By Olivia Kelleher
The sister of a teenage boy who died after taking the synthetic "N Bomb" drug has created and paid for new emergency response cards to educate young people on how to perform vital first aid.
Alex Ryan, of Liscahane in Millstreet, Co. Cork, died on January 23, 2016, after taking a synthetic drug of the 2C family called 251 NBOMe known as 'N Bomb' at a house party in the city. Three people were charged and received suspended sentences in relation to his death.
His older sister Nicole is creating a pilot programme on drugs awareness which she is hoping to launch in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, early next year.
She hopes the programme will be rolled out as part of SPHE classes in the junior cycle in a number of Cork schools in September 2019.
Nicole is holding a workshop at UCC tonight, where she will launch 250 plastic cards which contain information on how to do chest compressions. The card also contains information on how to place an individual in the recovery position. It has a QR code so it can be scanned giving the person step-by-step information on completing the life-saving procedures.
She said initially she had planned to devise an app but then she went back to the basics of a small plastic durable card, claiming the reality is that college students are using cards to cut drugs up. The hope is that her card could be produced in the event of an emergency situation arising.
Ms Ryan has visited dozens of schools around the country since the death of her brother to speak to students and to raise awareness of the dangers of synthetic drugs. At her workshops, she educates students on how to avoid peer pressure.
"I try to educate people. If someone says no they need to respect their position. I am not the first person (to lose a loved one) nor will I be the last. But if I can help people it makes me happy.
"It keeps me going to (raise awareness.) My brother was such a great person."
Nicole says Christmas is a poignant time for the bereaved but that she and her mother are starting new traditions.
Following the inquest of her brother's death, Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn wrote to the Department of Education calling for more drugs awareness programmes in schools.
At the inquest earlier this year of 16-year-old Michael Cornacchia, who died from an overdose of fentanyl in Cork, Mr Comyn again repeated his call for additional resources to be put into drugs education in post-primary schools.
He has written to the National Association of Secondary Teachers, the Department of Education and to teacher unions about the matter.
Nicole said that 6ft seven inch "gentle giant" Alex was just like any other teenager heading out for the night.
She said: "I would be saying to young people to be aware of their decisions. It is not like he was taking heroin. He thought it was safer.
"When I go to schools I demonstrate to them about dosage. It is astounding how little it can take to kill you. Alex was just a regular guy. He was going to go places in life."
Alex was a popular past pupil of Millstreet Community School. He saved four lives after his family gave their consent to organ donation.
Alex's death led the HSE to issue a warning about the dangers of the 2C family of psychedelic drugs. These drugs can be sold in liquid, powder and tablet form and are consumed for their stimulant and mood-altering properties.