Coroner's prescription drug warning
Published 28/08/2013 | 16:32
A coroner has warned of the dangers of abusing drugs after a father-of-one was found dead days after he consumed cancer pills prescribed for someone else.
Scott Shuker, 39, from Antrim, was found dead at his home on January 11 this year.
F amily and friends forced their way into his house in the Farmhill area of Ballycraigy and discovered his body in bed.
They had become concerned after the former welder and forklift truck driver failed to make contact for almost a week.
An inquest at Belfast's Old Town Hall heard how Mr Shuker, who was on medication for hypertension, chronic anxiety and depression, had appeared unwell after taking a so-called "sleeper" tablet in a bid to ease a headache.
Andrew Loughlin, a friend of Mr Shuker's who gave evidence, said he had suffered a small seizure a day later but did not want to seek medical help.
He said: "Scott took a type of mini fit.
"He stood shaking, his eyes were at the back of his head and you could see the whites of his eyes.
"I t lasted a matter of seconds and then he snapped out of it.
"He told me 'That tablet that I was given as a sleeper is mad'.
"That was his exact words.
"He wouldn't tell me what it was.
"He told me it was meant to help him sleep on the Friday but it did not kick in until the Saturday."
Mr Shuker's estranged wife Lynda told the court they had resumed contact in the six weeks prior to his death.
She said she knew he was a regular drug user and would have taken both illegal and prescription drugs.
Mrs Shuker said when she last saw her husband on January 5 he had appeared "off his face" but she was not surprised at his condition.
"He was under the influence of drugs," she said.
"His speech was slurry.
"He just told me he had taken a couple of sleepers and was going down home to fall asleep.
"He was in good enough form because he had been getting to see the child."
Assistant state pathologist Dr James Lyness said blood tests carried out during an autopsy revealed the presence of O xycodone, a strong pain killer sometimes prescribed to cancer patients; the tranquilizer Diazepam, plus traces of amphetamines and benzodiazepine, a breakdown product of cocaine.
He said four unabsorbed 80 milligram Oxycodone pills - the strongest dosage available - were also found in Mr Shuker's stomach.
The effects of Oxycodone include depression of breathing.
Police constable Mark Curlett told the court that officers were unable to establish where Mr Shuker had obtained the drugs.
"Nothing has come to light," he said.
Determining cause of death as Oxycodone toxicity combined with Diazepam, Coroner Jim Kitson said: "It is clear Mr Shuker had consumed a considerable number of drugs both illegal and prescription drugs."
Mr Kitson added: "He was a relatively young man.
"It is a tragedy that he has died in such circumstances.
"Once again this highlights the dangers of abusing drugs both illegal and prescription."
Afterwards, Mr Shuker's father, Alan, said he was dissatisfied with the police investigation into his son's death.
"I would like to find out how he got the tablets and why he was able to get them when they had been prescribed to someone else," he said.