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Coroner warns those taking legal highs are playing 'Russian roulette' with their lives

William Scott (19) from Ballyclare died on August 31, 2013 after taking what he thought was a legal high.
Gareth McKeown

A CORONER has warned that users of so-called legal highs are "playing Russian roulette with their lives”.

The comments by Joe McCriskin came during an inquest in Belfast into the death of teenager William Scott.

The 19 year-old from Huntingdale Court in Ballyclare, Co Antrim, died from multiple-organ failure on August 31, 2013 after taking what he thought was a legal high.

A later toxicology report revealed the substance to be Para-Chloroamphetamine, a Class A controlled drug.

William's mother Kirstan Scott told the inquest her son was a "vulnerable" individual, who was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome in January 2013. He also had self-harmed in the three years prior to his death and talked about suicide, but in what she described as a "childish way".

She said he son struggled to accept his diagnosis and in July 2013 purchased the legal high ‘Midnight Mash' online for £18. She said it made him feel calm.

Less than two months later on August 28 he received a second online delivery of the legal high, which this time cost £6. Three days later he died in hospital.

The inquest heard he was staying with his brother Alex who found him seriously ill in his bedroom after he returned home from work.

He rushed him to Antrim Area Hospital but despite "intensive treatment" he died three days later.

The pathologist Dr Alastair Bentley said Mr Scott's death was due to drug toxicity with rapid damage and failure to many of his major organs, especially the heart and liver.

Forensic scientist Bernadette Prentice said in her report the concentration of Para-Chloroamphetamine found in Mr Scott's blood was consistent with the cause of the death.

Coroner Joe McCriskin said he satisfied William had died of an accidental overdose and stressed the dangers of such drugs noting: “It didn't just cost him £6 it cost him his life."

He said these substances presented a “real and present danger” to anyone who uses them and that people are "playing Russian roulette with their lives”.

The coroner said he would write to both the Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton in a bid to prevent further deaths from legal highs.

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