ColumnistsVogue Williams

Failed drug laws helped kill Alex

Nicole Ryan was in court as three people pleaded guilty to selling N-bomb drug
Nicole Ryan was in court as three people pleaded guilty to selling N-bomb drug

On Monday last Nicole Ryan, a beautiful and dignified girl that I know and respect, sat in a courtroom in Cork watching three people plead guilty to drugs charges.

The three people had pleaded guilty to selling a massively potent synthetic LSD called N-BOME - the same drug that was taken a house party in Cork last January.

Nicole’s 19 year-old brother Alex was also at that party. He died three days later from heart failure due to an overdose of that same phenomenally dangerous drug.

Alex was a fit 6ft 7” rugby player, he was funny, popular, a joker, a twinkly-eyed rogue.

You’d think it’d take gargantuan dosages of any drug to destroy so huge a life-force – but NBOME did the job in just a few milligrams.

I met Alex’s sister Nicole last Summer when I was filming the last episode of my documentary series.

I knew I wanted to make a documentary examining the drugs landscape in Ireland 6 years after the 2010 Blanket Ban on psychoactives had promised us an end to all our drugs problems.

Researching the story of Alex’s death made me realise just how far from wiping-out problem drug use we really are.

We’re being flooded by hundreds of new variations of lab produced highs that mimic the effects of coke, mdma, LSD and cannabis and the internet makes them so easy to source.

These are drugs that were previously sold in the Headshops, and here I realised how naive I was.

I thought the drugs they’d sold in headshops were placebos - harmless sweeties for gullible kids, capable of giving you no stronger a high than two Solpadine and a double espresso.

In fact they’d been selling mind-melting Class As under cover of bad law.

But closing the headshops only drove the trade they did onto the darkweb and into the hands of dealers.

Students source their synthetic drugs on-line.

Two of the people convicted of selling drugs at the party where Alex OD’ed actually sourced their drugs on Tinder.

It’s all about knowing the secret symbols and code words dealers use.

On the other hand street users are getting their drugs from dealers – and in Dublin the Eastern European gangs have that trade all sewn up.

Thing is, on-line or from a dodgy guy on the Red Luas, the students and the street users are buying the very same drugs.

And that shocked me too, because to me Heroin was the drug that always marked the street users apart from the weekend party kids.

Now they’re united in their taste for Mephedrone or Snowblow, a synthetic stimulant that acts like a cross between speed and mdma, but in too high a dose it sends users into a nightmare of horror-filled hallucinations and dangerous delusion.

I met one user who told me how she’d ended up in a psychiatric ward after a snowblow overdose.

She’d found herself on the top of a 5 story building where looking down she saw a long green slide.

She believed she could just jump on that slide and helter skelter down to the street below. Only a friend had pulled her back she’d be dead.

Now I may be controversial in my belief that it’s not the synthetic drugs themselves that kill people or drive them to mental illness, it’s the way they’re being used.

Alex Ryan thought he was taking a form of MDMA called 2C-B on the night he OD’ed. So he snorted a dose.

But you don’t snort N-BoM – it’s too direct a delivery system for so strong a drug.

 A drug which takes only a few grains to get you high.

In fact when I went to Forensics Ireland, the Garda Drugs lab, to see how they test these synthetic highs I had to wear extra protection to even be in the same room as the powdered drugs.

Just breathing in a few grains accidentally could’ve landed me in casualty.

Alex Ryan didn’t know what drug he was taking, and so he had no idea about the correct dosage.

And that’s what happens when drugs are illegal. The users are forced to use blind.

When I take a headache pill I check the label to see how many I can safely take, but dodgy wraps and baggies have no labels.

And because the government seems to want to deny that people take drugs at all, we have zero harm reduction strategies, unlike say Switzerland where I’ve seen their grown-up approach to drug taking.

Alex Ryan died from an overdose of a drug he had no idea how to take.

His lovely sister Nicole is deprived of her only brother. It’s devastating.

On Friday Nicole sat in court again to watch 3 people each sentenced for the sale and supply the drug that cost her brother his life.

Two of them walked free with suspended sentences. One got six months.

 It wasn’t the result Nicole wanted. But these 3 people weren’t convicted of harming Alex.

In fact I believe it was our blindly inhumane drugs laws that really led Alex Ryan to his death.

My Ex Al’s just a pal

Just to clear things up that were written about my trip to Iceland last week, yes I did go with my ex-boyfriend Al Hester but he is still very much my ex.

 I have known Al for 12 years and he is one of my best friends.

We have always had Iceland on our bucket list and decided to go instead of talking about it all the time.

I know people may find is strange that I went away with my ex but he’s a great friend so I don’t think it’s weird because we don’t look at each other as anything but friends.

Watch out for my review of my trip to Iceland in Sunday World Magazine in couple of weeks - It’s such a wonderful palce.

Moving day such a pain

My week

I arrived home from Iceland on Monday evening.

On Tuesday I spent the entire day packing up my house which is the worst job of all time. I moved house on Friday and didn’t have many free days to pack so Tuesday was the only day for me to get it all done.

On Wednesday morning I flew to Belfast to go on the show, Delete Delete Delete with Patrick Kielty.

I’ve never met Patrick before but he was really lovely and the show was so much fun, George Lamb was the other guest on the show and he was really lovely too.

I couldn’t fly out of Belfast until Thursday and I had to get back to London for an event with E Entertainment. I brought my pal Matthew along with me and I knew lots of people there so it was a really good night but I had to go home early because moving day was fast approaching!

Friday was the pits, I honestly don’t think there is a worse job than moving!

Anyway I got into my new place and now I’m delighted with myself because it’s so much nicer than my old apartment.

On Saturday I got to go to the Hennessy Gold cup races just outside of London.

The races are one of my favourite days out and I usually work at them but I was free as a bird on Saturday.

I brought my cousin Cillian along with me, he moved to London a few months ago and we always have a good time when we go out together.