Legal drug is linked to 19 deaths, inquest told
A drug involved in the deaths of 19 people in Northern Ireland is still unregulated, meaning it is legal to buy, sell and use.
The shocking fact that the drug, known as 4,4-Dimethylaminorex, is still legal came to light during an inquest into the death of Stephen Wray (23) from Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone.
He was found dead in bed on December 23, 2013 after a drink and drugs binge.
A high level of the drug was found in Mr Wray's blood during a post-mortem carried out by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley.
Witness Stephen McNamee told the Coroner's Court sitting in Londonderry that he had been friends with Mr Wray for six years and knew him to be a heavy drinker and drug user.
Mr McNamee said Mr Wray would take "MDNA, ecstasy, meth and anything else he could get his hands on".
He told the court that he was with Mr Wray from December 20 and that they had been drinking from early in the morning right through the day into December 22.
He said during this time Mr Wray produced a number of tablets which were "blue with a butterfly stamp".
He said he took two and described them as "probably the strongest ecstasy I have ever had", and added that Mr Wray took more than him.
Mr McNamee said that he went home in the early hours of the morning because he began to feel unwell and later vomited, but Mr Wray wanted to continue to party and met up with a group of others and continued to drink.
Later on that day Mr McNamee rejoined the group at a flat in Main Street in Newtownstewart.
He asked his friend if he had felt all right and Mr Wray said he was fine, however he complained about feeling hot and had taken off his shirt several times during the evening and gone outside.
The party continued until 5am when Mr Wray went to sleep in a spare bedroom. He was found dead around 10.30am.
A post-mortem confirmed the cause of death was from a high level of 4,4-Dimethylaminorex.
Forensic scientist Simon Cosby told Coroner James Kitson that there was very little known about 4,4-Dimethylaminorex because it was a relatively new drug, and it is still not covered by legislation, therefore it is not illegal, and had been linked to 18 other deaths here.