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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Ulverston death sparks fears of drug menace’s return

THE death of an Ulverston man who choked on his own vomit has led to fears that methadone abuse is “rearing its head” in the area.

An inquest at Barrow Town Hall on Wednesday heard Andrew John Thorburn, of North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston, died at his home on December 6 after drinking with friends.

Mr Thorburn, 39, had a combination of alcohol, methadone and anti-depressants including diazepam in his bloodstream.

Mr Ian Smith, coroner for South and East Cumbria, said although the dosages of each individual drug were not in themselves enough to kill Mr Thorburn, the combined effect meant his automatic responses failed when he vomited in his sleep.

An autopsy concluded he died as a result of aspiration of vomit due to the effects of methadone and alcohol.

Duncan O’Sullivan, who described Mr Thorburn as “my best friend”, had been staying with him at the time of his death.

He told the coroner’s court they had been drinking at The Piel Castle, where Mr Thorburn confided he had been using heroin and methadone.

He said: “He was so out of it at the pub he was just making a nuisance of himself, so I called him a taxi. He was falling asleep in the taxi so I was slapping his face to try and wake him up. When we got back he had a can of beer but he was spilling it all over himself so I sent him to bed.”

Later that evening Mr O’Sullivan went to check on his friend. “He wasn’t in a good position. I turned him over and that’s when I realised,” he said.

PC John Turner, of Cumbria police, said he attended North Lonsdale Road after a neighbour called 999 reporting a woman shouting “he’s dead, he’s dead”.

When PC Turner attended the scene, he walked through the door of Mr Thorburn’s home and heard people counting. He realised they were performing CPR and called an ambulance.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Smith said: “Methadone is a very dangerous drug. The same dosage can have different effects on different people, and even worse the same dose can affect the same person differently.

“It was a problem in the area in the 1990s and we thought we had got a grip on it. Now 20 years later it is rearing its head again.”

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