Wigan borough dad died after taking mixture of prescription and illegal drugs

A dad died after taking a cocktail of prescription and illicit drugs, an inquest heard.
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James Clarke had abused medication and drugs on and off for 30 years, turning more to tablets such as benzodiazepines in the last two years.

An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard his long-term partner believed he was self-medicating for low mood and said he lost his job as a wagon driver during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Mr Clarke, 49, began a detoxification programme at Prestwich Hospital in October 2021, but he was asked to leave after he was found intoxicated and tablets were discovered in his room.

He received support from drug and alcohol programme We Are With You for several years and was prescribed methadone, which is used to help withdraw from heroin, but he continued taking other drugs in summer 2022.

The inquest – which was a documentary hearing as Mr Clarke’s loved ones chose not to attend – heard he went to a dessert restaurant with his partner on the evening of September 9.

He was slurring his words and seemed to be under the influence, though she did not see him take any tablets or drink alcohol.

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Afterwards the couple, who had been together for 30 years and had an adult son, returned to their home in Leigh.

Mr Clarke fell asleep on the sofa and when his partner could not wake him, she put a blanket over him and went to bed.

But when she awoke at 1pm the next day, she could not hear early riser Mr Clarke pottering around the house and found him unresponsive.

She called 999 and performed CPR, but Mr Clarke was confirmed to have died when paramedics arrived.

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Analysis of his blood and urine was carried out after his death and found evidence of paracetamol, benzodiazepine, nordazepam, zopiclone, cocaine, pregabalin, methadone, codeine and opiates including a metabolite of heroin.

While some drugs were prescription medications, only methadone had been prescribed to him.

The court heard the toxic effects of some of these drugs included depressing the central nervous system and that could be worsened by taking them together.

Consultant pathologist Dr Naveen Sharma recorded his cause of death was mixed drug toxicity.

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The inquest heard a police investigation did not find any suspicious circumstances or third party involvement.

Mr Clarke had reported being assaulted in July and was treated in hospital for minor injuries, but that was not thought to have played a part in his death.

He did not leave any note expressing that he intended to end his life, the court heard.

Coroner Simon Nelson said: “He was an individual with a lengthy involvement in initially prescribed drugs, but subsequently non-prescribed and illicit drug use and abuse. He clearly had found it very difficult to extract himself from that drug use and that clearly had affected his relationships with immediate family and his partner.”

He concluded that Mr Clarke’s death was drug-related and that he did not intend to end his life.