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Dr Margaret Bolster Assistant State Pathologist. Pic: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Dr Margaret Bolster Assistant State Pathologist. Pic: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Spike in deaths from internet 'head shop-style' drugs

PATHOLOGY laboratories can’t keep up with the influx of so-called “head shop” drugs, which are becoming more commonly involved in unexpected deaths, a leading forensic pathologist has stated.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster revealed that new types of synthetic drugs are becoming increasingly common in the cases that she deals with.

“You can go onto the internet and order anything you want so it's a huge problem now,” Dr Bolster said.

“There are newer drugs coming on the market every single day.

“The lab cannot keep up with them, so you have a sudden unexpected death in a young person, send off the blood for toxicology it comes back negative but you know that the person, from what was described, was on them (synthetic drugs).” 

While the role of drug use in unexpected death is “becoming increasingly a problem”, Dr Bolster argued that alcohol remains a primary issue, as it “runs through every age group, every walk of life.” 

Dr Bolster told an audience of secondary school students and teachers at Cork University Hospital last week that alcohol was a factor in the vast majority of cases she deals with.

“One very common theme that runs through all of my natural deaths and unnatural deaths is alcohol.

“At least 90% of my work is alcohol related in some way, either directly through acute alcohol poisoning from drinking too much, or the effects of long-term alcohol abuse on the heart, the brain, the pancreas and the other organs” “And what happens outside the pub? The fights develop and you get all sorts of accidents."

*Continued on page 2.