Ecstasy users 'take lethal gamble


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The Independent Online

A coroner said ecstasy users were taking a “lethal gamble” today after hearing how a 19-year-old woman died after taking three potent tablets with her boyfriend.

Young mother Nicole Tomlinson, from Darlington, was racing around, telling her partner she was having a "bad trip", went red-faced, started lying on her back moving her legs in a cycling motion and began sweating profusely before she collapsed.

After she died, toxicology reports found she had taken para-Methoxyamphetamine (PMA) - linked with coming up to 100 deaths in the UK - instead of the more usual variety of ecstasy known as MDMA.

At an inquest in Chester-le-Street, coroner Crispin Oliver ruled her death was by misadventure.

He said ecstasy users would not know which variety they had been sold, adding: "It could be a fatal gamble."

He said: "I have read with great interest and sadness and listened as well to the evidence concerning how this really tragically young person came by her death.

"She was taking a variety of ecstasy, PMA, which is inherently more dangerous than the usual form of ecstasy MDMA.

"She would have no way of knowing the difference between the two.

"It serves as a terrible warning against the use of these kinds of substances."

Detective Sergeant Jim Cunningham said he spoke to Miss Tomlinson's boyfriend James Meaney after they had both been admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital on the morning of February 28.

Mr Meaney told the detective they had become ill after they each took three tablets that he had bought, and gone to a party, the night before.

On their return to his parents' home in Headlam Road, Darlington, she became agitated and collapsed, dying later in hospital.

The detective told the inquest Mr Meaney required hospital treatment as he too was red-faced and agitated.

He was arrested afterwards on suspicion of supplying illegal drugs and the CPS was considering whether charges should be brought.

Mr Cunningham said there were no signs of any injuries on Miss Tomlinson's body. No other drugs or alcohol were detected.

Dr Steven Beck, a histo-pathologist at the University Hospital of North Durham, said: "PMA is one of the formulations which is sold as ecstasy.

"It is akin to but different from the substance generally known as ecstasy which is MDMA."

He said PMA was renowned for the speed with which it increased heart rate and body temperature.

"Hence, a user believing he or she is consuming a certain amount of MDMA could be consuming a dose of PMA which is potentially lethal, depending on the purity of the pill," he said.

After the inquest Mr Cunningham said Miss Tomlinson's family, who were not present, were still coming to terms with her death.

"It's such a tragic waste of a young life," he said.