Sister of teen who died from designer drug unveils hard-hitting poster campaign

Model Vogue Williams at the launch of a synthetic drug awareness campagin by Nicole Ryan, right. Picture: Des Barry

The sister of a teenager who died after taking a deadly designer drug has unveiled a hard-hitting poster campaign to highlight the lethal dangers of such drugs.

Nicole Ryan devised the campaign in memory of her brother, Alex, in the hope that no other family will go through the agony her family experienced following his death in Cork City earlier this year.

“I know I can’t make people stop taking drugs, but if people see this campaign, it might just change some people’s minds about taking these drugs,” Nicole said.

She launched the campaign in Cork yesterday with presenter Vogue Williams who is filming a new series for RTÉ.

Ms Williams also confirmed she has scrapped plans to take an LSD-style legal high as part of an experiment for the first episode which focuses on recreational drugs.

Alex Ryan, aged 18, from Liscahane in Millstreet, was one of six people who was rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) last January after consuming a potent hallucinogenic stimulant at a house party in the Greenmount area of Cork City. While five were discharged from CUH, Alex remained in critical condition for several days until his life support was turned off.

Alex Ryan
Alex Ryan

Gardaí and medical experts believed the group had ingested the drug 2C-B after receiving initial reports from some of the party-goers.

However, the results of toxicology tests which became available some days later confirmed they had consumed 25I-NBOMe, or N-bomb — a synthetic derivative of the 2C family of drugs.

Medical experts warn that 25I-NBOMe is “highly dangerous”, particularly when taken in powder form, as it was at the house party.

The incident prompted the HSE to issue public warnings about the dangers of the 2C family of psychedelic designer drugs — whose street names include N-bomb, Smiles, Solaris, 25-I, INB-Meo, and Cimbi-5 — which can be sold in liquid, powder, and tablet form.

The drug was also linked to the hospitalisations of six UCD students in May 2014. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which highlighted the dangers of 25I-NBOMe in a risk assessment in 2014, has also linked the drug to four deaths.

Since Alex’s death, Nicole has been campaigning for increased awareness of the dangers posed by synthetic drugs which were banned five years ago, and of the dangers posed by so-called legal highs sold from head shops.

She said there have been poster campaigns in pubs and nightclubs warning of the dangers of abuse of alcohol, and drugs like cocaine and heroin. But she said there has been little awareness of or education about dangers posed by synthetic drugs and ‘legal highs’. “It’s an issue that’s kind of gone under the radar,” she said.

In the posters, Nicole uses a simple but powerful message to explain what happened to Alex: “People are going to make their own decisions, we can’t make them stop, but if we educate them on the dangers, then at least they can make informed decisions.”

The posters will be distributed across Cork City in the coming weeks but Nicole said she hopes to extend it nationwide.

The campaign launch was filmed as part of Ms Williams’s new four-part Edge of Oblivion series for RTÉ. The first one-hour documentary will examine the synthetic drugs scene in Ireland, five years on from the Government’s introduction of a blanket ban. Statistics show that Irish 16 to 24-year-olds are amongst the biggest consumers of new psychoactive substances in Europe.

She will also meet crusading young transgender people dealing with transgender equality; she will examine the growing problem of over-exercise and orthorexic eating disorders; and in the fourth and final episode, she will shine a light on the real-world impact of online bullying, grooming, phishing, and scamming.

She will meet cyber-victims who’ve been trolled to the point of suicidal depression, and cyber-campaigner Alicia Kozakiewicz, 27, who at the age of just 13 sneaked out of her home in Pittsburgh to meet a man she had been chatting to online.

She was kidnapped and raped, and was saved by police just minutes before her kidnapper planned to murder her.


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