Heroin addict died days after release from prison

A HEROIN addict who had just come out of prison died after he took opiate painkillers with his methadone.

Nicholas Wilcox, who was of no fixed address, died at Eastbourne DGH on July 6 after being rushed to the hospital with breathing problems.

An inquest into the 21-year-old’s death was held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (January 20).

Coroner Joanna Pratt was told Mr Wilcox had been released from prison on June 22, 2010, after serving a seven-month sentence for burglary and criminal damage.

He had previously been taking heroin but had lost his tolerance to the substance while he was behind bars and was given a low dose of methadone when he was released.

Dr Nektarios Kouvarakis, a psychiatrist at substance misuse centre Lift House, said, “He was prescribed a low dose of methadone – 20mg daily.

“He was given such a low dose because the maximum dose we can prescribe would have been a lethal dose for someone like him who had a low tolerance.”

Dr Kouvarakis said Mr Wilcox had told him about having suicidal thoughts in prison but explained he had not thought about taking his life for some time.

Gregory Nicholls, a friend of Mr Wilcox, was the last person to see Mr Wilcox alive.

In a statement read at the inquest, he said he had been letting Mr Wilcox stay at in his studio flat following his release from prison.

He said they had picked up their methadone together on the Saturday before his death and that Mr Wilcox had said he was going to take Sunday’s dose on the same day.

Mr Nicholls said, “I told him that was stupid because he would need some methadone the next day.”

The coroner was told Mr Wilcox had returned to Mr Nicholls’ Compton Street flat and had obviously taken an illegal substance but he didn’t know what.

The pair went to sleep and the next morning Mr Nicholls heard him snoring, but then became concerned about the sound of his breathing.

Mr Nicholls said, “I didn’t think he was breathing so I put a mirror up against his mouth but there was no condensation.”

Ambulance crews were called but were unable to save Mr Wilcox.

Methadone and dihydrocodine, a strong opiate painkiller, were found in Mr Wilcox’s system following his death.

Miss Pratt recorded a verdict of dependency on drugs.