Woman accidentally killed herself with painkillers after 28-year addiction
A woman accidentally killed herself with a lethal overdose of painkillers after a 28-year addiction to opioids.
An inquest heard that doctors continued to prescribe Amanda Harris with the tablets despite her decades-long struggle managing them.
Harris, 45, took so many pills for her aches and pain that friends said she developed a ”Jekyll and Hyde” temperament and was barely able to walk.
When one GP reduced the weekly dosage, Miss Harris would take her prescription batch in one go.
She would then became so desperate for more tablets that she would persuade friends and neighbours to give her medication they themselves had been prescribed for their own conditions.
Last August she was found dead at her home in Rawtenstall, Lancs by her boyfriend after taking a toxic cocktail of Morphine plus Tramadol, and Dihydrocodeine.
Tests showed the morphine and codeine in her system was at a fatal level and some of the drugs had been prescribed to her by her GP.
The tragedy occurred just weeks after the NHS was warned it was fuelling an ”addiction crisis” and a ”silent epidemic” because of an increase in the prescribing of powerful painkillers.
Nearly 24 million opioids, such as morphine, were prescribed in 2017 – equivalent to 2,700 packs an hour – which was 10 million more prescriptions than those issued in 2007.
An inquest heard Miss Harris, who lived alone and was known as Mandy, had developed an addiction to codeine when she was just 17 and would ask for medication to help her long-term pain across her legs.
Shirley Smith, a close neighbour told the Burnley hearing: "She complained about her pain often. She used to come round on Saturdays and stayed all day and we would speak to each other on the phone in between.
"She told me about the tablet she was taking but I didn’t know about the morphine.
"She used to struggle with pain and asked for painkillers.
"I told her it was silly to take other people’s painkillers. She had concerns about going to the GP but I don’t know why, I told her they were okay.
"They had prescribed her painkillers including codeine but she took them all at once at one time. She used it for many years and told me that she was addicted to it.
"She had difficulties walking as her legs were swollen as well as her feet.
”Her medication was dispensed and delivered weekly to her home address but she was getting additional painkillers from somewhere else.
"Somebody would come and she bought them from them.
”She would come round sweating sometimes but that was due to the drugs. She asked me for tablets and I said no. She has taken tablets for many years.
She told me she has been addicted to codeine since she was 17.
"She would even ask me for my painkillers.
"The doctors would give her painkillers that were strong enough to have one a day but she was also buying them from another source. ”
Mrs Smith added: "Mandy had no intention to end her life. She was happy and she told me what she planned on doing in the future. She was trying to self medicate. I told her not to take other people’s tablets.
"I told her that everything goes through your kidneys and she could end up with kidney failure. I miss her. She helped me a lot."
Miss Harris’ partner Brian Jones said: "She would knock on doors asking if they had any spare tablets. She told me she was trying to get hold of them and her appearance was going rapidly downhill.
"She was frightened to go outside and struggled. When we got together she started improving herself after that as she would change her clothes, wash again, and brush her hair.
"She was picking herself up slowly. One day I said ‘shall we go shopping?’. She said to me ‘if you are with me I will be alright’.
"We had to link arm in arm and she was unsure of what was going on. I don’t think she had been out properly for 3 to 4 years. I took her out to the local for a couple of hours one time. She had four cocktails and that was it.
"She was not heavy drinker.
"I took her out on her birthday for a few hours as well, she wasn’t drinking. I know she would ask anyone if they had any painkillers.
"She would knock on the neighbours doors and ask for some including me.
"I thought she was pulling herself up from being so down and improving herself. She would put make-up on and she was starting to look more acceptable.
"From there it went haywire. I don’t know why. Her temper was bad and sometimes she could be like Jekyll and Hyde.
"One minute she was nice, the next not. I put up with it. She went from improving to, what happened, I don’t know. Her hair was matted at times and knotted, but they did start to come out after a while.
"She said the doctor would only give her eight tablets to last a week. They had reduced it as she had taken an overdose before. It was more of a cry for help.
"On August 9 there was a delivery guy who came with her prescription. I saw her take the tablets, shut her door and I didn’t see her after that. I kept wondering what was going on as I would usually see the bathroom light on or something.
"I got back home at around 7pm on the 12th and I called her dad as I was worried. He told me there was a spare key nearby and I managed to get in.
"I found her on the floor under a pile of blankets. It was too late."
Coroner Richard Taylor recorded a conclusion of misadventure and said: "This was a lady who has been in discomfort for many years and taking medication, some prescribed some not.
"With this she has taken a cocktail of painkillers and some alcohol, and her body couldn’t tolerate it. That in my estimation was a mistake on her behalf.
"It was an unintentional outcome of an intentional action. She didn’t intent to end her life.
"She had taken medication – but not all that had been prescribed to her."
No doctor or healthcare professional gave evidence at the inquest.
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