Kevin died of a heroin overdose just after his 32nd birthday.  He was found locked in a toilet in Marks & Spencer in Carmarthen where he had suffered cardiac arrest following intravenous use. Despite attempts to save him his brain had suffered fatal damage and a day later, his family (parents and four siblings) made the decision that life support should not be continued. Kevin’s life and early death illustrate many points concerning debate about the legalisation and regulation of drugs and about the need to see drug dependence as a medical issue rather than a moral failing.

  1. Without illegality and the stigma that attends it, Kevin would not have been forced to administer heroin behind a locked toilet door. He remained locked in the toilet too long after suffering cardiac arrest and this caused his death.
  2. Without the activities of criminal suppliers Kevin would have been able to obtain a controlled and monitored dose of heroin instead of one with fatal consequences.
  3. Without illegality Kevin would have sought help much earlier in his addiction because he would not have risked getting a criminal drug record, losing his job and the respect of his family. He would not have spent so many years damaging his body and his mind with drug dependency.
  4. Without illegality Kevin’s attempts to be clean over the last two years of his life (with the assistance of the Drug Dependency Services) could have resulted in a more successful monitored programme of gradual opiate detoxification instead of the offer of long term substitute drugs, his relapse and an overdose related to his lowered tolerance.
  5. Kevin was found in a locked toilet with his drugs paraphernalia. No third party was directly involved. The drugs were self-administered as part of an illegal act. For these reasons neither the police nor the Coroner had any interest in investigating the wider circumstances of Kevin’s death which might have helped to safeguard others. There was no sustained interest in the fact that Kevin’s death was part of a spike in heroin-related mortality in South West Wales in the past few months (in fact this had to be pointed out to the coroner), no interest in Kevin’s parents’ knowledge about who had supplied him with the drugs, nor where they had originated.
  6. With a legally regulated system, the profits of the illegal drug trade, criminality and illegal money laundering would decline, and taxation from a legal trade in drugs (that globally is the size of the international textile trade) could be channelled into health services, including the sort of drug and mental health services that would have saved Kevin and many like him.

Kevin was a skilled and experienced tree surgeon who loved his job. He had recently taken an access course in fine art and was a talented sculptor, excelling particularly in objects made from driftwood and recycled materials. He was intelligent, sociable, funny, generous and kind. He had a very wide circle of devoted friends and a lot to offer to society. Two hundred people attended his funeral. I, his mother, the rest of his family, and his many friends are impoverished by his loss.

Kevin B. Lane 11th December 1985 – 13th December 2017