'There's no town that isn't touched by drugs' - Woman who lost brother to overdose

Alex Ryan died four days after taking a lethal dose of a synthetic substance at a house party at the age of 18
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.24 15 Feb 2024

Share this article

'There's no town that isn't to...

'There's no town that isn't touched by drugs' - Woman who lost brother to overdose

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.24 15 Feb 2024

Share this article

A woman who lost her brother to a drug overdose in 2016 has said there's no village or town in Ireland that isn't touched by drug use.

Nicole Ryan's brother Alex died from an overdose at a house party in Cork city where he tried a synthetic substance believing it to be a less potent drug.

He ended up taking a huge dose of the lethal drug known as 'N-bomb' which resulted in him being brought to hospital where he never regained consciousness.


Alex died four days later at the age of 18.

Nicole Ryan now gives talks in schools and is a counsellor specialising in addiction.

She told Lunchtime Live her brother was just starting out in his life.

"At the time he'd just finished his Leaving Cert, he moved up to the city from Millstreet that November," she said.

"He was just an 18-year-old making his way in the world for the first time, really excited to be in the city.

"[He was] making new friends, starting a job, living on his own for the first time.

"He was a really lovely guy, lovely person and everybody just gravitated towards him and really loved him."

Alex Ryan Alex Ryan. Image: Alex's Adventure

Ms Ryan said addiction is not just a problem in larger cities.

"There's more and more younger people and they're from very rural communities as well," she said.

"It's not just city problems, these are small villages [and] small towns.

"People who are maybe playing sports, who are pillars of the community - all that kind of stuff - but they have really big challenges ahead of them."

Nicole and Alex Ryan Nicole and Alex Ryan. Image: Supplied

Ms Ryan said the students she talks to are generally well informed but naive.

"They're fairly aware, they're very clued in, they have social media [and] they have access to drugs at the tip of a couple of clicks, realistically.

"They are clued in but they're also very naive around some of the dangers, some of the things that they haven't considered around drug use.

"How easy it can turn from being fun to actually being an addiction.

"I don't think there's any village or town that isn't touched by drug use."

 'Nothing for people to do'

Ms Ryan said she believes a lack of amenities means a lot of young people end up in the pub, where it all starts.

"Millstreet doesn't have a youth club, it closed down back when I was still in secondary school," she said.

"You have nowhere to go so you're just hanging around from place to place - there's nothing for young people to do.

"A lot of the rural youth clubs are closing, there's a lack of funding, etc.

"A lot of will just go into the pub and that's when the drug use kind of starts," she added.

In December, the HSE warned drug users in the Cork city area of extra risks posed by traces of a dangerous nitazene-type substance linked to a number of non-fatal overdoses among heroin users.

A similar type of drug was circulating in Dublin a month previously.

Listen back here:

Main image: Nicole and Alex Ryan. Image: Supplied

Share this article

Read more about

Alex Ryan Cork Drug Overdose Drugs Lunchtime Live N-bomb Nicole Ryan

Most Popular