Coroner issues ecstasy warning after two drownings

A coroner has issued a public warning about undiscovered side-effects of ecstasy following the deaths by drowning of two men.

Coroner issues ecstasy warning after two drownings

Galway West Coroner Ciarán MacLoughlin was commenting after hearing how a dentist and a student had both died in the sea after taking ecstasy, or designer drugs containing ecstasy.

“There are obvious risks to taking ecstasy or drugs with an ecstasy element. One of those risks is water,” said Dr MacLoughlin.

“We are now getting a lot of new deaths from drugs and people don’t seem to realise the side-effects. With ecstasy, the body temperature rises and it seems that some people will then head for water, if only to cool down.”

The body of dentist Nicholas Sweeney, 42, was found on rocks at the beach in Barna, just outside Galway city, in December 2013. A Greek national of Irish extraction, he had emigrated from Greece to live and work in Galway.

His cousins had travelled from Dublin to search for him after friends and his fiancée had raised the alarm.

First cousin Aindreas O’Shaughnessy found his body at Freeport, Barna, not far from where Mr Sweeney was living, at 9.40am on December 21.

Pathologist Michael Tan Chien Sheng said a designer drug, similar to ecstasy, was found in his bloodstream during the autopsy.

The pathologist said the designer drug had been produced by someone with a knowledge of pharmacology. Mr Sweeney may have had hallucinations, not known where he was, and fallen into the water, he said. The cause of death was asphyxia, due to drowning.

Student Joseph Atkinson, aged 24, from Newtownforbes, Co Longford, had been drinking with friends at the Spanish Arch in Galway when last reported seen on September 16. A man taking his son to the dentist spotted his body in the water at Galway Docks two days later.

His inquest heard that a young man who was among the group drinking at the Spanish Arch had earlier taken a bag containing ecstasy tablets from another man and shared them among the group.

Dr Sheng said Joseph Atkinson had a low level of alcohol in his system, but a level of ecstasy well above “recreational level”. Death was due to drowning, but the student was under the influence of ecstasy and alcohol at the time, the pathologist said.

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