Prisoner could have been selling painkillers to clear drug debts, inquest hears

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A prison inmate was taken off a painkiller amid suspicions that he was selling it to clear drug debts, an inquest heard.

Edward King, 54, claimed to be hooked on the new illegal drug spice shortly before he died in Lowdham Grange prison a year ago.

The 11-member jury has heard that he complained of "long-standing back pain", claiming this began after he took part in a table tennis endurance contest to help a charity .

Dr Christopher Udenze, who acted as a GP at the jail, said blood tests had been taken and an MRI scan was carried out on Mr King's spine.

But it was noted he "could play pool and table tennis, work full-time and was seen to be running around".

Dr Udenze went on: "I can't remember at any time he mentioned he is unable to work because of back pain or unable to get out of his cell because of back pain."

Mr King had been prescribed the drug Tramadol but staff decided to reduce the prescribed amount and eventually stop giving any. Dr Udenze said: "It is very strong and could have been responsible for a huge epidemic of drug related deaths in the US."

Assistant coroner Stephanie Haskey, who is conducting the hearing, said evidence had been given that Mr King refused to allow his mouth to be checked to ensure that doses had been swallowed. At one point, he was on the maximum dose for Tramadol.

The doctor said there were concerns that he was "either diverting it or concealing it" and told the coroner: "It is a very marketable commodity."

He said the drug is dangerous and even more risky when "injected or snorted" as it had been in other prisons.

HMP Lowdham Grange

HMP Lowdham Grange

Dr Udenze said he had given him acupuncture to help with the pain problem but the inmate was keen to receive medication instead.

Medical staff understood that inmates tried to "blag" drugs and the doctor told the inquest: "I would not accept him to be completely honest with me. I don't know what his drug debts were.

"There was a whole menu of things he was not interested in. What he was interested in was addictive medication."

He described Mr King as suffering from "an emotionally unstable personality disorder with a very traumatic stress disorder related to a history of sexual abuse many years ago".

Mr King's abusers had recently been sent to jail and that might have added to his mental state. He was "a prolific self-harmer", he added.

Dr Udenze said the drug spice was not regarded as a painkiller but it "might have helped with his emotional distress. He tried to blank it out".

The coroner said that Mr King, who died aged 54, might have been "testing a new batch" of a drug and "underestimated its strength".

The hearing has already heard that it was "common knowledge" that he had taken spice on the day he died and was a regular user.

The inquest continues.