THE FOREN­SIC PATHOL­O­GIST

DR LINDA ILES SEES THE EF­FECTS OF DRUGS ON THE OTHER SIDE – AF­TER THEY’VE CLAIMED A LIFE.

Dolly - - Doctor -

“The main as­pect of my job is do­ing au­top­sies to de­ter­mine a cause of death. We come across a lot of deaths caused by young peo­ple ex­per­i­ment­ing with al­co­hol or drugs, some­times for the first time – but whether it’s your first or tenth time, tak­ing drugs can be fa­tal. Al­co­hol is usu­ally re­lated to these deaths, whether by it­self or mixed with drugs, and we of­ten find that peo­ple have mixed more than one sub­stance. Heroin has al­ways been a com­mon drug, but lately we have been see­ing over­doses re­lated to pre­scrip­tion drugs and deaths from stim­u­lants like co­caine – the re­lated deaths may not nec­es­sar­ily be due to tox­i­c­ity but by the be­hav­iour those drugs cause. Be­cause so many new drugs are be­ing cre­ated at a rapid rate, it’s hard to de­tect these sub­stances and keep up with the pace of the new drugs, so we have had some deaths where all of the drug tests weren’t able to de­tect any­thing. But now that we have the tools, we have been able to go back and de­ter­mine that the death was in fact caused by a newly cre­ated drug. An im­por­tant but re­ally hard part of our job is to speak to the par­ents whose child has over­dosed. Some­times they don’t be­lieve that their child was into drugs, and that’s part of the grief re­sponse. All we can do as foren­sic pathol­o­gists is sym­pa­thet­i­cally present the ev­i­dence. Peo­ple need to be in­formed and re­alise that there are con­se­quences that may lead to a long-dis­tance habit be­cause drugs like ice can be very ad­dic­tive, and that is a path you don’t want to em­bark on. Even though tak­ing drugs might seem glam­orous on the sur­face, I can tell you from my end of things that there’s no glamour about them at all.”

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