Belfast Telegraph

Addict died while he sniffed lighter fluid during sex

By Michael McHugh

A man died inhaling lighter fluid while having sex with his girlfriend, an inquest has heard.

James Campbell (29) had been addicted to butane gas — using up to eight containers a day, Belfast Coroner Joanne Donnelly was told.

He was in bed with his partner at his home in Bangor, Co Down, when he lost consciousness.

The former catering assistant, who was addicted from age 14, had been discharged from treatment a year before his death after failing to attend appointments.

The coroner said nothing more could have been done by the addiction services.

His partner told the inquest: “He slumped down on top of me. I could not move, I noticed that his face was going purple and he struggled to breathe.

“I told him to get off me but he did not respond. I dragged him off the bed, his head banged on the ground when he came off the bed.”

A report by pathologist Dr Roy Lyness said sudden death can happen when people use butane because of lack of oxygen or disturbance of the heart rhythm.

“There can be little doubt that it was the effects of the inhalation of these substances that was responsible for his death,” he said.

Butane produces a euphoric feeling when inhaled, the pathologist added.

Mr Campbell, from Rathgill Crescent, died on September 29 last year. He was treated in 2006 for his addiction, undertaking a four-week hospital programme.

However, family problems and his butane habit caused his urgent referral back to specialist services in September 2009.

He was assessed but then missed two appointments and was discharged back to his GP six months later. Ms Donnelly said that it was normal practice that his GP would be informed of the discharge within 14 working days.

“Although it is unlikely that the timing of this discharge letter contributed in any way to the circumstances that led to his death, it is reassuring to hear that guidance is in place that they must be completed within 14 days,” she said.

She added that it highlighted the great dangers of inhaling aerosols.

Mr Campbell's GP, Dr Heather Beckett, submitted a statement which described a deliberate overdose in 1997, a hand injury sustained from punching a wall and a history of drug abuse including lighter gas, which stopped while he was in the Army, but resumed aged 24. At times he also consumed eight pints of alcohol, it said.

He was released from police custody two days before his death and his mother said he was stressed by that investigation.

Michael Gracey, acting addictions manager for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said the patient had been assessed but added that he failed to engage with services in 2009.


Butane is a highly flammable gas. Inhalation can cause euphoria, drowsiness, narcosis and cardiac arrhythmia, temporary memory loss and frostbite, due to its low temperature when stored. It is the most commonly misused volatile substance in the UK. In 2010 a girl in care in Newtownabbey, Darlene Bell (15), died after inhaling the gas from a can of deodorant.

Belfast Telegraph


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