A 29-YEAR-OLD Coleraine man who died after eating a “table spoonful” of cocaine, may have survived the overdose but for a little known reaction which could have made him too aggressive to treat.
The highly agitated condition came to light at last week’s inquest of Daryl William Black, from Bushmills Road, who died as a result of taking a cocktail of cocaine, amphetamine and alcohol at an all night party two years ago.
According to Northern Ireland’s Deputy State Pathologist, Dr. Alistair Bentley, the deceased may have been suffering from “excited delirium” which imbues cocaine users with “boundless energy and aggression” leading emergency services to delay transfer to hospital for their own safety.
Coleraine Coroner’s Court, sitting at No 2 Court got underway last Wednesday to permit the inclusion of three witnesses who had failed to turn up at the original hearing in July.
A bench warrant was issued for a fourth, Paul Johnston.
Presiding over the inquest was Coroner, Brian Sherrard, who offered his sympathies to the deceased’s family but also issued a warning to other young people to avoid making cocaine use “the norm in today’s society.”
The court heard that Daryl Black and his girlfriend of five months, Stacey Watton, had attended an all night party at the home of friend, Paul Johnston, at Old Mill Grange, Portstewart, on December 5, 2009.
Speaking from the witness box, Miss Watton, claimed that Mr. Black had brought cocaine with him in a clear plastic bag and, together with another two friends, had swallowed four grams of the drug from “a tablespoon” sometime after 11.00 o’clock the next morning.
The first person to take the drug was Thomas Campbell who, in his own words, started to feel unwell straightaway: “I could hardly breath and I started to panic and went to the kitchen and had a load of water,” he said.
“There was some talk that it might have Ketamine or something in it,” he told the court, referring to the hallucinogenic tranquiliser drug.
He then saw Daryl stand up and race to the window.
He too was having difficulty breathing and called for a cup of water. With his head out the window, he dropped the cup on the ground outside before staggering back into the living room and collapsing.
The second of the three men present that day, Sean Owen repeated Miss Watton’s assertions that Daryl had to be restrained by his four friends as he began to thrash his arms and legs about, receiving a graze to the back of the head as he banged it on the floor.
Given that all of them had been drinking through the night, no one had a clear recollection of who called the ambulance at 1pm but paramedics arrived approximately nine minutes later and gave Daryl oxygen as he lay on his back still thrashing about.
The ambulance men found it difficult to keep the oxygen mask over the struggling man’s face but were assisted by the arrival of two police officers.
Before long, however, Daryl’s conditional deteriorated and he was transferred by stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
Already unconscious, Mr. Black then suffered cardiac arrest and was treated with CPR, adrenalin and atropine on his way to Causeway Hospital. Doctors there were unable to revive him and he was declared dead at 2.45pm.
The dead man’s family, present at the inquest and given the opportunity to question three of the witnesses present that night, were unanimous in their contention that a one hour delay may have reduced Daryl’s chances of survival.
However, this was refuted by Dr. Bentley, who suggested that “excited delirium” may have been the cause of Mr. Black’s behaviour rather than a seizure as he was still conscious and vocal as he thrashed about.
This would have been enough to delay his transfer to the ambulance as the emergency services would be concerned about him injuring himself.
“Excited delirium can cause the emergency services a lot of problems,” he told the family.
“But the paramedics would have had enough equipment with them to resuscitate him.
“If you are asking me if arriving at hospital any sooner would have saved his life... I don’t know but I suspect not because it is a notoriously difficult condition to treat.”
The Deputy State Pathologist added that Mr. Black had “only a small quantity of alcohol in his blood” but it was enough, combined with cocaine, to create a lethal cocktail which interfered with the electricity in his heart.
Giving his findings at the end of the two day inquest, Coroner Sherrard described Daryl Black’s death as “a waste of a young life” and offered his condolences to the family.
He told them: “It is obvious to me the impact that Daryl’s death has had upon you. I have listened to you speak of him in such loving terms so it is very clear that Daryl was held in high esteem and was much loved by his entire family circle.”
He gave the official cause of death as “cocaine toxicity combined with amphetamine and alcohol” and warned others that taking street drugs was akin to playing Russian Roulette.
“We don’t know what we are taking: the quality, the quantity or even how it will impact on our own physiology,” he said. “The idiosyncratic reaction of our bodies to cocaine presents a very real danger.”
Disclosing that he had dealt with a similar case, in the same street, a few weeks after Mr. Black’s death, he added: “Taking drugs is almost the norm in our society today but people need to think about the impact on their families that are left behind.”