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Coroner warns of dangers of abusing medicinal drugs

By Luke Barnes

Published 18/10/2016

A coroner has warned of the dangers of prescription medicine abuse at an inquest into the death of a Londonderry man
A coroner has warned of the dangers of prescription medicine abuse at an inquest into the death of a Londonderry man

A coroner has warned of the dangers of prescription medicine abuse at an inquest into the death of a Londonderry man.

John Paul McColgan died last year from a drug overdose.

He was found with a large number of prescription medicines, belonging to both him and his friend, Hugh McConnell.

The drugs included Mirtazapine and Diazepam, powerful antidepressants, as well as the morphine-based Oxycodone.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan said: "Medicines are prescribed to individuals for individual problems."

He added that mixing another's prescription could often lead to death and this case was another tragic example.

John McColgan was found dead on December 4, 2015, at his home in Winchester Park, Londonderry.

Police forced their way in after John's brother heard his phone ringing from inside.

The divorced former landscaper had more than half-a-dozen prescription medicines in his home.

Officers also found several cut-up straws, which suggested that Mr McColgan had been crushing up the medicines to ingest as powder.

Dr William Leeson, who had worked as Mr McColgan's GP, said he had prescribed several of the drugs to help the deceased battle anxiety, low mood and alcoholism.

The 44-year-old had also previously recovered from heroin abuse.

Speaking afterwards, Alex Bunting from Addiction NI, warned that prescription medicine abuse was having a devastating impact on communities across Northern Ireland.

He added that people wrongly thought that medicines like codeine were safe because they were prescribed by healthcare professionals.

But they have the same addictive opiate base that drugs like heroin contain.

He said: "The prevalence of prescription medicine within our communities is causing huge issues.

"We have a pharmaceutical-driven healthcare system which has developed dependence within our communities.

"People are very aware that these drugs can be misused."

He added that one of the biggest changes he'd seen in drug misuse over the last few years, was the increase in people abusing more than one substance.

Previously, addicts would often focus on one drug, such as heroin, but now addiction charities are seeing a combination of dependencies.

Mr Bunting said: "It's extreme but you could look at how Michael Jackson managed his life for an example of the consequences."

He urged anyone seeking help or advice on drug issues, to contact Addiction NI on, tel: 028 9066 4434.

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