1. ITV Report

Warning of dangers of taking prescription drugs not meant for you

Police are warning that teenagers are taking prescription medication not meant for them and it can be fatal.

Sam Foulkes from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire was 18 when he died.

He had finished his A-levels last summer and took a combination of pills to relax.

Warning of dangers of taking prescription drugs not meant for you Credit: ITV Anglia

Now his friends and family are raising money to warn others about the dangers.

They're licensed medicines which have been professionally manufactured and prescribed by doctors to help patients suffering with pain or anxiety.

Gavin Guy, Cambridgeshire Police Credit: ITV Anglia

But their side-effects are fuelling a dangerous trade with dealers selling them to a growing number of teenagers looking for a high.

“Tramadol is usually a yellow and green capsule and Xanax tablets, cost around £5 each so that’s cheaper than a deal of cannabis. That’s cheaper than a bottle of wine. That’s cheaper than enough beers to make you feel as different as these things might do to you. These are prescription medicines. These come out of a nice sealed box and in the wrong circumstances, in the wrong combination, it could end up in your death.”

– Gavin Guy, Cambridgeshire Police
Sam Foulkes Credit: Submitted

Last summer 18-year-old Sam Foulkes from Buckden in Cambridgeshire took £10 worth of prescription drugs to relax.

Afterwards his breathing slowed and his heart stopped. His death was a shock for his friends.

Friends of Sam Foulkes Credit: ITV Anglia

At first it was like, ok, this has happened. And then it just hits you. That this friend I had is now gone.”

– Sam's friends

We got to the corner of Sam’s house and there were all these police cars and I just broke down into tears. I’d known Sam since I was seven so in a way it feels like I’ve got a void in my life.”

– Sam's friends

I was angry with him because when he did prescription drugs I’d get annoyed at him and tell him not to.”

– Sam's friends

It’s dangerous how cheap it is and it’s shocking how accessible it is even in the place that we live here. It’s not a city or anything like that but it’s still extremely accessible. I’ve just come across people that you just wouldn’t expect doing it.”

– Sam's friends
Dr Pallav Bhatnagar, Hinchingbrooke Hospital Credit: ITV Anglia

The supply of the drugs comes from prescription medicine that makes it onto the black market alongside counterfeits manufactured by dealers

Pills are easy to order on social media sites and there’s even the option to buy in boxes from online pharmacies

Unless you have a prescription you’ll be breaking the law.

“It’s coming from a reputed manufacturer, has gone through the vetting process but they don’t really know what they are getting into. I can imagine why young people might think that it is safe. But let’s be very clear about that. They are not safe.”

– Dr Pallav Bhatnagar, Hinchingbrooke Hospital
Warning of dangers of taking prescription drugs not meant for you Credit: ITV Anglia

They may not be safe, but they are cheap and readily available. If discovered, they are easy to pass off as regular medicine.

Thrive and Sports Connections Foundation Credit: ITV Anglia

Charity groups like Thrive and Sports Connections Foundation believe it’s better to talk.

Supported by money raised by Sam’s family and friends, they offer a space for young people to discuss issues - like peer pressure and drugs - and ask questions.

“There’s a lot of talk about illegal drugs. They will have had education in school and their parents may well have spoken to them about it but because the adult world hasn’t really caught up with where young people are at we haven’t created the conversation about prescription drugs in the same way as other risk-taking behaviours.”

– Natasha Clark, Project leader