Coroner's Legal High Warning After Southampton Teenager's Death

12 November 2013, 14:20 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

A coroner has warned of the dangers of so-called "legal highs'' after a Hampshire teenager died from taking a substance which was marked "not for human consumption'' which he had bought over the internet.

Adam Hunt, 18, died on August 18 this year after taking the psychoactive substance AMT at his home in Southampton. He had also bought another product, etizolam, but this drug was not found in his system.

The Southampton inquest heard that Mr Hunt had told a friend on August 14 that he had bought the drug which was supposed to have the same effects as MDMA (ecstasy).

Detective Sergeant Jeremy Boughay, of Hampshire police, said that Mr Hunt, a keen football fan, had been looking forward to watching an England match later that day with his father.

He said: "Adam Hunt was an 18-year-old male who enjoyed a normal, happy life living with his mother.

"He was a happy person with lots of friends, he enjoyed normal activities including computer gaming and football.''

The inquest heard that Mr Hunt told his friend that he had bought two grams of AMT and he intended to take it later that day.

Mr Boughay said that Mr Hunt's mother, Bernadette Fagan, returned home from work later and heard her son calling for help from his bedroom.

He said: "He was sweating and shaking. She immediately phoned for help and ambulance staff arrived a short while later and took Adam to hospital.''

He added that Mr Hunt died four days later on August 18 at Southampton General Hospital.

Pathologist Dr Brian Green told the inquest that a post mortem found that Mr Hunt died of multiple organ failure caused by taking a dose of almost 1g of AMT.

He said: "One of the problems of buying medicines from unregulated manufacturers is the individual awareness of the concentration of the substance in the drug provided may bear no resemblance to the actual concentration, that puts an even greater risk in the ingestion of substances that are unregulated.''

Recording a conclusion that Mr Hunt's death was accidental caused by the experimental taking of AMT, Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman said: "Anyone taking this kind of drug in any kind of quantity is potentially walking into the unknown, into disaster really.''

Speaking to Mr Hunt's mother and family, he added: "It was sadly an experimentation gone wrong. I would like to express my very sincere condolences to everyone.''

Mr Wiseman also advised parents to raise the issue with their children, especially if they were exhibiting unusual behaviour.

Mr Boughay said that Mr Hunt's computer was seized and it was found that he had researched AMT and legal highs on the internet. Packets containing the drugs were also found which were both marked "not for human consumption''.

Mr Boughay said that the drugs AMT and etizolam were not prohibited under the misuse of drugs act but said that this did not mean they were safe to use.

He explained that it was difficult to legislate against such products as a slight change in their composition would mean they would be classed as a different product and would therefore no longer be banned.

Speaking after the inquest, he said: "Our concern is that people have the perception that because they are marketed with the term legal high that they are safe.

"The point we are trying to make is that there is no process to ensure what is written on the packet is what is in there because they are unregulated.

"People consider them to be safe because they are not illegal but in fact they can be more of a danger than other substances on the market.''

The inquest heard that AMT, which has similar effects to amphetamines, was developed to tackle depression but was no longer used because of its hallucinogenic properties.

Mr Hunt's mother and father Darren released a statement through police paying tribute to the keen football fan.

"Adam was a much-loved son. He was a very normal young man with interests that ranged from football and music to clothes and girls,'' they said.

"He loved football and was a Saints (Southampton) season ticket-holder. His musical tastes were eclectic, ranging from Oasis to drum 'n' bass.

"He did well at school and just two years ago he left with 11 GCSE A-C passes and had gone on to study electrical engineering at college in an attempt to follow in his dad's footsteps.

"He loved travel as well and was due to go on holiday in the next few weeks with one of his best friends to New York where he had planned an itinerary of sightseeing and restaurant visiting as he was also very keen on food.

"He was very thoughtful and caring and loved his family and friends dearly. One of the things we will always remember though about him was his fantastic sense of humour. It is very hard to think we will not get to laugh or talk with him any more.

"His life had such potential and was all in front of him. Sadly it has been cut prematurely very short.''