A postal worker who died from injecting heroin in a city centre toilet became addicted after he was prescribed strong painkillers after a car accident, an inquest in the North heard today.
Laurence Glennon, 34, choked on his vomit at the Ivory Restaurant in Victoria Square, Belfast, last November.
He was found slumped in the disabled cubicle, coroner Joanne Donnelly was told.
Mr Glennon, of Cabin Hill Gardens, Belfast, became hooked on heroin after taking prescription tablets to ease the pain following a car accident in which he suffered broken bones.
The Belfast inquest was told he had to be referred to a community addiction centre but he was unable to kick the habit.
His girlfriend Kathryn Dowds said: “He was very down, he was worried about his pain, he was worried about the accident that he had had.”
The coroner ruled out suicide but reported the death to the health minister and Belfast Health Trust in the hope that steps will be taken to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs. She added there should be an in-depth review of the case to decide whether any lessons can be learned about the prescription of highly addictive drugs on a long-term basis.
Ms Donnelly said: “It is very sad indeed therefore that despite his best efforts and despite his family’s best efforts his life was tragically cut short on November 19 2010 as a consequence of his addiction.”
Mr Glennon was enjoying a meal with his girlfriend at the restaurant and was almost finished when he went to the bathroom. After he was away 15 minutes she became concerned and called for help from staff.
When security guard David Boyle opened the locked disabled cubicle he discovered Mr Glennon slumped over with his head on his knees with a pool of vomit at his feet. A syringe and tablet were discovered nearby.
According to first aid expert Ivan Noble he had a faint and shallow breath but that stopped and he could not find a pulse. Mr Glennon was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Ms Dowds said he seemed a bit sleepy while dining, they had been drinking at a beer festival in Belfast city centre beforehand. He was on anti-depressants and had been involved in a second accident a few months before his death.
His sister Clare Hughes struggled to control her tears.
She said he had been taking medication for pain relief but was on additional illegal drugs to control the pain.
“Those that he was on were highly addictive as it was and they were not controlling his pain sufficiently,” she said.
She added he had registered with the drug addiction programme and met a counsellor who conducted an investigation following his death.
“They said that my brother was very focused on coming off the illegal drugs, controlling his pain through prescribed medication only, and that he was incredibly future-focused,” she said.
The coroner asked whether he had used narcotics before the January 2009 car accident.
“There was absolutely no evidence that he was taking any illegal substances prior to that,” Mrs Hughes responded.
A report from his GP said he sustained rib, hip and ankle fractures in the collision and it took some time before he was able to walk again. Following the second accident diazepam and needles were discovered in his car and social services became involved but he denied drug abuse.
He was on morphine but the dosage was reduced by his doctor in July 2009 and he was referred to a pain clinic and to the community addiction service. He was also put on anti-depressants.
The coroner ruled that he died from inhaling the contents of his stomach after he was poisoned by heroin.