuse, even Kerry is shocked she's still alive. Photo / Getty Images
After years of drug abuse, even Kerry is shocked she's still alive. Photo / Getty Images

"Fame, I think, is a drug in itself for a lot of people.

"If you've got issues, you don't feel like you can face it head on without anything in your system. Even just being the real you is terrifying thing.

"As the saying goes, 'a bit of Dutch courage', so you'll have a drink and then you might have a line of coke and then it goes one step too far.

"So many people are afraid of being their true self because they've got so lost in this fake reality of drugs and alcohol, they don't know who they are anymore.

"It's a scary thought to face yourself in the mirror and not like the person you've become.

"I 100 per cent understand why people who get famous so early on and get into drugs want to take their own life. There's definitely an underlying issue to start with, but it's such a bubble that we live in in this industry."

It's a cycle Kerry fortunately managed to break. And, incredibly, she's even managed to forgive her mum.

"My mum wasn't stable and she had a lot of mental health issues," says Kerry, who was in foster care but would visit her mum at weekends.

"Now I understand that's why she was using drugs like speed and cocaine, and she was an alcoholic too.

"We've got to look at why people are taking cocaine — and get them the help they need before it's too late.

"There's always an underlying cause as to why they were doing that and why it escalated.

"I understand how incredibly hard it is for people. I get so many DMs asking for advice about coke addiction, alcoholism and mental health.

"I'm not a professional, but I tell them you'll get through it because if I can turn it around, anyone can turn it around.

"If you've got some kind of problem, if you think it's getting out of hand, reach out and talk to somebody — nothing is worth taking your own life."

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (24/7)
NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (24/7)
SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.