Derry coroner says he is dealing with a “tidal wave” of drug deaths

A Coroner at the inquest into the death of a 27-year-old Derry man has said that he is dealing with 'a tidal wave of deaths involving young people and drugs'.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan was speaking at the inquest of Steven Coyle, a father-of-two from Duddy’s Court, in Derry who died last year on October 27 due to a mixture of 11 different drugs in his system, most of which were prescription medication.

A report from a pathologist said that none of the drugs in his system were at a dangerous level but that the combination of the drugs had caused complications leading to death.

The Coroner told the dead man's mother Pamela Coyle that through her son’s story, she could let members of the public know about the ‘hurt and trauma’ that had been caused to her family.

Mr McGurgan remarked that he had ‘never come across a case where there were so many drugs in a person’ but that he was ‘satisfied it was an accident and that Steven did not intend to take his own life’.

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Report in full -

A Coroner at the inquest into the death of a 27-year-old Derry man has said that he is dealing with 'a tidal wave of deaths involving young people and drugs' and said people have to realise they have got to stop taking drugs.

The Coroner Patrick McGurgan was speaking at the inquest of Steven Coyle, a father-of-two from Duddy’s Court, in Derry who  died last year on October 27 due to a mixture of 11 different drugs in his system, most of which were prescription medication.

Mr. Coyle  was found dead by his step-father sitting upright on the sofa in his living-room.

A report from a pathologist said that none of the drugs in his system were at a dangerous level but that the combination of the drugs had caused complications leading to death.

Pamela Coyle, Steven’s mother, said that she was aware he was a drug-taker but on the three days running up to his death she had said he ‘looked very unwell and seemed very distant’.

Ms Coyle said she knew when Steven was using drugs as his ‘behaviour and attitude’ would change although she said he was never aggressive.

She added: “A mother knows what way her wain is changing; he was speaking back, the way he was going on and the way he looked.”

The Coroner  told Ms Coyle that through her son’s story, she could let members of the public know about the ‘hurt and trauma’ that had been caused to her family.

He added: “People need to understand that drugs lead you to my court and when it leads to my court that means death.”

Ms Coyle continued: “He changed with me, his partner, his sister and other family members.

“He didn’t respond to me how he used to respond to me. I knew he was taking drugs a couple of days a week, then he would go back to normal.

“The last year of his life he was taking prescription and non-prescription drugs but when he started he was taking ‘dope’ or cannabis but that leads then to further things.

“I tried my best with him and he started getting into bother so I phoned the police and got him arrested and put into jail, thinking that would help him.

“He tried many times to get help but he just kept falling back.”

The Inquest  heard that Steven was electronically tagged and had been out on bail when he died.

His mother told the court:  “The three days leading up to his death he was completely different. His eyes were all glossy and he was just looking through me and not making any sense. He had always kept himself well but the way he walked, talked, everything about him over that three days was different.”

Mrs. Coyle said her son was 'doing great' until he started taking drugs. She added: "I can’t blame the company he kept because Steven had a choice. He had a good hand and a bad hand and he always chose the bad hand. He liked the feeling of drugs and the more he worked the more he was able to buy.

“Steven always thought he was right but I told him he wasn’t living in the real world. He obviously didn’t think it was going to happen to him. He played with death every day with the amount of drugs he was taking."

Ms Coyle said that, on the day Steven’s body was discovered, he hadn’t shown up for a court appearance and his solicitor had contacted her. She said that she tried to contact him but his phone was turned off, which was very unusual. She said she had a feeling then that something was wrong.

Ms Coyle gave the spare key to her partner and said: “I hope you know before you go in, Steven’s dead.”

Diarmuid Hampsey, Steven’s step-father, discovered his body when he entered his flat at around 11pm on October 27, last year.

He described the moment he discovered his step-son’s body: “I could see him from the hall. He was sitting in an upright position and there was no response when I called his name.

“I knew by the look on his face and the colour of his body it was all over.”

Mr Hampsey said he then went outside and rang 999 to report his death.

Dr Michael Healy, Steven’s GP, said that he had been drug and alcohol dependant and had been prescribed a number of different medications for depression, anxiety, stomach problems, back pain, asthma and hay fever. He had also been prescribed sleeping tablets, which were later stopped, but he admitted to his doctor he was buying them or taking relatives’ pills.

However, Dr Healy said that Steven had ‘made it clear’ that he did not have suicidal thoughts and the intervals between his requests for medication were standard.

Coroner McGurgan added: “I am dealing with a tidal wave of deaths involving young people and drugs.

“They can buy them off the internet and there’s no way to police this. You just cannot take drugs that are not prescribed by your doctor. If you are going to do this, you are going to end up dead.”

The pathologist that carried out the post-mortem on Steven’s body confirmed that he had 11 different types of drugs in his system; most were prescription drugs including Diazepam, Morphine and Codeine, however, cocaine was also detected.

The pathologist said that although each of the drugs was not present in high levels, the combination of them caused complications causing respiratory difficulties aggravated by pre-existing bronchopneumonia.

Coroner McGurgan remarked that he had ‘never come across a case where there were so many drugs in a person’ but that he was ‘satisfied it was an accident and that Steven did not intend to take his own life’.

He commended Ms Coyle and her partner, Mr Hampsey, for the ‘dignity and fortitude’ with which they had faced ‘having to relive the trauma of the loss of Steven’.

He continued: “I hope other families out there listen and pay attention to what you have had to say. We are fighting a tide of drug abuse in Northern Ireland and there’s no doubt about it, if you start using drugs they will kill you.

He said: “I cannot give any stronger a message than that you must stop messing with drugs. Society needs to realise that it’s losing its young people, particularly to prescription drugs.”

The coroner offered his sincere condolences to the family and added: “I hope whoever takes the time to read about this inquest will sit up and realise they need to stop taking drugs.”