Mum urges schools to teach about drugs after son dies from painkiller overdose

Leo Rees, 17 (Image: Karen Rees/Media Wales)

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The mum of a teen who overdosed on painkillers because he did not know they could harm him said she wants schools to do more to teach about drugs.

Leo Rees, 17, took tramadol given to him by a friend after breaking his hand in August last year, reports WalesOnline.

But the keen rugby player did not know what the correct quantity was – and ended up ingesting too many tablets.

He was tragically found dead in his bed by mum Karen Rees, 38, on August 11 last year, who has now spoken out about her loss.

An inquest at Pontypridd coroner's court ruled that Leo, from Clydach Vale, had died from an "accidental overdose".

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Karen and Leo
(Image: Karen Rees/Media Wales)

The hearing was told that the teenager was involved in a fight which left him with a broken hand in the days before his death.

He was taken to hospital by his mum and fitted with a splint but his hand continued to cause him pain over the next few days.

It was then that a friend offered him tramadol and told him that it would help with the pain – which proved fatal.

Karen said: "I don't want another family to go through what we are.

"Leo only knew paracetamol – it is the only thing I have in the house and it is the only thing I have ever given him for pain.

"He had nothing coming away from the hospital, just a splint on his hand – no painkillers, nothing extra strong.

Leo was a keen rugby player
(Image: Karen Rees/Media Wales)

"I got him paracetamol to help with it. I cut back four tablets for him to go out with.

"He knew to take two and then four hours later he could take another two.

"If Leo did not take those tramadol he would have come home and said: 'Mam my hand is really hurting me now' and I would not have gone to work that day and I would have taken him back to A&E.

"It was a shock. I don't even know what tramadol looks like. If I don't know Leo would not know.

"He just thought it was a normal painkiller."

The inquest heard that the teenagers Leo was with the night he died described how he took a large amount of the tablets and complained of tiredness and began sweating into the early hours of the morning.

He returned home and Karen left for work that morning knowing that her son was asleep in his bed.

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When she returned home Leo, her only child and a boy she described as "funny and polite", had died.

On the night of Leo's death it came to light that a man called Macauley Smith had given him the tramadol.

He has since received a 12-month community order for the offence.

Karen said: "It is a tragedy. Leo was 17 years old. He is never going to experience fatherhood which he always wanted to.

"That is completely gone. He isn't going to experience going on holiday which was his plan when he turned 18.

"He said to me: 'One day mammy will be nanny'. He wanted his own house, he wanted a family.

"He wanted to work for himself – that was his focus. He just wanted this lockdown to be over so he could get on with his life."

Leo, from Clydach Vale, pictured as a child
(Image: Karen Rees/Media Wales)

Karen described Leo as a funny teenager who loved his music she he was a happy child who would help anybody if they asked.

She added that he was a polite boy and used to love playing rugby for Cams Rugby Team.

"He would have a go at anything. He told me if he couldn't do carpentry he was thinking about doing hairdressing," Karen said.

"I had never thought of him as that, it was quite a shock, but he knew what he wanted.

"He knew if he could not succeed at one thing he would try another."

Karen hopes that by sharing the story of Leo's death other parents will know to warn their children about the impact of drugs.

"I know in schools they teach them about sex but they need to teach them about drugs as well and what is the difference between things like paracetamol and other drugs as well.

"They need to know not to take anything off their friends."

A toxicology report following Leo's death also found traces of cocaine in his system but the pathologist ruled this was likely consumed at an earlier date and would have played no role in Leo's death.

Karen said she also wants other young people to know the impact a controlled drug like cocaine can have on their families.

She said: "When I heard 'cocaine' it hit me in the stomach and it broke me into pieces, shattered little pieces even more. I didn't think he would ever do anything like that.

"He smoked weed but that was it. He didn't like a drink.

"I don't think they realise how much it hurts to find out that your child has taken cocaine.

"They don't realise that what they are doing is going to ruin their lives and their families. I don't want another family to go through what I am.

"Part of me feels like I knew my son and another part of me thinks I didn't really."

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