Coroner’s legal high warning after young woman’s death

Stephanie Howard, 20 died after taking mephedrone and amphetamine.
Stephanie Howard, 20 died after taking mephedrone and amphetamine.

A CORONER has issued a stark warning about the dangers of legal highs after a young woman died after taking mephedrone.

An inquest into the death of Stephanie Howard, 20, heard she had swallowed the drug also known as “bubble” or “meow meow” when she was with her boyfriend Ashley Thorpe and friend Rachel Sherman last February.

The court was told that this was Miss Howard’s first experience of the drug which was still legal at the time. She had also taken amphetamines.

Several hours after consuming the drug, Miss Howard of Findlay Street, Leigh, began coughing up blood and was taken to Wigan Infirmary.

Despite the best efforts of doctors, she died of multiple organ failure three days later on February 16.

Deputy coroner Alan Walsh said: “When these drugs are referred to as a legal high, there are underlying dangers.

“It is important that a warning is sent out about new drugs that come onto the market.

“Young people need to be aware so that they can protect themselves and not put themselves in such danger.”

Bolton Coroner’s Court was told by Mr Thorpe and Ms Sherman that Miss Howard had asked them not to tell her parents what drugs she had taken.

Sticking to Miss Howard’s word, they did not reveal to her parents or doctors what she had taken but instead concocted a story to say that she had her drink spiked.

However, forensic toxicologist Julie Evans told the court that the supportive treatment given to Miss Howard would have been the same whether or not doctors knew what she had taken.

She said: “There is no antidote to both of these drugs, even if it had been known what she had taken, there is very little known about mephedrone that treatment would not have been any different.”

Mr Thorpe of Hope Carr Road and Ms Sherman of Downall Green Road, Ashton, were initially arrested but released without charge.

Mr Thorpe told the court: “I told Stephanie I wanted to get her an ambulance because coughing up blood wasn’t normal, but she said no and that she just wanted to go to sleep. Between the three of us, we swore that we wouldn’t say anything about what she had taken, that’s when we made up a story that she had been out and her drink had been spiked.

“I repeated the same story at hospital, I was standing by my girls’ word,

“I didn’t think anything bad was going to come of it, I thought we were going to be walking out of hospital together.

“I loved her just as much as anybody else and it breaks my heart that this has happened.”

A verdict of death as a result of the misuse of amphetamine and mephadrone was recorded.

Mr Walsh added: “This is a tragic death of a young person whose life had only just begun.

“There was no antidote that could have been given, she did not respond to the supportive treatment, there was no third party involvement and no criminality.”

Mephedrone was criminalised two months later, in April 2010, and is now a class B drug.