The Department of Education should look at introducing a course in transition year on the dangers of drug taking given the increase in the number of teenagers deaths due to dangerous drugs, a coroner has urged.
Cork city coroner Philip Comyn said the number cases of teenagers dying from taking dangerous synthetics drugs coming before him was increasing and that he believed that the issue needed to be addressed in schools.
He made his comments after hearing how 16-year-old student Michael Cornacchia died on January 16th, 2017, after taking the synthetic opioid U47700 in the mistaken belief he was snorting cocaine he had bought from another teenager.
"I have more and more of these types of cases coming before me," said Mr Comyn as he recalled that this time last year he held an inquest into the death of 18-year-old Alex Ryan from Millstreet who died after taking the deadly hallucinogenic drug, N Bomb, at a party in Cork in 2016.
Mr Comyn said if any good was to come from the deaths of teenagers such as Mr Cornacchia and Mr Ryan, it would be to highlight the dangers of taking such drugs. The coroner said he had written to the Department of Education after Mr Ryan’s death, calling for more education programmes in schools.
He suggested health professionals - along with family members of people who were lost to drug overdoses and those who survived drug overdoses - could be brought into schools under a programme to address and educate students in transition year on the dangers of drug taking
He had also written to the National Association of Secondary School Principals and to teacher unions, making a similar appeal, but only the Dept of Education had responded which was disappointing, Mr Comyn said, adding he would write again now in the wake of the inquest into Mr Cornacchia's death.
Speaking at Mr Ryan’s inquest last year, Mr Comyn noted some schools do have such drug education programmes but that it was very much down to the individual schools and individual teachers whereas the problem required a more structured and organised approach across all schools.
Mr Comyn noted on that occasion that over 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 including alcohol had been a contributory factor.
Alex Ryan’s sister Nicole pledged after her brother’s death to visit schools to tell Alex’s story and to warn young people about the dangers of drug taking as she feared other families might suffer the same as she and her mother suffered.
“I go to schools to educate people about their behaviour and share my story with them - it’s sad to think I have to do this and that the Government aren’t backing me or doing anything in any way, but somebody has to do it, and somebody has to teach people that this happens every day.”