Plymouth student's death linked to legal high
A CORONER has warned young people in the city to beware of "legal highs" following the death of a student.
The body of 20-year-old Grant Mace was found by a MoD police launch on the morning of Sunday March 4 in water off the Hoe near the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. He had drowned.
At his inquest, Plymouth coroner Ian Arrow heard how the robotics student and two friends – Taylor Edgell and Charlotte Bundy – had each taken a capsule of Methoxetamine. The drug - which was legal at the time -is also known as mexxy or MXE. Ms Bundy said they had bought the capsules at a place she called "The Head Shop" near to Grant's student accommodation in Radnor Halls, Gilwell Street.
Returning to halls they each took a capsule, which only Ms Bundy had previously tried. A fire alarm later sounded forcing them to leave the halls, whereupon they became separated.
From Monday to Friday,
Come and enjoy our special menu at £12 per person for 3 course-meal.
Not in conjunction with any other offers.
From Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner.
Subject to availability.
Contact: 01752 424381
Valid until: Wednesday, July 31 2013
She said: "I think Grant was a bit panicked. I lost him. Grant called me [by phone] and I was out of it. I couldn't really concentrate. He wanted me to come to the Co-op [in Regent Street] but I didn't know the area and I asked him to come back, but he wouldn't. I went back to the flats. I rang him a few more times but he didn't answer and I went back to a friend's place."
She said MXE was "like a legal form of ketamine... It made things very 'Alice in Wonderland'."
But she also admitted it made it difficult to "get about" and she had not taken the drug since Grant's death. After being questioned by Grant's father, Graham Mace, she claimed the salesman in the "Head Shop" where the substance was bought had said "why don't you try this one, it's stronger". She also explained how the words "Do Not Consume" was written on the packaging.
After the hearing Craig Preston, joint-owner of Dam Good Head Shop in Ebrington Street said he had "done nothing wrong". The substance was not illegal at the time of the tragedy.
Grant, born in Basildon, Essex, had been visited by his parents, Graham and Lee Mace on March 2. The couple, who live abroad, had spent the day with him and Grant had spoken about looking forward to meeting friends in Germany later in the year and returning home.
Mr Mace wrote: "This has come as a total shock to us. As far as we knew Grant did not take any illegal substances."
A post mortem revealed that the cause of death was drowning, but a toxicology report found traces of methoxetamine – 0.22mg per litre.
Det Con Stuart Payne, Plymouth police's Drugs Liaison Officer said he had not heard of the drug until the death of Grant Mace as it was a new substance.
Det Con Payne explained how on April 5, this year – just four weeks after Grant's death – MXE became the first drug to be banned by the Government under a temporary class drug order.
Det Con Payne said: "The majority of these drugs come in powder or tablet form. No-one is sure what they contain.
He explained the drugs was a "dissociative anaesthetics" and users went into a state of mind called the "M-hole". They remain conscious but have no control over their body functions or thoughts.
He said: "You're in a nice warm cosy place but really you have no control over what you're doing – similar to ketamine. Because of the relaxed state that's what causes the problems. If you are in water, you will drown."
Recording an open verdict, coroner Ian Arrow, said: "I do hope the publicity of this inquest draws the circumstances of the death of Grant to the attention of the public, particularly younger members who for whatever reason want to purchase these substances. The effect of this drugs is actually unknown and likely to have an adverse effect. On the balance of probabilities, it would effect cognitive functions – in other words, people would do things they would not normally do."
YOUNG PEOPLE GAMBLE WITH THEIR LIVES BY TAKING NEW DRUGS
POLICE have repeatedly warned users of "legal highs" they are gambling with their lives.
In March 2010 the legal high mephedrone – nicknamed 'Bubble' – was banned. Since then police in Plymouth have gone on to seize an increasing quantity of the class B drug.
It was quickly replaced by more "legal highs" such as NRG and methoxetamine, which has a number of "street" names including mexxy and MXE.
Online sellers would describe it as plant food or bath salts, with many websites emphasising it was "not for human consumption".
According to the government drugs awareness website, Frank, there is very little evidence about the long and short term effects of methoxetamine, although it is closely linked with 'dissociative anaesthetics' like ketamine and PCP, with similar effects.
It states that the main effects of MXE include:
Feelings of euphoria, warmth, 'enlightenment' and being detached from the world around.
Feeling restless and on edge, feelings of extra energy.
A feeling of 'floating away'. Feeling completely detached from your body and surroundings, putting yourself in danger of accidentally being hurt or being hurt by others.
Other dissociative effects can develop, even a severe form of dissociation, catatonia, when someone is awake but doesn't respond to or interact with anything.
Involuntary eye movement, loss of balance and poor coordination and slurred speech.
As with 'Bubble', health authorities and emergency services across the UK began to recognise an increase in cases where revellers were under the adverse effects of MXE.
Following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the Home Office made methoxetamine illegal. On April 5, just four weeks after the death of Grant Mace, MXE was placed on the temporary banned list for 12 months while the ACMD decide whether it should be permanently controlled.
It is now illegal to sell or supply MXE, including giving it away to friends. It is also illegal to possess MXE for the purpose of selling it. Possession for personal use is not illegal, though police may still confiscate and destroy it.
While there have been no confirmed deaths from MXE, nobody knows the long term risks of using it.
In April this year, Det Con Stuart Payne, Drugs Liaison Officer told The Herald: "I think the biggest drug issue currently in the city is youngsters who are willing to try new psychoactive substances when they don't know what they really are."
In response to the banning of MXE he said: "There's always another two or three versions in its wake. That's the big danger because these drugs are not yet defined as illegal, some people think it is legal and thus safe. Young people appear willing to take the risk, to gamble with their health and possibly with their lives."