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