Warning on 'legal highs' after death of student
A coroner has warned young people to beware of "legal highs" following the inquest of a student who drowned.
The body of 20-year-old Grant Mace was found by an MoD police launch on the morning of Sunday March 4 in water off Plymouth Hoe.
At Mr Mace's 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 a drug also known as mexxy or MXE.
Ms Bundy said they had bought the capsules at a place near Grant's student accommodation in Radnor Halls, in the city.
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Returning to halls they each took a capsule, which only Ms Bundy had previously tried. A fire alarm forced them to leave and they became separated.
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." She added: "I went back to the flats. I rung 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'. It made you really happy."
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" were on the packaging.
Mr Mace, 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.
Reading a statement, Ian Arrow noted how Mr Mace's parents considered his outlook "positive".
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 found the cause of death was drowning, but a toxicology report found traces of methoxetamine – 0.22mg per litre.
Detective Constable Stuart Payne, Plymouth police's Drugs Liaison Officer said he had not heard of the drug until the death of Mr Mace, as it was a new substance.
He said there had been no studies of the drug but there were three cases where Methoxetamine had been taken.
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. He said users 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, in his closing remarks, 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 drug is actually unknown and likely to have an adverse effect. On the balance of probabilities, it would affect cognitive functions – in other words, people would do things they would not normally do."