Heartbroken woman warns about dangers of prescription medication: 'I couldn’t believe it was happening’

This woman lost two siblings in one night due to a fatal error.

dangers of prescription medication
© Alexander Grey / UNSPLASH
dangers of prescription medication

We all know that taking illegal drugs is bad for you, and can lead to health issues, addiction or even death. However, we often forget that taking legal medication for legitimate health reasons can also be dangerous. You should never mix certain medication with alcohol, for instance, or others with coffee. We’re going to be looking into the risks you take when you use prescription medication that belongs to someone else.

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Jade Couperthwaite, from Bolton, is raising awareness over this issue after a night in with her brother and sister led to the most tragic ending she could possibly have envisaged.

Jade’s family

Jade, 32, had always been close to her sister Carla, 26. She explained that they were ‘best friends as well as sisters’:

She was beautiful, and she was such a lovely, kind-hearted, funny girl. I was her big sister and I looked after her ever since she was newborn.

Jade, who now has two kids of her own, explained, ‘I was five when Carla was born and right from that moment, I looked after her. I remember bringing her home from hospital and thinking to myself I had a real live doll. I used to sit by her Moses basket for hours. Mum was brilliant, she was devoted, and she loved us so much’.

When Jade was 12, the sisters - who also have younger siblings - met their half-brother Stephen. Jade said she took Stephen under wing, and after she left home Carla came to live with her.

The fateful night

On the night of 6 September 2023, Stephen came to the house to visit. Jade made a roast chicken dinner and Stephen, who had a history of problems with drug use, went to bed to sleep off a hangover. Jade explained that Carla was suffering with toothache over this period:

She had a referral for January to have four teeth out, but she was in agony.

What happened next changed Jade’s life forever:

Stephen had veneers and told her he’d been prescribed morphine for his toothache. When he offered her some, we didn’t see the harm. We felt it would be OK, if it was prescribed medication. I only saw Carla have one measure. Stephen went back to bed, Carla and me were on the sofa watching telly and I dozed off.

When Jade woke up, she realised her sister wasn’t breathing. She shouted for her brother, started CPR and called an ambulance. Stephen never responded, and when medics arrived, Jade rushed to the room he was in to wake him up and explain what was happening. He was a very heavy sleeper, and she simply assumed he hadn’t heard the commotion. Then she discovered that he was also dead. He was 33.

The cause of death

Jade described the awful moment she realised what had happened:

​​I couldn’t believe it was happening. How could they both die at the same time? Our uncle Dennis passed away the following day, and I believe he died from a broken heart.

Dr Ravindra Sawant, the pathologist who studied the bodies, said he found multiple drugs in Stephen’s system. This included a low concentration of amphetamine, a therapeutic level of diazepam and pregabalin, levels of cocaine and a high level of morphine. As he wasn’t a frequent user of morphine, he didn’t have a high tolerance for the drug - while his cocaine use made him more susceptible to its side effects.

Meanwhile, Carla had cannabis, cocaine, alcohol, diazepam, pregabalin and morphine in her system. She had been engaging with a drug and alcohol recovery plan before she died. It was the morphine that presented a ‘major risk to life’, but both Carla and Stephen’s cause of death was ruled as combined drug toxicity.

Jade’s warning

Jade has spoken out about this terrible incident to warn others:

Carla would still be alive today if she hadn’t taken morphine for her toothache. I hope her death can serve as a warning to others – please don’t take medication if it’s not prescribed for you. Nothing will bring her back, but perhaps our tragedy can save another life.

Jade explained that she was ‘angry’ at Stephen for having given Carla the morphine, but she hopes other people will learn from this awful mistake. Talking about how much Carla meant to her, Jade explained that she had lost a little boy called Romeo just minutes after he was born four years ago. She said that Carla was a crucial support during that time, ‘I couldn’t have got through it without her.’ Jade said that her life feels ‘empty’ without her beloved sister:

It breaks my heart I could not protect her the night she died.

Carla was buried with Romeo, and Jade said, ‘It’s a small comfort to me that they can be with each other.’

Read more:

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Sources used:

Mirror: EXCLUSIVE: Sister tried to treat toothache with brother's medication - hours later they were dead

DailMail: Woman found her brother, 33, and sister, 26, dead just minutes apart in double family tragedy - as inquest rules pair died from 'combined drugs toxicity'

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