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Coroner's warning over Tramadol as inquest hears teen died after taking toxic mix of drugs

By Chris McCullough

Published 27/08/2016

Caomhan Lennon was found dead on Mother’s Day in 2015
Caomhan Lennon was found dead on Mother’s Day in 2015

The acting state pathologist in Northern Ireland has requested an urgent meeting with the chief medical officer to discuss the increasing number of deaths of young people caused by an everyday prescription painkiller.

Professor Jack Crane said he had requested the meeting as he was increasingly concerned about the number of deaths caused by Tramadol in Northern Ireland.

He was giving evidence in Laganside Court during the inquest into the death of 19-year-old Caomhan Lennon on March 15, 2015 after taking a toxic mix of drugs.

Mr Lennon died in his sleep on Mother's Day, while staying in his mother's apartment in the Whiterock area of west Belfast.

Family members told the court that Mr Lennon had a problem with drugs and had tried to take his own life on a number of occasions since the passing of his partner two years prior to his own death.

He had spent three months in Hydebank Prison and was trying to turn his life around following his release which was just a short time before his death.

Speaking in court, his mother Dierdre Lennon said: "It is fair to say Caomhan had his fair share of troubles with drugs in his life. He never got over the death of his partner who died in his arms in bed due to a viral infection in her heart.

"They had been in a relationship for three years and their wee daughter Tia was only four weeks at the time. Caomhan really never got over her death and took more to drugs after that.

"He really loved his partner Shauna and supported her. He also loved Tia as well. Caomhan did spend some time in Hydebank and had vowed to turn his life around when he got out.

"He wasn't really a drinker but did smoke cannabis regularly. I didn't visit him when he was in prison because I was really angry at him. I last saw Caomhan in my place on the Saturday before he died. I was staying with family that night but before I left he told me that he loved me. That was his last words to me. Tia stays with her other granny but I see her a lot now as well."

Also speaking in court was Caomhan's brother Conor Johnston, who was the last person to see him alive.

Mr Johnston admitted that he also has a problem with drugs, alcohol and smokes cannabis on a regular basis.

"Caomhan had been binge drinking for the two days prior to his death. I was staying at mum's place and Caomhan came round on the Saturday," he said.

"He had been playing with our nephew and fell asleep on the chair when they left at around 4pm. I put him on the sofa and checked on him around 10pm when my friend Amy and I went to another room to watch a film.

"He was snoring very loudly but I just thought he was sleeping. I checked on him again around 10am on the Sunday morning but he looked cold. I called 999 who instructed me how to resuscitate him.

"The ambulance came but there was nothing they could do for him."

Assistant state pathologist Professor Crane conducted the post-mortem.

"Caomhan was physically healthy with no underlying issues that could cause death. "Low levels of Tramadol, Diazepam and Buprenorphine were found in his blood along with traces of cannabis," he said.

"Caomhan had most likely fallen into a coma some hours before he was found in the morning which we can attribute to the heavy snoring.

"It is my opinion that he had fallen unconscious hours before he was pronounced dead and was poisoned by the mix of drugs in his system.

"I am becoming very concerned about the use of Tramadol as it is a major cause of deaths in Northern Ireland.

"I have requested an urgent meeting with the chief medical officer to discuss Tramadol.

"People need to realise that even it is a prescription drug it can be dangerous when taken in a combination of drugs."

Coroner Patrick McGurgan ruled the cause of death was down to the mix of drugs taken.

He said: "Young people must realise how toxic Tramadol can be when mixed with other drugs.

"This is a message that we must get out to people and I am encouraged to hear the meeting with the chief medical officer has been arranged."

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