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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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Barrow mum-of-two died from methadone overdose

PRESCRIPTION methadone killed a Barrow mum-of-two – an inquest heard.

Concerns have been raised about patients being allowed take-home doses after Karen Higgins, 52, of High Cliff, Ormsgill, overdosed the day after being given her weekly supply.

Ms Higgins was found dead at her home by her daughter Emma Beck on January 29.

The inquest, at Barrow Town Hall on Friday, heard Ms Higgins was a long-term drug user with a history of self harm – and had been taking methadone on prescription for many years.

A pathologist’s report indicated fatal levels of methadone and codeine, a pain killer, in her bloodstream.

South and east Cumbria coroner Ian Smith said both drugs worked in similar ways and would have caused Ms Higgins’s automatic breathing responses to fail.

Ms Beck told the court her mum had lost a leg after her drug use caused the development of ulcers.

She had been told the other leg would also be likely to be amputated.

The court heard she had been in considerable pain.

Ms Beck told the court she would pick up a week’s supply of methadone from her mum’s pharmacist on Tuesdays.

She said her mum had been unusually drowsy in the weeks before her death and she feared Ms Higgins had been taking too much methadone.

The night before her death she was found sleeping face down in a Chinese takeaway her daughter had bought for her.

Nik Alderton, from Ireleth, has been campaigning for tighter controls on methadone distribution since the death of her 19-year-old daughter Beatrice Alderton.

She said: “The fact her daughter was allowed to pick up a week’s supply of methadone for her is shocking.

“It should be a daily supply and only be for a short period of time. There is something wrong here.”

Mrs Alderton is due to meet with Barrow MP John Woodcock in July

After recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Smith said: “Methadone is a very dangerous prescription drug and the effects can vary from one day to the next.”


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