A coroner at the inquest into the death of an 18-year-old man in Cork has called for a more structured approach to educating young people about the dangers of drugs.
Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn made his comments as he returned a verdict of misadventure at the inquest into the death of Alex Ryan from Liscahane, Millstreet, who died at Cork University Hospital four days after taking a synthetic drug known at N-Bomb, at a house party.
The coroner said he would be recommending there be a more planned, structured approached to drug awareness education in schools involving the Health Service Executive, gardaí and those who had personal experience of the dangers of drug taking.
“As it is, some schools do have such programmes but it’s very much up to the individual schools and the individual teachers but I would be recommending a much more structured approach in schools as well as at third-level where students unions might become more involved,” he said.
Mr Comyn noted that more than one third of all 253 inquests that he dealt with in Cork city in 2016 related to people whose deaths were either directly caused by drugs – including alcohol – or where drugs or alcohol had been a contributory factor.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said Mr Ryan died from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy – or global brain damage – due to cardiac arrest after ingesting 251N Bomb at a house party at a property at St Patrick's Terrace, Greenmount in Cork on January 19th, 2016.
Questioned by Mr Comyn, Dr Bolster said that taking synthetic drugs such as CP2 (which Mr Ryan and others thought they were taking) or 251 N-Bomb or Ecstasy amounted to Russian roulette as there was no quality control and no guarantee people would react in the same way.
Dr Bolster's comments were supported by Det Sgt Jason Lynch, who said gardaí had found that MDMA tablets and other synthetic drugs were often bulked with other agents. Analysis had found that these included rat poison and piano wire cleaner.
One of those who took the drug with Mr Ryan was Siobhan Talbot (20) who told gardai in a statemetn read to the inquest she often took ecstasy and smoked cannabis. She said the drug she took on the night when Mr Ryan took ill gave her the "best" ever hallucinogenic experience.
“The visuals were very strong and at one point, I thought it was crazy but not bad crazy, it was so strong but in a good way.
“We were all tripping. It was my best experience of hallucinogens,” said Ms Talbot who was found dancing naked in the house by gardaí and paramedics.
They had been called to the scene by two passersby who found another party goer, Mark Naundorf (19) naked on the street, bleeding from the arms and legs after smashing a mirror and dancing on the broken glass after taking two tabs of N-Bomb, thinking it was 2CP.
Another witness, Jessica O’Connor (20), told gardaí she didn’t have any adverse effects initially after taking the drug but she recalled what happened when Mr Naundorf began to behave erratically.
“He was screaming at everybody’s face and running around the place. He smashed a mirror and cut himself with a piece of glass – he was running around, smearing blood all over the place,” she said.
Following the verdict, Mr Comyn extended his sympathies to the late Mr Ryan’s family on their loss and he praised their generosity in donating the teenager’s organs, which had helped save the lives of four other people.
Speaking after the verdict, Mr Ryan’s sister Nicole backed the coroner’s call for a more structured approach involving the HSE, the Garda and schools.
“He had very good valid points about what we are trying to do with regard to raising awareness about the dangers of synthetic drugs here in Ireland,” said Ms Ryan, who last year started visiting schools to talk about her brother’s death.
“The scary question for parents is not when it’s going happen again but whose child is going to be next because it will happen time and time again unless we start talking about it and educating our young people about the serious dangers of synthetic drugs.”