'Cocaine was likely trigger of abnormal heart rhythm'
Published 11/12/2010 | 05:00
GERRY Ryan had traces of opiates, cocaine and alcohol in his body at the time of his death.
Pathologist Dr Eamon Leen said a post mortem showed the broadcaster had died from an abnormal heart rhythm which was likely to have been triggered by cocaine.
Dr Leen, who gave evidence via video link, said he had "cocaethylene" in his system, which is produced when cocaine and alcohol are mixed.
"Even though the cocaine level was quite low, the by-product can have a delayed toxic effect," he said.
"There is a lot of concern about cocaethylene, cocaine and alcohol. If alcohol is taken before (the cocaine), it causes a greater surge.
"Some studies show that an alcohol and cocaine combination is 25pc more dangerous."
He said Mr Ryan also had Levamisole, a veterinary medicine commonly used to "cut" cocaine, in his system. Over-the-counter codeine, an opiate, was found in a small quantity.
Dr Leen explained that Mr Ryan had fibrosis in the heart -- an abnormal thickening of the heart valves. He said this is usually the result of heart disease but "not in this case".
He said there were two possibilities, another being viral myocarditis, which causes the heart muscle to enlarge.
"The other explanation is more likely," he said, adding that a history of cocaine use can cause the heart damage.
But under questioning by Brendan Grehan SC, on behalf of Mrs Ryan, Dr Leen said unless there was a history of cocaine use, he "couldn't make a determination between the two".
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said: "The cause of death... was cardiac arrhythmia, with the use of cocaine as a significant risk factor."
He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure with a "number of risk factors" leading to Mr Ryan's death.